Birth of a Composite... Jan. 8, 2015 - Attanasio Imagery

Recently I received OnOne's Software's latest version(#9) of the Perfect Photo Suite . I was particularly interested in it's ability to create composites with it's variety of masking tools in Perfect Layers. Additionally, I wanted to see how the program compared to Photoshop with the addition of Smart Photos, a feature which allows saving projects as layers for further editing down the road.

I will tell you that I'm very new at all elements of this project: portraits, compositing and Perfect Photo Suite. So, this post will mainly be for novice compositors as well as new users of Perfect Photo Suite 9. If anyone has any further insight into these "worlds of photography" please feel free to add your own two cents in the comment section below.

I started this project by having a fun "photo" session with my daughter and her cousins. We were messing around with the off-camera flash/umbrella combination and produced this image as the base image, "The Concerned Parent" as they called it....

From this base image I initiated processing in Lightroom by making the following adjustments.

1. Cropping the image

2. Converting it to a Black and White using the B+W Look #5 Preset.

3. Basic adjustments to the Dark and Light tones.

4. Finally, I exported the photo to Perfect Photo Suite 9

I knew that I wanted the B+W and figured any further adjustments could certainly been made in the Photo Enhance section of the Suite. Yes, I know, I could have done this conversion there too but as I said I'm a novice and didn't think of it at the time.....note to self:)

After scouring the internet I found this background @ http://pixgood.com that I thought would be perfect for the concept of the composite.


I imported the background into the Suite and converted this and the previous photo as Smart Photos to enable re-editing in the future. After the import I continued with the following...

5. Utilizing Perfect Layers I applied the Quick Mask Tool to delete the white background in the original portrait, the I refined the mask on some areas that didn't get masked out with the masking tool and then finally, I grabbed the chisel tool to further refine the edges of the mask.

****I found this to be the biggest ram hog out of the whole process and at one time thought that I lost all my work as the computer hung for at least 4-5 minutes processing the masking request. I'm sure these algorithms are similar to Lightroom's Spot Removal and that can hang at times too.

5. I resized the background with the Transform tool in PPS9 to match the size of the masking layer.

6. I took both layers into Perfect B+W to match, as best I could, the B+W tones of both photos.

7. Then into Perfect Effects we go to add some dynamic contrast to a merged layer.

8. Into the Perfect Portrait module to clean up the faces with some smoothing and coloring.

9. After all work is done in PPS9 I re-import into Lightoom  and apply one or two small tweaks and now we have the finished photo....

All in all I'm pretty happy with the results, there are a fair amount of positive aspects of the image but also a few areas in which i certainly need to refine. I will list these below....

Positives:

1. I like the concept of the "Concerned Parent" idea and how it was rendered in the composite.

2. The blending of tones and highlights and shadows worked out well.

3. The off-camera lighting of the girls matched the lighting of the cell fairly well.

4. The seamless flow from one module to another in PPS9 was outstanding. I think the workflow process was actually much better than in Photoshop.

5. PPS9 has a wide variety of effects, backgrounds, textures, etc. for the average user. Close to being a "one stop shop" for all your processing needs.

Negatives:

1. Blending of the edges in the masking process made this project hard for me. It's tedious and can either make or break a composite. I certainly need help here.

2. Extensive masking may be a problem for both the user and the computer. I found it again tedious and frustrating as times, which can certainly be attributed to my lack of knowledge and skill. And the computer reacts to the masking process in a rather slow manner when rendering a final image.

Either of these is a deal breaker in the end. I need to improve my knowledge of the software as well as my skills of retouching.

I hope this little summary of my experience helps you as much as it helped me. I will continue to report my progress using this fantastic software and would love to hear your comments, suggestions, and criticisms as well.

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