Processing Wildlife Composites

09th September 2014
As a continuation of one of my previous posts "Shooting Wildlife Composites", and as promised even though its about a year later, i will now go through a post processing workflow on how to combine and stitch your composite images into that beautiful fine product you envisaged.

The following workflow will include the use of Adobe's Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS6. There are a number of versions of this software and even other programs altogether that can also perform the steps I'm about to go through. The software and processes I’m using here are just the ones that work for me and hopefully will be of some use to you.

I will use these 4 images as examples in the following workflow.




STEP 1

The first thing is to locate all the images that make up your composite. These may be as few as two images or as many as you like. The largest composite I have created involved 86 images, so the possibilities are endless.

Once you have selected all the images, add them to a collection or a quick collection in Lightroom for easy access.

STEP 2

Now that you have located your images, identify which is the main image of the composite. This is normally the image with the main subject in it. In the case of the example provided, it is the image with the crocodile’s head. This is the image you will base your processing on. Once you have identified your main image, open it in the Develop module of Lightroom and begin to add your basic adjustments. Be careful not to add any local adjustments, as this will be problematic later in the process; rather do any final more intricate processing at the end.



STEP 3

Now that we have processed our main image, we want to sync these develop settings with all the other images involved. This is in order for all the images to look the same regarding colour, white balance, contrast etc.

First select the image you have just processed, Next select all the other images involved in the composite. The result should look something like this.



Once you have all the images selected, click on the "Sync Settings" tab located at the bottom right hand corner of lightroom's right hand side panel as in the image below.



Upon doing this, the "Synchronize Settings" dialog box will open. Select all of the relevant adjustments you previously made to your main image, then click the "Synchronize" button to apply the settings.



Step 4

Now that your images are all synchronized with the same develop settings, you are now ready to send them to photoshop where they will be merged, blended and stitched.

To do this make sure all of the images involved are selected, then right click on any of the images involved. Go to “edit in” and then down to and click on “merge to panorama in photoshop”. This will open photoshop and the “photo merge” dialog box. In this dialog box, all you will need to do is make sure the layout is set to “auto” (which is should be by default). Tick all three boxes at the bottom of the dialog box as indicated in the below image and then click “ok”.



Photoshop will now go through a process to blend and stitch the images together.

Step 5

Once photoshop has completed its process, you should end up with something that looks like this.



From here the first thing you will need to do before you can do anything else is flatten the image. You do this by going to the “layer” tab at the top of photoshop and then going down and selecting “flatten image”. Your image will now look like this.



Step 6

At this point you have a few options as to how to proceed and get rid of the empty white space created. I will explain three different techniques that will give you an idea of how this can be done. You can use these individually or a combination of all three for your future composites.

Option 1

Crop away as much of the empty space a possible, or in this case, to a point you are happy with considering the space and composition in the image. Be sure to flatten the image once again after you have cropped.



Option 2

Select the “clone” tool and clone in some of the remaining empty space as seen on the image below;



Option 3

Remove the last remaining blank space using the “rectangular marquee” tool as seen below;



Once you have selected the area, hit the delete or backspace key on your keyboard. A “fill” dialog box will open. Make sure that under the content section, the “use” is set to content-aware, blend mode and opacity are set to normal and 100%. Then click on “ok”.



Once the process completes, the blank space will be filled in. This tool (option 3) does not always produce a perfect result, however in this case, it has worked relatively well for this image. You can now clean up any blemishes or unfilled areas with the clone tool and complete any further or required processing.



You now have your finished image, click “save”, not “save as” and your completed image will automatically be saved back to your hard drive as well as to your lightroom catalogue.








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