Tutorial on Using Composites to Create Useful Airport Stock Images, Part I

As a travel photographer, I’m always rushing through airports. I try to never lose an opportunity to capture some editorial stock images, usually when I’m bored and waiting for the next flight as discussed in a previous blog post.

I recently uploaded some Italian and Ecuadorian passport cover pictures to Micros, using a generic city background and trees.

They’re OK, but I’m not so happy with the result, as they don’t look natural, nor is the background interesting.

Then, I remembered that Steve Heap wrote on this blog (Backyard Silver) about some Bitcoin images he put together with different composites. Bitcoins are one of those trending concepts that buyers are searching for images to promote their products and/or services or illustrate news articles.

So, I’ve put two and two together and gone ahead and shortlisted some of my dozens of airport backgrounds in various countries including, Brazil, Ecuador, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Italy, UAE, Germany, Spain and France.

Since I currently only have passport pictures of Italy and Ecuador, I went along with backgrounds in those respective airports.

Example 1 (Ecuador) – 20 minute job

airport
Before: Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, Ecuador

What did I do?

  1. Generic blur tool in Photoshop to blur the background (alternatively I can just taken an out of focus image of the background);
  2. Using the magic wand tool, I carefully cut out the hand holding the passport and cleaned up the edges;
  3. Increased the size of the passport and hand;
  4. Changed the lighting and hue of the hand and passport to match the background;
  5. Went into Lightroom and inserted a VSCO filter (N-Agfa Optima 100 II –) to better blend the foreground and background and then some manual adjustments such as the ND sun ray filter from top left corner. Keyworded in Lightroom.
quito airport (final)
After: Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, Ecuador

Example 2 (Italy) – 1 hour job (4x images)

The following series was trickier and took much longer, although more useful in my opinion since the topic of free movement in Europe is being scrutinised due to the threat of terrorism. In addition, there is the topic of the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit).

malpensa-5
Just landed at Malpensa International Airport in Milan, Italy

What did I do?

  1. Generic blur tool in Photoshop to blur the background and removal of logos such as the writing on the posters. I didn’t have to remove the watch image because I’ll cover it with the hand holding the Italian passport;
  2. Using the magic wand tool, I carefully cut out the hand holding the passport and cleaned up the edges;
  3. Increased the size of the passport and hand;
  4. Changed the hue of the hand and passport to match the background;
  5. Using the cloning and content-aware tool, removing writing.

I created 4 variations to cater to different clients’ needs. Basically,  I wanted to keep it simple:

  • Italian passport holder arriving at Italian airport and going through to immigration check. It’s clear that it’s in Italy because of the Italian writing;
  • Italian passport holder arriving at European Union airport and going through immigration check;
  • Italian passport holder arriving at generic airport and going through immigration check.;
  • Generic passport arriving at generic airport hallway. This version was trickiest and required the most amount of post-processing but I would predict would be the best seller.

I believe that the top right image and UK passport could be a top-seller because of the EU/Brexit theme.

I put together another one from the same day with flight information on a panel. I’ll go ahead and do make similar version Italian airport and generic airport as above, to offer clients more choice. I must be careful since too many similar images may lead to “similar image” rejection.

airport corridor (final)
Italian passport holder arriving home. I still have to make the different version

What’s my plan for the airport/passport series?

I have access to five passports: Italy, Ecuador, Brazil, UK and Canada, so I’ll go ahead and get some variations of a person holding in different positions.

Then, I’ll insert them into the following backgrounds, which I’ve shortlisted:

airport2
Duty-free at International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the iconic patterns seen on Copacabana beach (pedras portuguesas)
Heathrow terminal5
London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 to be used as a background for my UK passport

Vancouver International Airport to be used with my Canadian passport


Passports I’m looking for to insert in the foregrounds!

airport17
Spanish passport to illustrate this background of the beautiful airport in Madrid, Spain (Bajaras), although UK could work well here because of the predominance of UK expats in Spain
Busy airport
Dutch passport, anyone? Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam
CDG
French passport, anyone? Charles de Gaulle in Paris
ALX_1721
Airport in Dubai. In this case, since it’s such an international destination, any passport will do here, especially the UK since there’s so many expats living in the UAE

You get the point. I have many other airport backgrounds which I need to dig through, but lacking different passports.

I clearly have a lot of work to look forward to but I think it will pay dividends since international travel is one of the most in-demand genres to illustrate a multitude of articles and news pieces.

Onto Part II of the passport composite series! – See here!

Keep on travelling!

Alex

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