Below are real photographs, I was present when they were shot. The photographs were taken between 12:00 to 14:00 on a slightly overcast day. The photographer may have taken many frames.

What postprocessing was likely done, such that the people stand out in the photographs?

Meirav in orchid

Cohen family in orchid

As the photographer was doing tens of these photographs, I do not think that it was a composite image. Rather, I think that the foreground / background was masked and different filters were applied to each.

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    \$\begingroup\$ its a shame that the photographer has not included the Metadata with his exports, so it is not possible to say precisely what he did, but at a guess, it seems that he has chosen a location that when coupled with a very shallow depth of field, gives an almost surreal effect. pretty much everything at subject level seems in focus and then gradually falls out of focus. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2019 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ It looks like the people were just "photoshopped" onto a different background. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2019 at 16:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ There’s a fine line between “stand out” and “appear green screen fake”... \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Mar 4, 2019 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ The single-word answer: "Bad" \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 4, 2019 at 20:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dotancohen I think you meant "orchard", not "orchid". It's hard to fit people into an orchid. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2019 at 20:24

5 Answers 5


I'd guess it's as simple as selecting the subject in Photoshop - with a tad more care & attention than I've used below, then leeching out the saturation in the background & tonally balancing towards a sepia effect.

As a very quick demo I did the same thing but made it a pretty garish purple instead.

enter image description here

Once you have your mask you can treat inside & outside of it in totally different ways.

The subjects have been left with realistic colouration, which I think is what is providing the majority of the visual separation - that & the physical separation from the ground, which pushes them into the unsharp area of the background. Note how the effect is less emphatic on the small boy, especially lower, where he's connected to the equally sharp ground at that distance.

I don't think the focus has been played with. I think it was shot on a wide enough aperture that the background is blurred by simple distance. The ground underneath them is still reasonably sharp.
I also don't think it would be compulsory to be using flash, so long as enough light was getting in, or set to a high-enough ISO, to use a short exposure.
The light on the people & the trees seems to match - little to no shadow at all, which matches the OP's description & the almost 'white-out' cloud cover in the back of the shot.

Late addition
I'm not seeing any hint of even a slight fill-flash. Shadows just don't match, & there's not the faintest hint of a catch-light in the eyes.

Additionally, for the 'ooh it's a composite' voices.
The two backgrounds will not overlay, no matter how much you stretch them or play with the perspective - so the 'trick' of extracting the subjects & pasting into a separate shot of the orchard would have required 2 different shots of the background, taken from 2 slightly different places. The photographer would then have had to cut the subjects out of a background they were already in, to replace it with another, taken on the same day at around the same time in approximately the same place... to what end?
That just makes no sense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you’re going to go full fake, you may as well go full Disney child pop star album cover with it. +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Mar 4, 2019 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ A friend posted a similar image recently taken to a logical extreme: the background was B&W and fairly low contrast; the subject was in colour (and wearing bright clothes). I know this was processed from a single shot because I'm familiar with the setting. It seems to be in at the moment \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Mar 5, 2019 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Google automagically does the same thing with some photos that I take with my phone. In my images the subject is in full color, and everything else is black and white. Google calls it "color pop". \$\endgroup\$
    – chue x
    Mar 5, 2019 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that you could use Instance Segmentation to produce a similar effect automatically - see pyimagesearch.com/2018/11/26/instance-segmentation-with-opencv for an example. Or of course if the photographer was using a tripod they could have taken before and after shots, (maybe more), and used those to detect the subjects. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2019 at 13:54

Didn't the photographer use flash?

A common practice to make subjects "stand out" is to use flash for proper subject exposure, and to use camera settings to slightly underexposure the background. That is my guess here, instead of post processing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There was another photographer who was using a flash, but the woman in this photograph insists that there was no external flash used for these images. There may have been a flash on the camera itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – dotancohen
    Mar 4, 2019 at 16:47

There area few ways of making such photographs. You could, for instance, use a large aperture to create a shallow depth of field whereby you blur out the background. The human eye doesn't like to look at things that out of focus. By creating a shallow DOF, you will put visual emphasis on your subject.

Another way is by creating contrast between your subject and the background. One way to do this is by having your subject brighter than the background. You could use fill flash or simply place your subject in a scene where they have more light falling onto them than the background.

Combining these two methods would be even better.

What the photographer has done with the images that you've posted is to create a composite. The images are apparently a combination of a background and the people were placed over it. The photographer either took the background image out of focus, or used a blur filter (i.e. Gaussian blur)..


It's flash, very clearly. If the photographer says there "may have been" on camera flash used, then that's it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can't agree at all. Shadows just don't match even for a slight fill-flash, & there's not the faintest hint of a catch-light in the eyes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:19

I think this is pretty clearly a composite photo. Here is the top one processed for error levels, and for edges.

Error Levels



The errors and edits don't prove this is a composite. However the edges are sharp enough to suggest further examination.

Could this be done post processing? I think that careful masking could do this, yes. I think this is a significant component of the 3D effect, the people are dramatically sharper and more colorful than the rest of the image.

Computer analysis aside, I find the image "off", rather like the Uncanny Valley of computer simulations. Trying to identify why I find it "off" leads me to the impression that the people don't quite fit the perspective. The lack of clear shadows makes that hard to quantify but I realized that one of the things that was affecting my perception was what is not present, footprints! Where are these people jumping from?

The hair on the woman in the second picture shows she is falling. That's a pretty big standing leap! Again, no footprints?

It's extremely well done, and I'm less than 100% sure but I think it's a composite.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you explain to us how that proves it's a composite & not simply masked with the two parts then individually processed. To me the top one, if anything, 'proves' the focus to the girl & the ground beneath her are the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 6, 2019 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ As the photographer was doing tens of these, I do not think that it was a composite image. Rather, I think that the foreground / background was masked and different filters were applied to each. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2019 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Was the photographer shooting from a very low angle, like less than 2 ft off the ground? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2019 at 18:51

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