The practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.
Mention the words ‘Creative Edge Studios’ to most UK cosplayers and eyes will light up as they tell you how much they would love the chance to get in a studio with pro photographer Andrew Dobell.
A prominent cosplay photographer since 2013, Andrew set up Creative Edge Studios and has refined the art of composite photography to the highest level as well as being recognised by some of the most reputed photography publications available. I caught up with Andrew at one of his workshops to ask him a few questions about his career.
Andrew, Hi. Thanks for speaking to us. How long have you been a photographer and how did you get into the industry?
Image guide: The Hand’s Arrival.
2015 sees the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We asked Andrew to talk us through his process for creating his incredible composite image.
Unify the image
Make your own Star Wars composite. Download Andrews in-depth guide and background for The Hand’s Arrival from the PhotoKey Learn page for free!
I’ve been a professional photographer for about 10 years now. Although I have been shooting images for much longer.
As for how I got started, I just kind of fell into it. Back in school, college and uni, I had no interest in photography as a career, I was too focused on my art.
The advent of digital photography and Photoshop, mixed with my job at the time got me interested in it on a more serious level and when some friends of mine asked if I would do their wedding, the time seemed right to try it as a career.
What made you start experimenting with composites?
Well, I had been making art with Photoshop for years. And my job, working as an in-house illustrator and designer for a T-Shirt company, led to me doing some basic compositing.
I saw the potential of it, and started to experiment. The earliest composite I can find is from about 2006, and between then and 2013 I did the odd one, here and there. Not really pushing it at all. It was just a curiosity in my portfolio.
But in 2013 I was starting to feel a little disillusioned and wondering where I was going with my career. Then I saw a video with a photographer talking about his own career, and something in it resonated with me, and I made a definite choice to push my artistic composite work. That has led me to today.
Can you talk us through your process of creating composite images?
I can try.
- Prepare and Shoot
Preparation is key, know what you are going to shoot before you ever get anywhere near the studio. Then when you shoot, get the lighting right and do everything you can to make your life easier in Photoshop. PS is great, but if your base image is poor, then you will struggle when it comes to the editing stage
- Raw Convert
I would always recommend you shoot in RAW, and you will need to process that Raw before you start to do the main editing. Don’t do anything extravagant here, just adjust the exposure and make sure the shadows aren’t too dark or the highlights too light.
- Cut Out
If you plan to cut out the subject from the background, this is probably the most important part and worth spending a lot of time on to get it right. If you use a green screen you should seriously consider using Photokey 7 Pro, it does an amazing job at separations involving chroma key backgrounds and it practically does the whole thing for you.
I shoot on grey and use the Quick Selection tool to do a basic selection before refining it using a Quick Mask.
- Assemble Scene
I usually then use stock images, either my own or ones I have permission to use, to create the scene. Positioning skies and landscapes and textures to create the fictional landscape for the characters.
- Add light and shadow
I then use a non-destructive dodge and burn technique using Curves Adjustment Layers and Layer masks to burn in the shadows and highlights.
- Add effects
Effects such as fire, sparks, flares and more can really sell an image or add drama to a scene, so if it needs it, I add these now.
- Unify image
Finally, to unify the image I will place adjustment layers such as color balance and Hue/Saturation at the top of the layer stack to bring the whole thing together.
Who is your favourite photographer and how have they influenced your image making?
Rather than have one favorite, I have a few whose work I admire, but I also enjoy the work of artists in other fields and find inspiration there too; Renee Robyn, Ben Von Wong, Digi Steve, Glyn Dewis and more. One of my favorite illustrators is Adam Hughes.
What final words of advice would you give to any aspiring composite photographer?
Work hard at it. Learn your craft. Never give up. Oh, and come to my Workshops!