Set the scene for your work with a portrait composite

Call it an environmental portrait without the environment. Sometimes you have to go a step further than time and space allows, by substituting the background with something more suitable for the purpose of the photograph.

The dramatic portrait composite is an example of communicating  a story through a photograph, which is the essence of editorial photography.  Any kind of photography that depicts the written word, whether for advertising, or news, is said to be “editorial photography.”  Telling a story, or supporting a story through photography is one of the things I find most fascinating about making photographs, because it’s something I can add to the subject as an artist with an imagination.  Lighting, posing, styling are definitely key ingredients to the ultimate photograph, but sometimes, it’s the background, too.

And sometimes the background is hard to come by, or unavailable, or you’re not even sure what background will help tell your story.  Such is the case with Craig Schaefer, who came to me needing professional photographs.  He’s an author of sci fi books, and wanted photographs that had a specific look, a little more dramatic and interesting, befitting someone who “blend(s) gangsters, guns and black magic in a manner not unlike (…) chocolate and peanut butter.”

I photographed Craig with the intent of replacing the background, using lighting that would make it easy for me to cut him out, so to speak, from my paper gray background.  Since Craig’s genre was Sci Fi, I decided to go with something dark and dramatic to use as a background instead.  I had taken a photograph of the Chicago skyline a couple of years ago, while on a dinner cruise with my family.  I usually only like taking pictures with people in them, but this time I hadn’t, and it came to mind immediately as a place to put Craig into.  There is a bit more to the composite than simply cutting someone out digitally and popping them into another scene, which I won’t go into here.  But it was fun to try it out, and I thought it at least looks believable, the key to any retouching or photoshop in my opinion.

Do you have a project like this in mind? Let’s talk about it!

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