Nudes and body photography are some of the most enduring subjects for photographers to shoot, but the challenge lies in finding creative ways to do it. In this tutorial we’ll show you a simple technique of superimposing a shot of flowers onto a nude figure to create a striking and atmospheric composite.
In this tutorial we’re going to create a amazing body art effect by blending a photo of a field of flowers with a fine art nude portrait. The end result is incredibly convincing, and you might think it takes hours of painstaking work with Elements’ Brush tool, but the technique is actually quite simple.
The key to creating the effect is Elements’ clipping mask feature. Not to be confused with regular layer masks, a clipping mask enables you to effectively place one image within the outline of another image to create elaborate graphic effects.
The clipping mask alone won’t create a convincing effect, however, so to blend the flowers image with the contours of our model’s body we’ll use the Hard Light blending mode, layer masks and the Burn tool.
Once you get the hang of this technique its easy to adapt it for your own projects, from creating a simple tattoo to spectacular and realistic graffiti.
How to make your nude body photography composite
01 Open and Crop
Download our start images and follow along! Go to File > Open, select nude_start_1.dng and click Open – as it’s a Raw file it will open in Adobe Camera Raw. We’ll start by using the Crop tool to remove some of the background. Right-click the tool’s icon and choose the 2 to 3 ratio option, then draw a crop around the figure for a tighter composition. Next we’ll make some Raw adjustments to convert the image to monochrome and boost the contrast.
02 Raw adjustments
Set Exposure to +0.75 to lighten the image and bring out more detail, and set Highlights to -22 to pull back the brightest highlights. Set Contrast to +31, and set Shadows to -30 to lighten the shadows on the body. Set Blacks to -8, and Clarity to +10 to enhance the midtone detail, then reduce Saturation to -100 to make the image mono. Click Open Image to open the image in Elements’ Full Edit/Expert mode.
03 Remove blemishes
Press Ctrl+J to duplicate the ‘Background’ layer and select the Spot Healing Brush tool. Zoom in on the model’s right thigh and paint over the strap mark to remove it, then go around the rest of the image to remove other blemishes from the skin and white marks from the black background.
04 Select the figure
Take the Quick Selection tool, set the brush size to around 50 pixels and paint a selection over the body. If you select bits of the background, hold down Alt and paint over these areas to deselect them. Click the Refine Edge button, and in the Refine Edge dialog set Smooth to 9 and Feather to 2 pixels. Choose New Layer with Layer Mask from the Output To menu and press OK. Click the visibility box for the layer below to make it visible again.
05 Create a clipping mask
Open nude_start_2.jpg. Take the Move tool, drag the image onto the nude_start_1 image’s tab, and release the mouse button to add it as a new layer. Next go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Ctrl+G): the flower layer will now only be visible within the outline of the figure (see Phrase Book). You can use the Move tool to reposition the flower layer.
06 Change the blending mode
Change the flower layer’s blending mode to Hard Light to blend the image with the skin, and reduce its Opacity to 80%. Now add a layer mask to the flower layer and select the Brush tool. Choose a soft-edged black brush around 100 pixels in size, and paint over the model’s hair and neck to hide the flowers image.
07 Reveal the contours
Set the brush Size to 200 pixels and Opacity to 30%, and paint over the shadow and highlight areas on the body to fade the flower image and allow the contours of the body to show through. To further emphasise the contours, target the flowers layer itself (not the mask) and brush over the shadow areas on the skin with the Burn tool, with Range set to Midtones and Exposure set to 10%.
08 Change the colours
You can change the colour of the flowers using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer: we set Hue to -42 to turn the flowers red, and reduced the Saturation to -31. To finish off add a Levels adjustment layer, and set the Shadows slider to 14, the Midtones slider to 0.95 and the Highlights slider to 242 to boost the contrast of the image.
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