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Easy 3D Photo Montage Tricks With 3ds Max and VRay

Photo Montage Training

Hey there guys, today we’ll have a look at how you can create a Photo Montage easily. A Photo Montage is basically an image in which you’ve composited in a 3D object into a real photograph. The aim is to convince the viewer that the rendered 3d object is actually a part of the real image.

This technique is very helpful in attaining amazing photorealistic renders. That is mainly because you’re working with a real photographic reference and a clear goal. Your experience of the real world will guide you in matching the virtual object with reality. Therefore, the human brain’s sensitivity to detail drives this process.

Moreover, with the advent of deep image processing tools in Photoshop, you’ll have complete control in tuning the final look.

So let’s follow this example of an iPhone case being composited into a photograph. This particular process is simple as it does not require you to know how shadow catchers work. We’ll just match our camera angles, render the case and do the compositing work with Photoshop.

The Photo Montage Process

The first thing we need to do is setup our model with a white plane beneath it. The plane object should be big enough that it catches all the shadows from the model. Next we’ll need to set the photograph as the background in our viewport.

To do this access the Viewport Configuration settings. In the Background tab, choose your photograph from the Files section. We’ll also need to set the Aspect Ratio to ‘Match Bitmap’ so that the background doesn’t stretch.

With the Safe Frames, you can now set the output resolution that is as detailed as the photograph.

Now position the virtual camera in the scene to match the perspective of the photograph. With this simple move, your model should now already seem to fit among the background elements. If you’re having trouble matching the actual perspective, you can use the Perspective Match 3ds Max utility. Using simple XYZ lines as guide, it’ll make the process much easier.

After setting the camera, we’ll need to match the lighting with the actual photograph. Since this interior photograph has a lot of bright ambient lighting, the scene uses 3 area lights to get the same effect. The top-right light acts as the main light to simulate the direction of the real light source. Take a few test renders to tune the right light settings.

Next we’ll render the model with the white plane. In addition, we’ll also take a render with just the model. We’ll use these 2 renders to finely tune the composition in Photoshop.

Compositing in Photoshop

  1. Import the real photograph and the 2 renders into Photoshop. Place the render with the plane over the Photograph. Set the blending mode to Linear Burn. If the edges are visible on the plane, then lower the white level in the blending options. This will just leave the shadows in the render. Duplicate this layer for stronger shadow falloff. Use opacity of the layer to control the shadow strength.
  2. Now position the second model render over this image. This way we can control the shadows and the model separately. With the Curves adjustment layer, you can tune the highlights, midtones and shadows to the real background.
  3. A color balance adjustment can help in shifting the color tone in the shadows and highlights, and thus better match the photograph.
  4. Using Lens Correction (Filter Menu > Distort), you can either remove the distortions and chromatic aberration from the background or add these to the model instead. This is mostly a creative decision.
  5. To blend the edges of the model into the background, you can use the Blur and Sponge brush tools.
  6. And you’re done.


So this was the simple process for getting photo montages done quickly with the help of Photoshop compositing. Post your comments below and be sure to subscribe and share. See you later.

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