Photographer Mark Johnson has created some amazing composites in the last few years and today he is sharing some education on how to make composites look so nice. In this video, Mark illustrates exactly how to light a subject if you intend to composite them. This video is one of eleven included in Mark’s “Dramatic Portrait Compositing: From Capture to Completion”


Here is a finished composite that Mark recently completed .

Fireman in composite

Copyright Mark S. Johnson Photography

Camera Settings:
Nikon D300, 24 – 70 mm lens at 58 mm, f/9, 1/20 of a second, ISO 800, tripod

Lighting Setup:
Three Westcott Spiderlite TD6 units (Main Light: 36″ x 48″ Shallow Softbox containing no diffusion, Edge Lights: 2 12″ x 36″ Stripbanks with Egg Crates and no diffusion)

Capturing the intensity of a firefighter at work is nearly impossible, but thanks to the brilliance of Westcott studio lighting, Photoshop, and Filter Forge, Mark S. Johnson was able to craft a composite where you can practically feel the heat. For the sake of authenticity, Mark smeared the subject’s face (a real firefighter) with charcoal and spritzed him with water.

Fireman on White Background

All of the smoke and flame effects were added during post. To produce the apocalyptic background, Mark employed a Filter Forge generated background called Volcanic Ash. The foreground sparks and flames were created using free images from the website. The entire composite was tied together with a warming Color Balance adjustment layer.

Volcanic Ash

Filter Forge generated background

To learn more about many of the special effects techniques that Mark uses to create his stunning composites, visit and check out his free Photoshop Workbench video tutorials.

Note: Filter Forge offers a fully functional free 30-day trial. If you decide to buy, click through the Filter Forge graphic on the Discounts page of and enter the associated code to receive a 40% discount during checkout.

Click here to purchase the complete Dramatic Portrait Compositing video tutorial series for $24.95? (Dramatic Portrait Compositing)


Westcott Lighting Gear in Action