Since the model has typically been shot in a different environment than you used to photograph your background, one of the occurring problems is to match the color and light, which is essential to make the final composite believable. For more on my photo composites, also read my recent article that I wrote for Alien Skin Software:Exposure for Photo Composites
In the following, we will place a model into a landscape scenery. The model is supposed to walk across the field. The landscape is a typical view of German country side, where I live. For the model, we use this free stock image. by Faestock.
The final photo composite
The first step is to cut out the model from the original photo and to place her into the new background. Obviously, the dress is far to bright and the colors do not match with the new scene.
Original photo of the model, placed into the new background
In the next step we considerably darken the model using curves. This way we can darken the highlights more than the shadows. Best to use a Curves adjustment layer, so you can still modify it afterwards. Since we make several changes, the option to finetune the Curves in a non-destructive manner is very useful.
For the landscape, I applied a texture to give a painterly feeling. In detail it is the texture Rice Paper from OnOneSoftware Perfect Effects. (You can also find free textures online by doing a search)
I kept some of its color to obtain a stained look. To match the texture, we also apply the same texture overlay to the model. Textures are often applied in a contrast blend mode, e.g. soft light. Here a stronger effect is achieved using the vivid light blend mode at reduced opacity. Furthermore the saturation is slightly reduced.
Apply texture to the model
After the texture has been applied, the skin takes on too much yellow of the texture and the hair is still too red. One technique that I use all the time for color matching is to use the Average filter in Photoshop. This will produce a representative color for the background image.
Use the Average Filter to obtain a representative color of the background
Create a new layer filled with this color, set to the Color blend mode at a low opacity, allows a good matching. Since we only want to apply the color layer to the model, we use a clipping mask. To create the clipping mask, position the color layer above the woman layer. Hold down the alt/Option key and move your cursor between the 2 layers, you will see an arrow appear. Click to apply.
In the last step we want to account for the light that shines from the sky on the hair, and we also want pick up some of the light that is reflected from the ground onto the model and the dress.
To account for the variation of color and light of the background, duplicate the background layer.
Move it above the woman layer.
Choose Filter>Blur>Gausian Blur to blur the background layer until details vanish and we obtain a smooth variation of the color.
Blur the background
Next we project its colors on the model, by choosing the Soft light blend mode, at reduced opacity. Again, we use a clipping mask, to limit the effect onto the model. The hair gets a beautiful rim light and the skin as well as the dress take on the color of the surrounding. This completes the color and light matching.
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