Montage photography: how to make dramatic landscape composites

Montage photography: how to make dramatic landscapes using compositing techniques

In this tutorial we show you how to move mountains and transform your landscape images using a few simple Photoshop effects and montage photography techniques.

Montage photography: how to make dramatic landscapes using compositing techniques

No landscape photograph can convey the drama and atmosphere the photographer felt at the time of capture. You can get close, but more often than not, the images from a landscape shoot will seem mystifyingly average when you see them for the first time on your computer at home.

The secret to making more of these initially disappointing photos is to infuse them with the lost emotional impact at the editing stage. This infusion could be subtle, such as a new sky, a mist effect, or it could be something more radical, such as a montage photography technique, which is arguably much more evocative than any of our start images.

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In the tutorial below we reveal how to blend together a series of images using a variety of layer masking and opacity techniques to recreate depth and mood in a landscape.

As with any blending technique, the quality of our cut-outs is crucial in order to create a seamless image that looks believable and masks the joins. To do this we’ll take a look at using refined selections that can be quickly converted to Layer Masks.

Another important factor for this montage photography project is creating a sense of depth, and here we’re going to look at placing mist in between the rock layers, which will help to add depth and interest to the shot.

Montage photography for landscapes

Montage photography for landscapes: step 1

01  Open your start images
Select File>Scripts>Load Files into Stack, then click Browse and select your start images. Click OK. Switch off the visibility of the top three layers and then use Free Transform to adjust the scale of the cloud layer to fit the width of the entire document.

 

Montage photography for landscapes: step 2

02 Tonal impact in the sky
Create a Curves Adjustment Layer and drag down a point in the centre of the curve to darken the tone of the sky. Switch on the visibility of the first rocks layer and use Free Transform to enlarge the layer so that the cut-off point of the rock on the right is off screen.

 

Montage photography for landscapes: step 3

03 Invert the selection
With the Quick Selection tool, select the sky and invert the selection using Cmd/Ctrl+I. Choose Refine Edge and adjust settings including the Shift Edge slider to -15. Click the Add Layer Mask icon. Switch on the next rock layer and add a white Color Fill Adjustment Layer.

 

Montage photography for landscapes: step 4

04 The mist rolls in
Set Opacity of layer to 10%. Create a new blank layer and, with the Gradient tool selected, choose White as foreground colour. In the Gradient Editor, select Foreground to Transparent and Reflected Gradient from the options. Draw a gradient across top of the rocks.

 

Montage photography for landscapes: step 5

05 Getting mistier
Switch on the next rock layer and use Free Transform again to resize and position. Mask out the sky then add a white Color Fill layer with Opacity set to 10%, followed by another mist layer. Once done, repeat for the final rock layer. Hold down Cmd/Ctrl+Shift and click into each of the rock masks.

 

Montage photography for landscapes: step 6

06 Adding a vignette
Invert the selection and add a mask to each of the color fill layers, clicking the mask each time to remake the selection. Add a black Color Fill layer and use a radial gradient in the mask to create a vignette. For extra impact, add a Curves Adjustment Layer and a coloured Photo Filter layer to finish.

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