Which comes first, The Background or the Shoot?
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Which comes first, The Background or the Photoshoot?

Composite photography stands at the intersection of creativity and technology, allowing artists to merge multiple images into a cohesive story that transcends the limitations of traditional photography. This art form requires a keen eye for detail, a rich imagination, and technical prowess in photography and digital editing.

The question of whether to start with the photoshoot or the selection of backgrounds is more than logistical; it's foundational to the creative process, influencing everything from conceptualization to the final touches in post-production.

[Phone Home Compositing Course and Resources]

Pre-Production Brilliance

Pre-production molds your concept. It's about making strategic decisions, from conceptual planning with mood boards to selecting the perfect background.

Conceptualizing Your Vision

Crafting a visual story starts with a solid narrative. Sketch your ideas, no matter how rough, to visualize scene composition and ensure each piece fits just right. Draw inspiration from diverse sources to refine your vision and establish your artwork's foundation.

  • Define the Narrative: What story do you want to tell? Begin by outlining the narrative elements of your composite. Whether it's a moment of dynamic action, a serene landscape with a surreal twist, or a portrait imbued with symbolic elements, having a straightforward narrative will guide your creative decisions.
  • Sketch Your Ideas: You don't need to be a master artist to sketch your concepts. Simple drawings can help visualize your scene's composition, subject placement, and key elements. This step is crucial for imagining how different components interact within the composite.
  • Research and Inspiration: Look for inspiration in art, photography, cinema, and nature. This research can spark new ideas and refine your concept. Notice how light interacts with subjects, how scenes are composed, and how color sets mood and atmosphere.


[Vision Board based on the Mother Nature Compositing Course and Resources]

Mood Boards for Coherent Vision

Mood boards bring your visual ideas together, helping you to form a clear picture of the intended mood. Tools like Pinterest or Adobe Spark can be your digital palette, gathering colors, textures, and inspirations that will drive your creative choices.

 Scouting the Perfect Backgrounds

Your background sets the narrative stage. Consider online resources or create your own using compositing techniques for the most creative freedom. Ensure they align with your concept's mood and narrative for a seamless blend.


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Mastering Lighting and Posing

Lighting and posing are the lifeblood of composite photography. Your subject's lighting should mimic the background's to weave believability into your scene. Direct your subjects to engage with the environment you'll create in post-production for a natural and dynamic composition.

[Photoshop 101- Lighting Courses and Resources Examples]


Posing and Directing for Seamless Integration

How your subject interacts with the imaginary elements of your final composite is critical for creating a believable image. Here are tips for success:

  • Anticipating the Final Composition: Visualize where your subject will fit into the background before the photo shoot. Consider their scale, the angle of their gaze, and their posture in the environment you'll be placing them in.
  • Engagement with the Environment: Direct your subjects to interact with the environment that will be added in post-production. This could mean looking off into the distance, touching an object, or casting their shadow in a particular direction.
  • Dynamic Poses: Dynamic poses can add energy and movement to your composite. Even if the background is static, a subject captured in motion can bring the entire scene to life.

[Captive Compositing Course and Digital Background- Mythical Mermaid Collection]


Technology's Impact on Composite Photography

Technology plays a pivotal role in composite photography, offering artists various advanced tools influencing whether to photograph the subject first or begin with a selected background. Software like Photoshop provides extensive editing capabilities, while alternatives like Affinity Photo and Capture One bring unique features to the creative table.

With the ability to pre-visualize scenes and access extensive background libraries with AI tools, artists can effortlessly align their subjects with the chosen backdrop, adjusting lighting and perspective on the fly. These innovations allow for flexibility in the creative process, making post-production adjustments easier and reducing the need for a perfect shot during the photoshoot.

However, despite technological aids, the essence of composite art still relies on the artist's vision and strategy, underlining the importance of artistry in conjunction with tech advancements. Technology is a tool, not a replacement for the creative eye.


Whether beginning with a photoshoot or selecting backgrounds, each approach offers unique advantages and challenges. The decision ultimately rests on the shoulders of the artist, guided by the specific requirements of the project and the creative vision at its heart. The key is not to adhere rigidly to one method but to remain flexible, adapting to the needs of each piece and the evolving landscape of photographic technology and techniques.

The journey of composite photography involves discovery, innovation, and artistic expression. It is a path that is as rewarding as it is challenging, offering endless opportunities to those willing to explore.


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→ Are you feeling stuck in your composite photography journey? I've been there. That's exactly why I created Tara Lesher Education.

→ Imagine having a toolkit designed to tackle those challenges and elevate your creativity beyond what you thought possible. From bringing dreamy scenes to life to fitting all the pieces together perfectly, I'm here to guide you through every step.

→ Ready to leave frustration behind?

Let's embark on this journey together. Join me, and let’s create something extraordinary!❤️


BONUS: I've got a little something extra for you. I've compiled a PDF guide that tackles the top 5 obstacles you might encounter when learning composite photography, complete with strategies to overcome them. 

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