Composing the Scene – Part 1

In How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., Steve Caplin doesn’t just provide tutorials on how to use the software. He also spends considerable time explaining the art of creating a good photomontage.

For example, of the six tutorials in Chapter 5, the first three don’t present any exercises.  Instead, each tutorial contains valuable information about positioning figures in a scene, combining figures and varying the positions of the figures in association with one another to create relationships between them. In addition, the discussion includes the subtle effect of eye contact – or lack thereof – and how it can alter the entire meaning of an image.

Ascending the Mountain
Below is an illustration of the importance of placement. On the left, the climber has his goal in sight.  On the right, there is still a daunting challenge in front of him:LocationBoth

It’s All Relatives
Next up, combining figures for good storytelling:

Relative valuesCompositeOn the left, the two individuals are not relating to each other at all.  For all we know, they could be two people at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change.

In the center, with both individuals flipped horizontally and the addition of the man’s hand on the woman’s shoulder, we now have a picture of a proud, but perhaps protective, father and his affectionate, albeit somewhat stroppy, daughter.  (For you Americans in the crowd, the British term “stroppy” roughly translates as ill-tempered. Caplin, is after all, British.)

The image on the right tells a completely different story.  Although it’s still a father/daughter story, the daughter is separating herself from her father as all children eventually will. For his part, Dad is showing concern, possibly due to his daughter’s growing independence.

The Eyes Have It
In the next three images, the only thing different is the placement of the eyes. But what stories they tell!

I only have eyes Composite

On the left, the gentleman is clearly happy about winning the trophy he’s holding, but the woman is non-committal.  In the center, the man looks as if he can’t believe the trophy is his, while she looks totally bored.  On the right, he’s looking to see whether winning the trophy might win her as well. Her expression, on the other hand, reveals he hasn’t got a shot.

Even though there wasn’t an image to work on in any of the above examples, skipping them would have meant losing out on some valuable lessons on image composition.

Next: Composing the Scene – Part 2

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