composite photography

Georgie in London by Diana Lundin

Family friends gave Oliver a gift certificate for a custom pet photography session through my Modern Pet Portraiture for his dog Georgie. It took a while for it to get scheduled; Oliver, a native of the UK, is a television host who has a heavy travel schedule. Every time we got something on the calendar, it needed to be postponed because of his work.

But Georgie's getting up in years and Oliver was afraid that one day the girl he loved so much would be gone, perhaps before he had his session. And he didn't want that to happen. So we had a shoot at his apartment and on a hill near the beach in Santa Monica.

At my car after the shoot, I showed Oliver Phoebe Lost at Sea -- yes, the very same image on the home page of the Secret World of Pets -- and he knew Phoebe and had seen that image at her owner's house! What a very small world indeed! He asked if Georgie could get the Phoebe treatment. And I regretfully told him since we didn't shoot with that in mind, it might not be possible to create a composite. 

But then I got to thinking... quite a few of the images we photographed of Georgie were against the white wall of his apartment. And Georgie has a short coat. Animals with long or curly hair are pretty difficult to cut out in the best circumstances but dogs with a coat like Georgie's? Not so difficult. 

Oliver isn't from London, per se, but that is where I decided to set Georgie. I figured since Oliver traveled a lot, it would be fun to have her in her dad's homeland. 

Georgie has that air of mystery I love when I create composites. Look at Georgie... she's on the banks of the Thames, Big Ben in the background. What has her attention? What is she looking at? Why is a taxi there? Why is the door open? There are more questions than answers. You tell me. What is Georgie's story?


Pet Photography Composite

How a Composite Image Comes Together by Diana Lundin

I recently entered four of my composite images in a contest and one of the requirements was to show all of the reference images used to create it. Well, first of all, it's not that much fun gathering all of these things together but instead of whining about it, I'm going to show you all four. 

Each of them has the exact photographs or objects used to create the images. Yes, if you're a faithful reader of The Secret World of Pets, you've seen these images time and time again. But now you get to peek behind the curtain. 

The composites take different times to create each one; one took me three days and then was tweaked for weeks. Other simpler ones may take a few hours. Again, it's the tweaking that can take time. I call it polishing the polish. One tiny thing you want to change and maybe only you will notice it can take so much longer than it does to initially put it together. I've heard it said of film editing and I'll appropriate it here -- you don't finish a composite, you abandon it. 

And just as an aside, sometimes composites can look really scary when you're laying them down. You often have to put a lot of "ingredients" into the mix and it is uugggggly. But then you start sizing things, moving things around, change their colors, add shadows, tones and lighting and miraculously it somehow all comes together.

So here are the four!



Love Song

Love Song



North by Northwest: A Movie Poster by Diana Lundin

I did a recent pet photography shoot with Sailor, a beautiful German Shepherd. I took lots of running shots of her. Gorgeous dog. And then... and then... well, as much as she looked great running in the park, I thought another running scene might capture part of her essence.

Yes, a Hitchcock movie. "North by Northwest." The vision of Cary Grant running as a biplane (I think it was a crop duster, no? It's been ages since I've seen it) chased him. In a cornfield. Somewhere Mt. Rushmore is involved. So I Googled "North by Northwest" and there are just tons of Cary Grant running. Hmmm. And then I saw a very graphical movie poster. It appears it was rereleased and a new poster was made. It looked easy enough. I had an afternoon to kill. And so that's when I attempted the poster.

Friends, when I tell you I didn't know what I was getting into when I started out, you can take that as the truth. It was far harder than I thought it was. 

I found a stock photo of Mt. Rushmore that looked like it would fit the bill. I found a tile floor that would work. And after that, it got complicated.

You see, in an earlier post, I told you I don't draw. Well, truth be told, I'm not a graphic artist, either. Every time I want to do something in Photoshop, I have to learn it. Which is actually great, I know enough about Photoshop to know when I can't do something and have to learn it because it is a really complex program. And I don't know that much about type. And the type on this poster has to have perspective. I actually found out what font was used in the poster and I happened to have that so that part was easy. But putting in that perspective. Yes, it was tricky since I rarely use perspective outside of straightening a few buildings here and there. 

