Compositing the HDR Portrait – Topaz ReMask 3

Compositing the HDR portrait – Topaz Remask 3 

I was challenged to do this by a few people, last week a Long Island Photography group asked if it was possible (most said no). Then this week, a friend sent me a link to Joel Grimes and his commercial work blending HDR and sports photography and kind of challenged me to see what it would look like if I did it. (Never challenge me) 

I’ve had this idea for almost a year now but I had a different vision for it, which I still will try next weekend when I have a model for a different reason but if we have spare time I will try my other method. But inspired by the above I thought I would give an HDR Portrait a whirl using compositing of two images using Topaz Remask 3 to make the selection masking process as easy and precise as possible. 

First let’s take a look at out two images. 

Our background: this was an image I shot in San Diego’s Balboa Park a little over a year ago. It is a 3 exposure HDR, finished in Photomatix Pro.






















 The Model Image was shot two months prior when I was shooting images for my book, How to Take Great Photos. It is a standard photograph shot using OCF


Topaz Adjust 5

The first thing I did was take my background image and it needed more of an HDR look to it…yes I actually wanted to grunge it up a bit. I could have started from scratch and reprocessed the image in Photomatix, this time with a heavier hand. But I knew that wasn’t really necessary as I had a tool that would do it with much less work: Topaz Adjust 5 

I opened the image in Photoshop, duplicated the background and then used my plug-in for Topaz Adjust 5. I went to the HDR Presets and selected HDR Heavy Pop Grunge. This provided just the look I was after


 With my background image as I wanted it, it was time to move to my Model Portrait of lovely Noelle and to start the masking process for a smooth and precise selection

 Topaz Remask 3

Opening the image in Topaz Remask 3, It was a simple task of painting red what I wanted to remove, painting green what I wanted to keep and using the Blue Compute brush to paint a line around the subject to compute what stayed and what went


After about 15 minutes to really get things right, slowly refining the mask till it was perfect. I had the mask I needed for the selection


Bringing it back into Photoshop, here is the selected image of our model Noelle.


After a few adjustments it was time to drag our model onto ourBalboaParkbackground. Using the move tool, I simply dragged the selection onto our background image. At this point I needed to mirror flip her so that she was facing the right direction to fit into our scene. I did that with Edit>Transform> Flip horizontal. Then, again using the move tool, positioned her where I wanted in the frame.























At this point she really wasn’t blending well into the scene so I thought she needed a little HDR look to her too. I duplicated the layer and again I returned to Topaz Adjust 5 but this time I went a little lighter handed and used one of the Vibrant Collection presets: Detail – Strong. 

Now she had the detail I wanted to match the background but she still didn’t blend with the tone of the image as much as I would have liked. So I used a trick I showed you a year ago when I did the shoot at the harbor. I duplicated the model layer again and this time opened Topaz BW effects and selected the Platinum preset. 






















I then turned the color layer above back on and changed the opacity of the color level to about 65%. Now she seemed to blend in pretty well, but I still wanted her to look more natural because going too far can highlight things that are not flattering to a woman. 

After a few tweaks here and there with position, and a little use of the blur tool around some of the edges and a little dodging and burning. I had the look I wanted for the image


The last step was to take a soft brush and some dark gray set to a medium opacity and on a new layer add some shadows behind her feet to make her blend in better


























 At this point I though it best if the image was cropped but I couldn’t decide which way I should crop it to 8  x 10 proportions, so I did both.
























You tell me. 

I hope you enjoyed that. It actually was a lot of fun and challenging to do. I haven’t been a fan of compositing, preferring to do all my work in camera. But I am happy with the results and of course I really can’t resist a challenge from anyone.


Hope that helps,



  1. Jenn January 21, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    I knew you could do it and I knew you could do it well!

  2. Bill Tweedy January 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Peter, nice job on the remask. Is there any way of putting a shadow behind her feet.The feet look like they are suspended in air.

    • Peter January 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Good Idea Bill,

      I watched a video on how Jeol Grimes did his work and in it he talked about adding shadow. I didn’t think of it and should have. thanks for the smarts

  3. Steve January 22, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    The lack of shadow was my first thought also
    particularly with her right foot which looks artificially

    Great site.

  4. Pat Harris January 26, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    I was thinking the same thing about the feet….they needed a shadow to keep them from floating. Great composite!

  5. Randy August 8, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Nice work, but in my opinion, it doesn’t truly look integrated yet. I personally would add subtle cast shadows for the model and lighting adjustments to the background image which is much flatly lit. The models highlights are very nice, but that’s the area that really looks to be composited to me.

    • Peter August 8, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks Randy.
      Try your hand at it, we always post reader images and how they did it!


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