by George Fairbairn Published 01/10/2014
When I first started creating composite images I would put pieces of tape to mark on my tripod the angle and height that I had shot from. It helped me keep track during the shoot and ensured that I got the result I wanted. After much practice I've found three 'default' heights that I like to shoot from, I'm sure you will find what heights works for you and your style too. However, flexibility is key and if I am photographing a subject that falls outside of these 'default' heights I grab a tape measure and put the height into my phone (Evernote is great for this!). The same goes for the angle of my lens, if it's not 0 degrees, I'll make a note of the angle too.
For more complex composites I will even make a note of the distance that my camera is from the subject in the photograph. Where you will need this most is if the subject in your composite is interacting with an object in the background, eg holding an item in the background. When you have this interaction, distance and focal length also become a factor. If there isn't any interaction these two elements aren't as important.
Lighting is second on the list, simply because there is a clever 'cheat' you can employ to help you. You need to plan your lighting to match across all the elements for the final image; for instance if your background image has a light source that is off to camera-left, when you photograph your elements you will need at least one light off camera-left. I will typically light my subjects with a key light that will give me a lighting pattern suitable for the background, and then a rim or kicker light behind them that will act as the light source in my background. Again if the light source in the image is off camera-right, you would place your rim light behind the subject cameraright.
If there is no visible light source in your background image, you won't need a rim light on your subjects.
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