How to Composite a Dress

Creating ethereal images is what I absolutely love, and sometimes this means changing the subject’s garments into something more surreal. Making an image look believable can be a challenge though, so If you are interested in the process that I use to composite dresses then keep on reading!

Before and after of a composite

Bloom

What you will need:

  • Camera & lens
  • Tripod
  • Model
  • Fabric/dress

If you have a friend or assistant who can help, it will be even better! Also, make sure the model has clothing they can switch into so you can take separate pictures of the dress.

The Shoot

You will want to start with shooting your main image. Be sure to use a tripod! The benefit of having the tripod is that every picture you take will be at the same focal length and proportion which is critical when you are trying to blend aspects from different images into one final piece. It will also be best to keep the camera settings the same for every picture you take.

Here is the main image that I decided on:

Model walking on the beach

Model walking on the beach

I asked the model to change into her warm clothes and to wave the dress in the wind so that I could composite more of the dress into the final image.

Model throwing fabric

Model throwing fabric

Photoshop

Open the main image in Photoshop and start by placing one of the images of the flowing fabric on top.

How to place an image

How to place an image

Use the magnetic-lasso tool with a small amount of feathering (the more the fabric is blurry the higher the feather). When the selection is complete, right-click the image and choose select inverse. Add a layer mask and paint black where you want the layer to be hidden. Do this for each layer of fabric that you are adding; you may need to go back and forth between each to make it look like one seamless piece.

Using the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop

Using the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop

Now, you will need to make a shadow for your newly created item! There are a few ways to do this and here is one of them: create a levels adjustment layer and lower the levels. Invert the layer to fill it with black (Cmd+I Mac/Ctl+I PC). Lastly, paint with white where you want your shadow to be and adjust the opacity of the layer.

Adjusting the levels

In some instances, you may need to match the blurriness of the fabric to the focal point that it will appear at. In this next image, I needed to do this process to the fabric that was closer to the camera.

Marzanna

Marzanna

To do this, you must select the fabric layer and add a gaussian blur. Play around and see what helps make it fit the most. You may also need to make the edges of the fabric less sharp by painting on the layer mask with a soft brush in black.
If you still notice that the fabric doesn’t look right then try to also burn/dodge certain areas where the light would (or wouldn’t) be hitting it.

Using the Gaussian blur filter on the dress

Using the Gaussian blur filter on the dress

I have also created Photoshop speed edit videos for both of these images, if you would like to see the entire process.

Bloom Speed Edit
Marzanna Speed Edit

You can also check me out on these social media platforms:

Facebook Website Instagram YouTube 500px

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13 Responses to How to Composite a Dress

  1. Cas October 29, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    So lovely! I can’t wait for the PS book to come out so I can start learning this kind of thing! Beautiful art!

    • mm
      Sarah Bowman October 29, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

      I am so glad that you enjoyed it! Thank you ^_^

  2. Hammond "Ogunsola" Carter October 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    This is a wonderful piece and a great skill that alleviates some of my anxiety about how to produce these images that are in my head. Most folk don’t have dresses as big as what is in my head and I surely cannot afford them or a crew to drop them from the sky LOL. Check out my website and you will see the potential.

    • mm
      Sarah Bowman October 30, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

      I am so glad that you found this helpful! I love making images like this and knowing how to composite really opens up the possibilities. Explore and go out of your comfort zone and you will be surprised about what you can create. You have a great portfolio and I would love to see you create something like this! I do have videos on youtube and I hope that they will be helpful to you! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-7p-HDUk4T5kptQ16ARQcw/videos

  3. mm
    Andy Shields October 30, 2015 at 6:27 am #

    Great blog post Sarah! The supporting images are fantastic! I wish I knew my way around Photoshop 1/10th what you do. Looking forward to more great content in the future!

    • mm
      Sarah Bowman October 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

      Thank you so much Andy! I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to explain very well so I wanted to include as many process image as I could! You have beautiful portraits! I’m sure you could do something like this! I do have more videos if you want to have a look ^_^ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-7p-HDUk4T5kptQ16ARQcw/videos

  4. Owen October 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    this is great, the utube videos give more context however

  5. Matthew Friedman November 1, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    This is great! I will try this one day! Great job!

    Matthew F Photo from YouTube

    • mm
      Sarah Bowman November 1, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

      Thank you Matthew! I also loved your light paint tutorial on youtube! I should try that one day ^_^ Do you have a Facebook fan page that I can like or where can I see more of your work?? Thanks for the support!

  6. Dave January 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Wrong place for this but couldn’t email you… “error cookies or java” and could not fix this. So, here is my question. Thanks for the great presentation on filters. My question revolves around clouds. With my amber sun glasses they look great, but raise my glasses to take the shot and all disappears. Is there a filter or a post process that will work better that my circular polarize?

  7. edward.andrade September 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    I really like all of your job together, Im from Chile and I was watching the youtube channel last week and i really love it…. Great Job.!! this provably would be my First step to enjoy this art.

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