And then I found a really hard way to make that red runway type thing. Turns out, once I finished making my first draft, I discovered a really easy way of doing that. Figures. 

Then I cut out Sailor. Usually, composites are photographed against a gray background. But the running dog was in a park so I had to cut her out there. That wasn't the worst part. The worse part was the crop duster. Now again, you'd think, a plane on white wouldn't be that difficult to cut out. Oh, but it was, it was. I had to leave Photoshop, which has the worst masking tool ever, and go to Topaz ReMask 5, my go-to program for complex cutouts. It does a great job. To do a great job, it takes a long time. But I did it. 

I had to fool around with making things fit so it's not exactly like the Cary Grant version. But I like it. Want to recreate a movie poster with your pet? Or even just you? Yes, I shoot people, too. 

Send an email to the Secret World's Secret Headquarters in suburban Los Angeles and let's create your world.

Lyle and Fiona at the Music Hall by Diana Lundin

In my secret world as a mild-mannered pet photographer, I photographed this "couple," Lyle and Fiona, as the mild-mannered Lyle and Fiona. Beautiful poodles, well-groomed, living the dream. Ah, but their owner had another dream. Once I began creating composites in my pet photography, she conjured up in her mind Lyle as a piano player, Fiona as a singer. And she asked me if I could do it. 

So in my mind, I envisioned Lyle in a tie and tails in front of a grand piano and Fiona in an evening gown. That's not what my client had in mind. Hers was a more gritty lounge or music hall. More downscale than upscale. And she thought Lyle should have a beret. 

Well, now I was starting to get the picture, different than it was in my head. And actually, the thought of trying to create Lyle in tails, besides his own tail, was pretty daunting for someone who does not draw. I repeat, I do not draw. I create worlds, yes, it's true, but they wouldn't exist if I had to draw them. Not even if I had to storyboard them. Not even with stick figures. 

We photographed the two of them in front of an unlit white background with one Profoto B2 with no modifier as the key light, and a Profoto B2 in an umbrella as the fill. My client envisioned Fiona maybe on the piano, stretched out, but that wasn't happening. We just couldn't make that work. So I had her stand and lay down and her image in this composite is a head from lying down and her body from standing up. 

Lyle -- Lyle, let's say, really wasn't interested. Now, these are big dogs and my client is a little woman and she was trying to prop him on an apple box so we could give the illusion he was tickling the ivories. We got one perfect picture. But guess what? In compositing, that's all you need. 

And so once I saw what I had, I began putting the composite together. There are 11 elements; a background, a tip jar, the money (which actually took five objects to put some scratch into the jar), a piano, a bench, Lyle, the beret, Fiona, a bow, a microphone, and a stand. And then a blitz of Photoshop magic. And voila! Lyle and Fiona, ready for their Summer Tour 2017.

And that's how it's done, son. Want one for yourself? Write me here at The Secret World's Secret Headquarters and let's dream something up. Who will your pet be?

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Shenanigans at the Thorne Miniature Rooms by Diana Lundin

Okay, this one doesn't have anything furry in it. Yes, it just has people. But here's what makes it fun. Last month, I went to Chicago and we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. One of my very favorite things there, and there were so many, it's fantastic, was the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the basement. 

One side has American interiors, the other side has European. Having just come back from trips to England and Ireland, I was especially interested in the European side. And of course I have a new composite involving pets that definitely involves an English setting. 

I didn't bring my camera to Chicago as it was really an excuse to see "Hamilton." But I did have my phone so I pressed it against the glass of the rooms (non-flash photography is allowed) and took several exposures of interesting rooms in the raw format. So when I came back home, I had sort of nice photos of these rooms. I say sort of nice because, hey, it's a museum with museum lighting so it's kind of dark. And dark generally means the images are going to be a bit noisy -- you know, digital grain.

I photographed the people more than two years ago for a Christmas card. They were all dressed up and because it was for a composite, it had already been photographed in mind for cutting them out. 

I assembled the image and voila! People in a miniature room. 

What do you think?

Together, we can create any world. Let's do it.