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Recreating Dances with Elephant

compositing photoshop Jan 09, 2017

I recently completed a composite image and posted it on the Tara Lesher group Facebook page. I called it Dances with Elephant. I thought it was a pretty nice image, probably one of my better composites, and hoped that a few people would like it.

I was totally overwhelmed by the reaction it received; you guys really loved it and some of the comments were really amazing. I'd like to share with you all how I came up with the idea for the composite and the elements I used to make it. Hopefully you will enjoy it and pick up a few tips that you can use in your own work. 

Now I don't know about you, but I love animals, and elephants are my absolute favorite. They are such majestic creatures. I am a sucker for pictures of elephants, and over the past year or so, I have taken pictures of them in zoos I've visited and also collected heaps of images from different stock sites. When I tell you that I have a lot of pictures of Elephants...I mean A LOT.

Like a lot of you guys, I recently became a member of Tara's Education Library because I love creating images and compositing enables me to take my images to a whole new dimension. I think one of the things that most attracted me to Tara's images is the connection she makes between her subject and various animals. She also creates amazing images from just a few added elements, making it very easy for the viewer to follow and replicate the work that she graciously shares.

Like most of you, I have watched all the tutorials in the Tara Lesher Library. I am a sponge when it comes to tutorials about compositing. I could watch them for hours on end. I think the biggest tip I have gained from watching these tutorials is to try and make images that are not too complicated, and keep it simple. So when I sat down to make this composite, I knew that I wanted to use only a few elements.

Last summer I photographed a number of kids after their First Communion ceremonies and on one of these occasions I noticed one young girl dancing with her friend, totally oblivious to anyone around her. I took a few quick snaps of her and I included one of the images in the gallery of photographs I created for her family, which they all loved. Her name is Bella.

I always liked the images and loved how carefree she was at that moment. I knew that I would use a picture of Bella one day, so this was the first image I chose for my composite: 

I knew that I wanted to add something for her to dance with and being a big fan of, you guessed it, elephants, it simply couldn't be anything else. So I went through my huge library of elephant images and finally settled on this one: 

I picked this image simply because of the way the elephant was standing and the fact that the direction of light in both of my main images was coming from the same side, or at least it would be when I flipped the elephant around.

The next thing to consider was location. Now as I said earlier, I wanted to keep things simple and didn't want to bring in elements that would distract from my main subjects. So I thought to myself, where in the world could these two meet? A jungle, a beautiful landscape, or a beach? The beach seemed like the easiest option to create and I liked the idea of incorporating water and their reflections. 

I had a Photoshop plugin called "Flood" that could create fantastic reflections, so all I needed now was a beautiful sky. I selected this one:

I just loved the pastel colors of pink and blue and liked how it would compliment the pastel color of the little girl's dress.

 I also needed to add some ripples around the subjects' feet in the water, so I used a brush to create them, but I have also used these stock images of ripples before and they work equally well. Here is the link to the stock ripples below: 


 I also added some birds to the image simply because I thought the image looked a bit empty. Here is the link for the birds:


I thought I had added all the elements that I wanted, so at this point I did what I always do, went away for a few hours and came back to look at it with fresh eyes. That's when I discovered that the image was missing something. I felt like it needed something that would connect Bella to the elephant.

Looking at Bella, I loved how the flower added a splash of color to her, so I thought that perhaps adding a bunch of flowers to the elephant would be the perfect answer to the connection problem. And it was!

It was a fortunate coincidence that the elephants trunk was in the perfect position to allow me to place the flowers, otherwise he could have ended up wearing a blue dress and who knows how that would have turned out.


I really hope you all enjoyed the tutorial. I wish you all a very Happy New Year with lots of success in compositing in 2017.

You can find this newly released tutorial in the educational library where it is available during the 8th week. Click here to learn more. 



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