This is what I originally made. The perspective of buildings was not okay. enter image description here

So I tried to improve/change buildings and lights. This is 2nd version. enter image description here

Client said it should have depth and buildings should be a variable distances. So I made these (these will be combined horizontally later. All 4 are part of same design): enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Now the feedback is it can be even more realistic. Some elements look fake like grass. And it doesn't look part of one composition i.e., sky, grass, shadows and buildings look joined together. In short, client said it should look more like an actual photo taken.

How should I proceed to improve them? I can't decide how to improve it now.

  • 2
    idk how you'd fix it, but as a ground-rule, if your composite looks like it's shot from ½ mile away or so, then you would see very little perspective to each individual building. As a whole you'd see it, but not a single building. It would be there, but hard to spot in solo. That means any building you have that looks like it's shot on a wide lens from 100ft [eg, last pic, left side] needs a lot of work.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 29 '20 at 11:05
  • 2
    Shadows are all over the place.. front of some buildings, left side of others.... but they all cast a shadow forward.
    – Scott
    Oct 29 '20 at 14:09

Lights and shadows have got already much attention by others, but the perspectives have got less. You see how the building apparently look taller near the camera than at longer distance. If you have building A nearest the camera and building B is further than the most distant part of A, you cannot make B bigger bigger than the most distant part of A - at least its floor height and windows cannot look bigger.

I guess its useful to make a coarse 3D model of the scene and see realistic proportions. Even Illustrator can be used for this, you must only assume the buildings are equally high.

In the next image there's 3 imaginary buildings. They are all about 50mm high and seen with quite wide angle lens camera. The camera is at the half height of the buildings to make them look straight.

enter image description here

Of course a proper 3D program would be more flexible (except simple freebies) but Illustrator can help to ecplore things a little. Here' another scene of the same buildings but seen from further with longer focal length lens - it squeezes the perspective, but plenty of it is still left.

enter image description here

Removing the perspective (=parallel projection) fades the distance differences of the buildings:

enter image description here

To make a parallel projection have some depth an aerial view is needed: all parts must be seen from the same direction:

enter image description here

I guess you have a set of building images and you must use them. You must select the placements of the buildings so that all perspectives fit. Perspective stretching of a simple box image is possible. It's tried here:

enter image description here

Here's an example how I imagine the things should be related if there's a perspective:

enter image description here

If you are going to use a lawn photo it should be taken from the same distance with the same lens as the images of the buildings. Anything in smaller scale looks fake. It cannot be taken at 5...6 feet from the ground if the buildings are shot from higher.

Then huge buildings on the lawn - nobody in the town has a car? How the houses were built and are now maintained without anyone driving anything? There can be areas which have plenty of green between the buildings but surely some roads also should exist. Except if the image presents a dream of the future.

Having here and there objects which have known sizes (people, cars streets) can lead the interpretation to the wanted impression even if the buildings are not exact.

As others said: Right lights and shadows cannot be omitted. The light conditions must be consistent. The easiest way is to have so cloudy sky that sharp shadows do not exist. But the walls of the buildings still must have consistent brightness ratios and windows. There cannot be lights inside a building in one house like in the evening and high noon sun on the other with windows to the same direction.

Your 2nd image quite cleverly avoids some problems and creates one (=no depth). Making some buildings bigger obviously isn't enough. But there's one urban element that can be used to strengthen the illusion of depth - The smog:

enter image description here


The most difficult aspect of any composite is lighting and shadows. After that it may be perspective depending upon subject matter.

When working with farmed, or gleaned images, one needs to be aware of the lighting in the images and attempt to find either all images with the same relative light source placement or images which can be altered to match the same unified light source placement.

By placing a building with a clear hard shadow on the left, next to another building with a hard shadow on the right or the front.. it causes any "suspension of disbelief" to almost immediately be broken.

Cast shadows need to also match this same relative light source position. Placing a building which is clearly lit from the front, and giving it a cast shadow as if it were lit from the back, again, ruins any "belief" in the composite.

If the light source appears to be on the left, then cast shadows would be directional right. If the light source is from the font, cast shadows would be directional back. If the light source is more ambient in nature, i.e. not appearing to have any immediate position, then cast shadows may not be appropriate. In any event, if cast shadows are used they may all follow the same general direction but they wont all be the same size, darkness, and length. for example, cast shadows further away from the light source will vary in length/darkness compared to cast shadows closer to the light source.

Also, it is helpful to know that you don't have to be "real-world" literal all the time. Actually creating or altering things which would not actually occur in real life can, at times, help further the perception of unity among the various composite pieces. So, simply because all objects naturally cast a shadow in real life, that doesn't always mean you need to add cast shadows.

One of the immediate things I see in your last 4 images are completely incorrect cast shadows.. not even close to anything resembling real life shadows. They immediately convey "fake".

This is all merely a brief dissection related to one aspect of your images. The reality is, perspective, scale, lighting, shadows, color... could all use some help. But it would take a post surpassing the StackExchange 300,000 character limit in answers to detail everything.

If you are truly interested in improving compositing skills there are books on the subject:

In addition, a web search for "photoshop compositing" will turn up a number of tutorials.

I realize that tutorials for someone aware of the tools and features within Photoshop may not seem a valid or fruitful avenue to pursue. However, compositing has some basic, general guidelines to watch for. Even if you don't need any explanation regarding tools or features, I'd encourage you to view a few compositing tutorials merely to see what aspects of the various pieces are being edited or altered, etc.

Compositing - just like retouching, painting, etc - can be a specialized skill, and like anything, you have to at least be aware of what to look for to improve that skill. All I can really say about your posted samples is you don't really understand what you should be looking for when compositing.

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