Matching Light for Compositing

by valrac4_a3kqdy
© Anna Costa

© Anna Costa / Maria Uspenskaya/

The Seneca @ York Independent Digital Photography Program is a two-year diploma course that prepares students for a freelance career and provides them with the necessary skill set to work in a multidisciplinary studio. Photo Life is proud to partner with Seneca students to document their journey through the school curriculum. Follow them each week! This week Anna Costa shares about learning to match light for composting.

Class:  Photography II
Assignment: Match Light
Student:  Anna Costa
Professor: Tom Szuba

Anna_Costa_stock photo_web

© Maria Uspenskaya/

Assignment guidelines: Create a foreground “product shot” to combine with an existing image to make an advertisement. (This existing image had to be purchased from a stock photo website, and we had to photograph the product replicating the light in the studio and then use Photoshop for compositing.)

The first step was finding a good stock image, which proved to be more time-consuming than I had imagined. The main reason was because I didn’t really know what it was that I wanted to shoot, so I was just browsing through websites trying to get an idea. And even after I decided on buying a vineyard photo, it took me a while until I found a nice one that wasn’t so expensive and had a light that wouldn’t be too complicated to match in class.

Having selected my background, I started sketching to see how I could make my composition and what I would need for the photo. We had to bring a surface for the product to sit on and all the props, and since I use TTC to get to Seneca, it couldn’t be anything too big. Using a wooden cutting board seemed like a good substitute for an outdoor table. I also took a bottle of wine, a piece of Grana Padano, grapes and artificial grape leaves to build the scene.

© Anna Costa

© Anna Costa

After setting up the lights in the way I imagined would look similar to the stock photo, I began taking the pictures and trying to fix anything that didn’t work out too well, to improve with every shot. As a second semester student, shooting in the studio is a great learning experience. When there’s one specific look to achieve and you need to figure out how to get there, it is often by trial and error. I constantly compared my shots done in class with the stock photo to make sure they matched, and I finally got the result I wanted.

In the end, there was one light without the reflector on the left and at the same level as the products. Another light, also on the left, was pointing upwards with a blue gel—since I had a daylight scene, it was necessary to create cool tones in the shadows. On the right, I put a big white rectangular reflector, which also created a nice highlight on the bottle.

While compositing the image in Photoshop, I had to make sure the blending was seamless and that I had a realistic result, with the lighting from both images matching. It was important to study the stock photo and go through all these steps to calmly plan everything according to my needs, anticipating any problems that could appear and solving them ahead of time.

Equipment and technical info: Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 @ 67mm – f/11, 1/125s, ISO 100.

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