Video: Erik Almas Defends Composite Photography and Shows You How It’s Done

Erik Almas is here today to share his personal perspective on what a composition is and where he believes it falls in the world of photography. Beyond sharing his thoughts on digital compositions though, he also takes a BTS look at the making of one of his more recent compositions, using images captured while in the deserts of Namibia.

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Starting off the video with a humble, but heartfelt approach to explaining what he believes a digital composition is, he points out that, to him, that which is done on the computer after the image has been captured is equally part of the photographic process, if consciously thought about when snapping the images. Almas doesn’t say those who don’t look at it that way are wrong, but instead elaborates the point that this is only what he personally believes to be true.

After introducing his thoughts on the matter, he delves into a little how-to/BTS section, detailing the process behind the creation of a recent composition he believes summarizes his above thoughts perfectly.

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He details the process of compressing the mountains of the Namibia desert with a telephoto lens, then stitching them together in post to create the backdrop for his composition. From there, he shows off the process of adding the foreground layers, one at a time, from back to front, to create depth in the image and give it a natural feel.

The end result is a subtle composition that brings to life the vision Almas first had when looking through the viewfinder of his camera in the Namibia desert. At 11 minutes long, it’s a mid-length watch, but it’s well worth it for his thoughtful explanations and efficient workflow.

To keep up with Almas and his work, you can check out his website and also subscribe to his YouTube channel.

(via ISO 1200)


    In my opinion their is a difference between image maker and photographer…but who cares? I know the clients don’t care…the people that pay for the images don’t care.

    To me I think the argument is do we need to define it, classify it, and separate it?

  • C Schel

    Amazing end result, but I do find this guy annoying. Moral of the story- do whatever you can, use any resource, to create the most spectacular image you can without guilt.

  • Omar Salgado

    There are those whose vision is in the field and those whose vision is in front of a computer. Some are photographers, some are advertisers.

  • Howard J.

    I’ve found that the ones who don’t know how to do it, are the ones complain about it. Photographers who aren’t very good at photoshop, the ones who don’t know how to retouch or edit beyond the very basics.

    With that said there IS a line between creative retouching (image manipulation and compositing), and editing photos (dodging/burning, sharpening, color correction, ect).

    But if you listen to him, he IS a photographer. He knows his photographic approach very well.

  • bob cooley

    In publishing we used to have a pretty specific line drawn for what what a photograph – if it is out of the camera, with basic darkroom work (dodging/burning/etc) it was a photograph. If it was manipulated beyond that, if it could be considered a visual deception, it was considered photo-illustration. Both are valid forms, but ‘composite photography’ is more photo illustration than photography.

  • kbb

    Right, Bob: Call it photo-illustration or photo-montage: It *contains* photography, it is made *using* photographic elements, but is not just ‘plain photography’

  • ReinoldFZ .

    IMHO there is a great difference between photography and art made with photographs (i.e. composite)
    Curiously photographers that use composite and call it photography hate terms as digital art, photo illustration or similar as if they were invalid art expressions that “denigrate” them.

  • Guest


  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    Everyone here has pointless differing opinions and I’m here like…

  • Renato Murakami

    This ages old controversy comes from the difference between photography and photojournalism. As a personal standpoint, I’d consider Erik a professional photographer. He takes photos professionaly, knows how to handle them, edit, and do all the proper treatment. He then goes an extra lengh to composite the image into his vision.
    Great tutorial and explainer btw.
    A big portion, perhaps the majority of professional photography world pretty much requires this.
    Then there’s photojournalism. With it comes an extra set of limitations and ethical guidelines. It’s extra because photography itself already has limitations and extra guidelines, regarding ownership and copyrights (which we unfortunately have seen tons of violations lately). But photojournalism also restrains to a specific point how much you can edit a photo.
    Professional photography and photojournalism are both very respectable jobs that requires pretty much the same ammount of base skills, one goes more towards documentation, the other leans more on artistic vision.
    The only “shame” there is to have in any of the cases is when ethical guidelines are broken.


    I agree on that point of those who can’t…hate.

  • Toby Hawkins

    Kind of, although the people who use it will obviously be much better at it than the people who choose not to so I’m not sure it’s a solid argument. That said, I’m sure there’s a factor of that, much like the several photographers I’ve met in the past who ‘only shoot natural light’.

  • Howard J.

    I feel its the same as when old photographers who still shoot film say digital photography is “cheating”. They just don’t want to learn new equipment so they say things like “but film has more soul, its more true, blah blah blah.” You still dodge and burn with film right?

    But as i mentioned above. When it comes to compositing, there is a line between photography and full on creative retouching you’d see in digital art and advertising.

    So what if you clone stamp someone’s pimple out of your photo, does that cross the line of altering an image? Its not what you photographed?

    This is an argument and debate that doesn’t have an end … it’s just personal opinions and different approaches. To each his own right?

  • DrDevil87

    Composite Action sports isn’t photography. It’s plain and simple lies.

    I mean, I get doctoring portraits and etc, but Doctoring a action shot that can very well be taken in real life with a camera, you aren’t a storyteller if your stories are all lies…

    In the action sports world, a compagny that would get caught using fake photos would get linched. You aren’t actually saying that your product can acheive this, you faked it. The athleate looses all credibility, and ”cred” etc etc etc

    Faking and shopping in action sports / motorsports is a big no-no

    Sorry for the grammar errors, French canadian here.

  • C Schel

    Note- In the video, he mentions using longer lenses to enlarge the background relative to the foreground… to ‘compress’ the elements in the image (we all know this). But, whether you use a wide angle or long lens, the perspective and/or relationship of elements to each other remains the same. One must change camera (lens) position to actually gain a different perspective. The only way to enlarge the distant mountains relative to the foreground is to back up and shoot from further away, doesn’t matter what lens, or whether you’re stitching or not.

  • Robertmanningjr

    I don’t know why people continue to try and label composites as photography. If you make an image on a computer, it’s not a photograph. It’s art. It’s interesting. If done correctly, it’s amazing to view. But it’s not a photograph.

    You’re not a hater for pointing that out. I’m great at Photoshop and I can effectively create a composite. You can also hand me a camera, any camera, and in ten minutes I will be shooting photographs, whether it be digital, 35mm, medium format or large format. I can develop my negatives and prints in Lightroom and Photoshop or in a darkroom.

    My point is, call it what it is. A photograph is one thing and a composite is another. They are both valid forms of art, but they are not the same. If I take several photographs and make a collage by hand or on a computer, I don’t turn around and say its a photograph. I call it a collage:

    1. a technique of composing a work of art by pasting on a single surface various materials not normally associated with one another, as newspaper clippings, parts of photographs, theater tickets, and fragments of an envelope.

    Let’s keep it real.

  • Kamil

    Exactly, that’s what Feininger realized 50+ years ago already. This guy here is compositing his own theory ;)