3 Tips For Creating Realistic Portraits Using Digital Props And Backgrounds (I Use #3 Everyday)

Being the creator of this blog and our Digital Creation’s cub, I get a chance to see lots of  photographer’s work using Digital Backgrounds and Props. I also receive a lot of questions from students and members and it usually has to do with three things.

  • 1. How to size and scale the subject properly so it looks natural and realistic.
  • 2. How to match the lighting or color to the Digital Prop and Background.
  • 3. How to blend edges of the subject in the background.

In this post I will be covering these topics and giving some tips to help with these questions and issues.

So, let’s get started.

How To Size or Scale My Subject In Prop?

Sizing For Digital props

In this portrait we are using “Fun With Numbers” digital creation and as you can see it has a washtub as the prop. In the image below you will see how being too small or too big can give away that the child was not originally photographed in this prop.


The way that I usually scale my subject when going in a prop of any kind, is compare the subject and try to actually fit them in the prop. As you can see in the image below, I use the bottom of the prop as mu guide.


The image above shows the cover-up layer in this Digital Creation is turned off and shows how the baby would actually fit.

Another technique I use is finding something in the image that could be compared to on the subject. In this case I used the lambs eyes to compare to the child’s eyes.


Here’s a full shot of the example above, so you get the full idea of how this looks.


FYI: This sample image is one of our Digital Creations called “Wheelbarrow Meadows”.

The video below shows these sizing tips in action.

How To Match Lighting And Color?

Blending Digital Backgrounds And Props

This is a pretty common mistake I see a lot and can be easily fixed with just a few steps. I’m going to share some techniques you can use and apply immediately.

Blending Digital Backgrounds And Props2

One way you can adjust the color on your subject is to open and use the Hue/Saturation adjustments. Most of the time you can move the slider left or right slowly and fix any minor color issues. You can also open the Master tab and adjust specific channels. This is helpful if you want to target a specific color…like blue or red.

Blending Digital Backgrounds And Props4

Blending Digital Backgrounds And Props6

You’ll notice that there’s many different presets to choose from, but play around with the Warming and Cooling ones. These are what I usually use 99% of the time.

The Video below shows how to use these techniques.

Blending Digital Backgrounds And Props8

The last way you can adjust color to match a certain background or prop is the curves panel. You will want to choose a channel and start moving the curve from the middle. This is something that will take some practice and finding what works, but once you do it will be worth it for future images.

How Do I Blend My Edges To Match The Background?

One of the big giveaway that you cut out a subject and inserted them in a Digital Background or Prop is the edges. You will usually see a white line if shot on a white background or the color of the background used.

Feathering edges in photoshop

Feather Edges In photoshop

Feather Edges In photoshop4

You’ll notice that if you expand the selection it moves your cut line in and contract moves the cut line out.

Another issue I see often is the edges are either too soft or too hard. I usually use a feather of 0.5 to 1 pixel when creating a nice edge that blends with the background I’m using.

Feather Edges In photoshop9

Be careful not to make your edges too soft. This can also make them subject loo fake or cut out. The edge below was an example of what it would look like using a 2 pixel feather. I think it’s too soft and would be better at 0.5 pixels.

Feathering edges in photoshop2

Watch the video and see these techniques in action

The last little tip I want to leave you with is using the Blur Tool. This can be very handy if you need to soften certain areas of your edges. You want to use a low strength and a small soft brush when applying this technique.


OK…So, I hope you’ve learned something from this post that you can use on your images. These are some of the most important tips that will help you create better portraits if you’re using Digital Backgrounds and Props.

Bookmark this page for future reference.

If you are wondering what the Digital Creations were called they’re…“Fun With Numbers” and “Wheelbarrow Meadows” and can be found in the member’s area.

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