composite photography portrait of baxter family at lake in georgia

Are you Telling the Right Story in your Composite Photography?

Have you ever looked at a Composited Portrait and thought, “Huh, that’s pretty cool”, but then never give it much thought again?

Why do you think that is?

By the time you’re finished checking out the breakdown of my latest Composited Portrait called “The Baxter Bash”, you’re going to know why some images stick with you while the majority don’t.

Now, let’s slap our knees and get into this.

Where all Great Composites Starts

Crazy family portraits like this of the Baxter family don’t just come to life because of an iPhone app or some simple Photoshop technique.

Composited Portraits like this start with an idea.

In my recent Make Awesome Pictures podcast interview with Antti Karppinen, we talk about where great Composites start, so you should definitely check out that episode.

concept sketch for a photo composite by jason ulsrud of photillustrator

While meeting with the Baxter family during their Discovery Session, it became very clear they wanted their family portrait to be done at their lake house in Georgia with all their friends.

So, we packed up our Photillustrator bags and headed to Georgia.

With input from everyone in the Baxter family and seeing how they were on the lake, I began to develop an idea, which I then created a Concept Sketch.

The sketch is the second step in bringing a crazy family portrait like this to life.

composite photo of baxter family on the lake in georgia

As you can see, through the photography and a detailed Photoshop process, I was able to bring what was once a simple idea in my head to life in a super fun and unique Composited Portrait.

The Photoshop Breakdown

I’m frequently asked by photographers, “What do you do, just use Photoshop to make these pictures?”

I think this is a funny question because Photoshop, along with the camera gear I use and the other programs, is just a tool.

In other words, it’s just a means to an end.

Regardless of whether you have the BEST tools in the industry and know how to use them proficiently, if your Composites aren’t telling a compelling story, none of it matters.

This bears repeating…

If your Composites are telling a story that people care about, then you can be using the BEST tools the industry has to offer and your work will still be average.

Ok, let’s break down The Baxter Bash.

composite photography break down of baxter portrait

1. Laura in Boat
2. Todd in Kayak
3. Green Kayak
4. Knox
5. Life Jacket
6. Anabelle on Jetski
7. Colton
8. Board
9. Rope
10. Jetski Splashes
11. Jetski Splash
12. Jetski Wake
13. Jetski Wake
14. Dock with Friends
15. Guy Jumping #1
16. Guy Jumping #2
17. Guy Jumping #3
18. Person in Lake #1

19. Person in Lake #2
20. Person in Lake #3
21. Lake Water #1
22. Lake Water #2
23. Lake Water #3
24. Front Trees
25. Middle Trees
26. Back Trees
27. Lake House
28. Sky #1
29. Sky #2
30. Flying Birds #1
31. Flying Birds #2
32. Flying Birds #3
33. Flying Ducks
34. Grill Fire
35. Floating Can #1
36. Floating Can #2

37. Floating Can #3
38. Duck #1
39. Duck #2
40. Heron
41. Jumping Fish
42. Fish Splashes
43. Colorado C
44. Kid Initials
45. Kayak Paddle
46. Kid Initials
47. Porsche Logo
48. Styrofoam Cup
49. Under Water
50. Fish Splashes
51. Kayak Splashes
52. Fish
53. Fish
54. Fish

A Tiny Look Behind the Scenes

To give you a better idea of the Photoshop work that goes into making a portrait that sells for $7,000 +, here are some Before and Afters.

As you can see with the before image here of the scene, there’s a ton of work that goes into bringing a portrait like this to life.

before after of todd composite

before after of laura composite

before after of knox composite

before after of anabelle composite

colton composite before after

The Story is the Answer

Remember at the beginning of this article and I asked if you’d ever seen a Composite that looks cool, but you didn’t give much thought to beyond that?

I have discovered with my work that the Composites getting the most attention are those that tell a story that matters to your audience.

Notice I said, “a story that matters” and “to your audience”, because if even if your Composites are telling a great story, if it’s not to the right audience, then you’re missing the opportunity.

Tell a great story to the right audience and your Composites will be loved and remembered.

How can you tell a better story within your Composite Photography?

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