Unlimited AE and Premiere Pro templates, videos & more! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Photo & Video
  2. Compositing

Creating a Realistic Composite Photo with Displacement Mapping

This post is part of a series called The Art of Compositing and Digital Image Manipulation.
Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries: How to Detect Image Manipulation
Focus Stacking for Extended Depth of Field
This post is part of a series called Creating Realistic Composites With a Green Screen.
Creating Flexible, Updatable Composite Images using Smart Objects
How to Make a Retro 80s Composite Portrait
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Photographing a real helicopter rescue scene was out of the question on this assignment, so this photo was created over three days of shooting. The background scene is a sunrise over Artist Point at Mount Baker in Washington State (at about 5am). The original photo of the people was made back in the helicopter hanger. We used Photoshop to create the finished image. In this tutorial, I'll show you how I did the shadows and lighting enhancements to realistically place our team in the scene. We'll go over the displacement map feature and selective masking.

Watch the Video

If you need to create a convincing composite, besides an accurate cutout, here are a few important details not to be overlooked.

  • Transferring shadows realistically from original photo
  • Transferring key details that are not 100% opaque
  • Texture mapping shadows onto background
  • Blending in "light wrap" around subject from background

Also remember than when you are doing compositing, it doesn't need to look perfect the first time around. If you are creating a mask, I find it much faster to do a quick and dirty version on my first pass, then clean it up with a brush and a few selections on my second pass. This is easier, faster, and less stressful than trying to get it perfect in your first pass.

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.