Hello I'm working on picture of a little boy.

I think the upper left corner of the picture needs something.

Does this feathered vignette look good and professional?

What might an alternative be?

enter image description here

  • 6
    From a general critique standpoint, the 'floating ghost head' is a bit of a trope and reminiscent of cheap Sears studio portraits.
    – DA01
    Nov 17, 2015 at 20:49
  • 2
    Instead of a floating head inset, I would try to cut out the full portrait of the lad with the pen tool and place him behind the chair if possible, so that the other boy's eyes are looking up to him. You can mask out his legs so that he appears behind the chair. For future photos, why not give high-key lighting a go. It will create a more positive and vibrant mood. If you look at kids tv shows, you'll notice how shadows are almost eliminated to create positivity. In photography this lends itself to high-key lighting. Why not give it a go for future shots like this - just a thought!
    – johnp
    Nov 17, 2015 at 21:46
  • 9
    The floating head doesn’t bother me half as much as the—pardon the bluntness—atrocious, Photoshopped-in wooden floor and the cut-off black background. Those two are both really, really bad ideas. Nov 17, 2015 at 22:02
  • 2
    Now now, @Da01 My sister actually worked as a Sears photographer after college in the 90s... you'd be amazed at what the photographers are not allowed to alter creatively speaking :)
    – Scott
    Nov 17, 2015 at 22:14
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    @sajad I think we have given you an answer: "no, floating feathered heads do not look good". However, they are common and used a lot, so we really can't give you a definitive answer.
    – DA01
    Nov 17, 2015 at 23:24

2 Answers 2


Answer: No a floating head vignette should not be used, unless you're going for an ironic dated look.

If you choose to use the Floating Head Vignette thing anyways:

If you shot a bunch of photos to work with I'd seriously consider using one where the "floater" picture isn't staring straight at the camera. It makes the entire piece off balance and fighting for which image is more important. If you only have these to work with then I'd scale them and move them around a bit so its better balanced and less tension between the two. It's very jarring like this because they're so close together and the floating head is staring at camera while the regular picture is staring at the floating head. Resize one of them and move them further away from each other would probably help.

Fix that hair matte so you don't have those white edges around it.

Should really, really consider fixing the color of the floating image as well since I'm willing to bet money the child's correct skin color is the lighter tone... but they should certainly be the same tone regardless.

There's other things, lots of them, but if you're going to use a floating vignette these tips might make it look a bit better.. maybe..


Question: I think the upper left corner of the picture needs something.

From your comment, you're defining the little boy on the chair as being your main subject but you seem to imply you're free to add 2 images or only 1.

If you want to fill "corners", you can always add a decor that will represent the child. For example, some wall painting, a play room, hanging toys, superhero portrait on a frame, and add some textured wall instead of a black background. With that kind of montage, you can already decide to use only one photo if you want to.

You can also use different colors for the background; black is rarely used for kids unless you add some other happier elements around somehow.

baby with chalkboard background montage Photoshop

source: 123rf

Question: Does this feathered vignette look good and professional?

It doesn't really matter and this depends greatly on the personality of who asked you to do this project. A photography is very personal. That's like asking if wearing one earring for a guy looks alright; some people will associate it with the mullet from the 80s, others with great youth years, others with David Beckam (which really, knows a few things about what's cool or not).

Some people love the feathered vignette effect and that's what they want. What you can do though is work with that concept but integrate it in an original way if you really want to make something different.

The important is not really how it looks like but how the picture talks about the subject!

For example, if you decide to go for that style, ask yourself in which context would the little boy look at a picture of himself like this. Or what could a little boy look at when raising his eyes? That might give you ideas on what to put there or what to use in the feathered vignette or corner. That's also a good way to tell more about the subject. You could add drawings or birds, or a nice sun, a bunch of toys, etc.

Question: What might an alternative be?

There's the option I mentioned above; filling the background with something interesting and that could tell more about the personality of the main subject.

But there's also some other styles that can be used if you want to use more than 1 picture.

1) The vaporous/ghost effect You can always swap the 2 images and make the portrait one being the central point, and use some effect as below for the boy on the chair. And add some background to it that is a bit more joyful than black.

Play with the blending layer options in Photoshop and think about what feel you want to bring to your picture. You can see the pictures below have a message, they have personality and the effect used reflects that.

Just make sure there's some balance between the main picture and the second one. The way these examples below did this is by using a bit of transparency and how they positioned the main picture.

soccer photo montage

source: buschauerportraits.com

family picture with ghost floating effect

source: anthonycalleja.com

2) Symmetry You can use a more symmetrical look and use squares/rectangles and add more pictures and different poses. This is very interesting too.

frame pictures with many photos

source: dlpbradford.com

symmetrical picture montage

source: getty images

3) Symmetry and main subject bigger You can also do similar as #2 but isolate the main picture even more. By using that kind of style, it might give you more freedom and you can keep the black background and add more color using the other pictures. And symmetrical frames can add a certain modern style to your montage too.

isolated subject

source: zanzucchiphotography.com

4) Dynamic montage If you have many pictures, it's always possible to integrate them in a dynamic way. In the example below, the family is shared around the giant letters, but the same concept could be used with other elements. That might be a better idea if there was actually 2 little boys and not only the same person. It's a lot more work too.

family picture photomontage ideas

source: ericpearcephotography.com

5) No need to only use photos. You can have fun and add scribbles or other objects that add a surrealistic look to the picture. That kind of pictures made it in social media as being very creative ways to use pictures.

enter image description here

enter image description here

source: 123rf

No matter what you do, if you can't make realistic montages with the right shadows or perfect cutout/masking, don't do it.

Stick to simpler formula such as the floating head or some symmetrical layout that won't require you to do digital painting or improvement.

It's way better to make a simpler result look awesome than trying too hard and getting a very bad result on something more challenging! Challenging/complicated photomontages only look great when they're very well done.

  • 2
    So many pointless photos, your answer gets lost in them. If the image isn't critical to explanation, it's superfluous and distracting.
    – Scott
    Nov 18, 2015 at 4:33
  • 1
    I think this is a great answer, picking the single best photo to portray each point might be more concise/elegant but I think examples here are a great way to flesh out potential alternatives for the OP.
    – curious
    Nov 18, 2015 at 4:37
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    @Dom Thanks Dom for the tip, I see it's a big concern that there was many images and the actual text content of the answer might be ignored because of this. So I removed some images that were extra examples, the OP can find more online anyway. I didn't use the tag <img> because I thought the images look great on mobile as they are and I'm not sure if it's worth or possible to use <div> to make all the text for the image source follow each image. I hope it's a bit better, otherwise I can always resave all the images to a smaller size and insert the source within the jpg with a text layer!
    – go-junta
    Nov 26, 2015 at 15:00
  • 1
    Great job, so much easier to follow.
    – Dom
    Nov 26, 2015 at 15:04

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