I have like 30 different photos to process like this, but I want to know key things to maintain realistic photo by changing it's background, or maybe just modify background so it would be more pleasing to eye.(If you know tutorial related to my problem, please do provide it to me)

Here is the photo:
Step 1

Here is my step 2: Step 2

Here is background: Step 3

Here is the result: Step 4

As you can see, it isn't any close to realistic feel. I fooled around with levels, but all I got was this and still it doesn't feels right.

First try:
Changed levels

Second try: Changed hue/exposure


Different background:
enter image description here

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Great job keying the image, by the way. If you know your intended background image ahead of time, make sure you look at the color and angle of light it has and try to match up to it in your photo. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Dec 27, 2012 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: Well I'm not the photographer, I'm helping my friend to make pictures with background relating to couples costume. And I can't get new pictures with correct light angles, basically I need to work with what I got, and tbh picture quality is terrible :D And yes I will suggest matching light with pre-selected background. \$\endgroup\$
    – skmasq
    Dec 30, 2012 at 10:56

3 Answers 3

  1. Perspective and settings - like Darkcat Studio said.

  2. Direction of the light - in the second background, the side of the tree branches facing the camera near the couple are in shadow while the couple is lit from the front - you have to choose a background that has the same light direction has the foreground picture.

  3. Quality of the light - hard light vs. soft light, this was one of the problems with the first background (but a pretty minor one compered to the perspective)

  4. Amount of light - you have to match the lighting of the background and foreground, in your example the couple has way more light on them than the tree just a few inches away (that doesn't mean the background and foreground has to have the same amount of light but you need a realistic ratio)

  5. Color of the light - your background has a very "cold" blue light while the couple looks "warm" with a lot of red tones - if you have the raw files you can just change the color temperature, if not you can use RGB curves, to warm the photo bump the red channel up a little bit and the channel blue down, to cool do the opposite (but you can only change the color by a tiny amount before they start looking weird, especially with skin tones)

The funny thing is that those also "work" if you don't change the background - one of my favorite photos is a picture of my son in front of storm clouds where I exposed for the sky and used a flash to light my son - I have the completely unedited jpeg out of the camera and it looks as fake as your switched background pictures (really, no one believes me this is unedited) because the setting is unusual (when was the last time you've seen a person in front of storm clouds) my son is lit by hard light from the side on an overcast day (where there should have been soft light from above) the light difference between foreground and background isn't natural and the white balance of the flash and overcast sky doesn't match.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In recent versions of Photoshop, it's probably easier to clip a color balance adjustment layer to the people image layer and take the red/cyan toward cyan and the yellow/blue toward blue. It tends to create a little less inadvertent weirdness than curves. And there's always the option to open the image in ACR from Bridge; it doesn't need to be a raw image (but it helps a lot if it's at least a high-bit-depth image). \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Dec 27, 2012 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StanRogers - You are right (I'm not a Photoshop expert), Lightroom can also do white balance adjustment on non-raw but you can only do really small adjustment before things get ... em ... artistic, never tried on high-bit-depth-no-raw images (just because I don't have any on my computer, I have nothing against high bit depth images) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Dec 27, 2012 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nir Thank you. But I have another question, is there a way to change direction of light in couples image, or is it near impossible to photshop that? \$\endgroup\$
    – skmasq
    Dec 30, 2012 at 10:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @skmasq - I believe it is nearly impossible (but I'm not a Photoshop expert) - except for flipping the image to move the light between left and right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Dec 30, 2012 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nir very good point, flipping image would make difference and wouldn't lose the quality. Thanks for the brief explanation. Happy new year! \$\endgroup\$
    – skmasq
    Dec 30, 2012 at 23:33

I can see that you have 3 main problems:

The background is VERY blue, and not how I imagine the scene would look to the eye, as you are aware the white balance between images is very different.

Perspective and setting - the subjects are very close to the camera and the camera is at eye-level. The background image looks like its taken from 2000ft up. Your subjects are standing, so it would make sense that there should be something for them to stand on in the background image, for example a balcony overlooking a mountain scene.

Angle of lighting - to look natural the light source in both images must be from the same direction.

Your main problem is the choice of background image.

  • \$\begingroup\$ True. I will find some other background and get back to you. \$\endgroup\$
    – skmasq
    Dec 27, 2012 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Changed background, how can I change temperature of that couple, I can see the dropping light and temperature is main problems here. I have no clue how to change lights. \$\endgroup\$
    – skmasq
    Dec 27, 2012 at 10:53

Everything Nir and Digital Lightcraft said, but I thought I'd add a [very lazy] example.

The thing a seasoned photographer would spot first is the direction of the light which is the trickiest to fix, but from your first result, just by playing with white balance, channels, brightness/contrast/gamma,a fairly heavy-handed sharpen - all across the whole picture, and a crop to lose the floating foot while keeping the subjects' faces between the centre and upper third line, you might have something that would fool the uninitiated that it was taken with fill-in flash.

(10 minutes in Showfoto) :

enter image description here

For something better, it would be best to match the tone of the light in the foreground before adding the background (either way), and then adjusting the whole image.


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