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composite photography of niko and luka ulsrud shooting each other with a sling shot

Composite Photography: A Year in Review

2015 was an amazing year for me, starting with me closing my Chiropractic practice in February, and jumping head first into the world of Composite Photography and becoming a Dallas Portrait Photographer.

So, this is my journey through the year and my Composite Photography progress.

Before I get started, however, I’d like to emphasize I started 2015 with no Compositing background, and through the process of learning and developing my Photillustrator style, I created a unique business.

More on that later…

For now, let me show you where I started, and the progress I’ve made so far.

My First Composite

Just over 1 year ago, in December of 2014, I made my first attempt at Composite Photography.

jason ulsrud first composite photography of family at christmas

Before this, the only photographer I really knew doing Compositing, was Dave Hill, and I was blown away by the scenes he was able to create.

This was the standard I was attempting to match.

Needless to say, I failed miserably, but knew right then and there, “I wanted to create scenes through Composite Photography for the rest of my life.”

January 2015 Composites

First, I had to learn how to do Composite Photography, so I started very simple with a 3 image Composite.

composite of royse city basket ball player emily pratt

While better than the first Composite I created a month ago, I clearly had a long way to go to match the skills of the Composite Photographers I was coming to learn about.

Photographers like the one’s I mention in my article, 5 Composite Photographers who Inspire Me.

composite of blake hammerton wearing a fossil watch

With this Fossil Watch Composite, I spread my wings a little and incorporated a photo I took from downtown Dallas, a sky from an HDR image, and a portrait of Blake, a good friend of mine.

A step in the right direction, but still a long way from good.

February 2015 Composites

I consider February to be my “Particle” month, because this is when I discovered how to incorporate a Particle Effect into my Composites.

composite of taren ulsrud and rock-n-roll marathon in dallas, tx

Because I was consciously working to find a unique style, for some reason I thought the Particle Effect was going to be what made me different and unique.

So, throughout February, it was all about the Particles.

composite of twin brothers with sling shot

This Composite is of my twin boys, Luka and Niko, and was the beginning of what I hope to be a series I’m tentatively calling “Brothers”.

composite of dallas photographer jeff covington for jack daniels

I’ve always had the goal of being a Dallas Advertising Photographer, so with my Jack Daniels Composite, I incorporated the Jack Daniels logo into an idea I had using my good photographer friend, Jeff.

composite of my twin boys called bob marley

For my Bob Marley Composite, I wanted to really challenge my Compositing skills, so I set out to fabricate a robot out of what came to be 28 different images.

This Composite is also the first time I tried out Enlarging the Heads, which I swore I would never do before this image.

March 2015 Composites

If I didn’t want photography to simply be a hobby, I had to start making some money at it, so March was the month I began building my Headshot portfolio.

Here’s a couple of the many I created.

steven blanck headshot portrait by photillustrator

Additionally, I explored the idea of creating Caricature Portraits, which I discovered something very interesting.

caricature composite of niko ulsrud

caricature composite of luka ulsrud

caricature composite of dallas photographer jeff covington

I discovered, people don’t look right unless their heads have been enlarged.

I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, and there is science to validate this fact.

April 2015 Composites

Looking back at all these Composites now, April is when I first started gaining some traction in what would become my Photillustrator style.

Creating a unique style was always very important to me.

composite photography representing the texas dream

With my Composite called “Texas Dream”, this was the first piece where all my time and hard work started to reveal itself.

Upon completion of this, I thought, “Hey! I think I may be onto something here.”

This led to my next Compositing attempt, which was the first time I sketched out my concept before bringing it to life.

photo composite by jason ulsrud of photillustrator

To create my Welcome Composite, I had a very specific character in mind, who I found while having lunch one day at PotBelly.

I interrupted Brian’s lunch, showed him my concept, and he agreed to help me out with it.

May 2015 Composites

Through these early months of 2015, my focus was primarily on improving my skill level more than it was on how to turn my passion into a product.

I was gaining confidence, but knew I was still missing something.

composite photography of my twin boys

With this Composite I call “The Wrestler”, I had this idea floating around in my head, and without any sketch, set out to bring it to life.

BTW, Niko, the boy flying through the air, was created using 5 separate images Composited together.

composite portrait of dallas artist chaps tucker by photillustrator photographer, jason ulsrud

While I’m not excited about the Composite I created called “Creative Chaos”, this was the first BIG step to making a business out of this Compositing thing.

In the past, I had 100% concept control, which makes the creative process a much easier process.

However, for “Creative Chaos”, I wanted a more “Real World” experience, so I let the artist have some creative input on the final concept.

I learned, not everything I do will be portfolio quality.

June 2015 Composites

Every year, June is a super busy month for me because of having the kids, and it’s our month to vacation as a family.

Also, June 8th is my wedding anniversary (for my wife in case she’s reading this).

That said, I worked with the dudes from Brass Tacks Barber Shop to create a series of Editorial Portraits, and one Awesome Composite.

photo composite of dallas barbers from brass tacks barber shop created by dallas photographer jason ulsrud

Once again, in an attempt to create a more “Real World” experience, I allowed Brandon, the owner of the shop, to have some creative input.

He wanted to see himself madly working with his client as the client spun in the chair getting his hair cut.

I’m not sure it worked as well as I would have liked, but it was good technical experience for me.

July 2015 Composites

July was another big month of vacations for me, and the month I started working with my first Custom Photillustration client.

Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about getting paid to do what I had been doing for free all this time.

photo composite by dallas, tx commercial photographer jason ulsrud

For “Arizona Vacation”, I captured all the stock images of Arizona while visiting my Monther-in-Law in June.

The images of all the “Stars”, what I call the characters in my Photillustrations, were all captured back here in Dallas when we returned home.

This Composite is the first one that incorporated an entire family.

August 2015 Composites

Remember that first Photillustration I was commissioned to create?

The completed piece became a 40” canvas print on masonite.

composite photography for creative portrait by dallas portrait photographer, jason ulsrud

Using upwards of 50 separate images and requiring many hours of illustration time, it was of great relief to complete “Crazy Town”.

I stressed so much over creating the court house.

Ultimately, my client loved their new piece of art, and I’ve received several calls of interest following their Big Reveal Party.

September 2015 Composites

Now, with some focus, I set out to start creating Custom Family Portraits for the affluent market, while I continued marketing myself as a Dallas Advertising Photographer.

I’ve spent many hours, days, and weeks nailing down who my people are.

composite photography of fairy tale camping scene by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

My Composite “Fairy Tale” was created for a good friend of mine and his family.

This concept was created over a month long period, and after several discussions.

composite photography of tattoo artists from dallas tattoo shop davis street tattoo created by dallas commercial photographer jason ulsrud

Most of my Composites incorporate an outside theme, so I’m always happy when I’m challenged with an inside theme.

As you can see, for my “Davis Street Tattoo” Composite, every inch of space is filled with something.

October 2015 Composites

I consider October to be my month of Marketing, because this is when I participated in several Silent Auctions that will lead to Photillustrator’s year ending success.

composite photography by dallas advertising photographer, jason ulsrud

For my Bottle Rockets Composite, I had this idea way back in June, captured all the images necessary, then just sat on it.

It wasn’t until after I created my “How to Shape Faces using Photoshop” tutorial, that I was inspired to move forward with this project.

conceptual photography of bass pro shop and tracker boats by dallas advertising photographer, jason ulsrud

I’ve had this idea to create a Composite where you see both what’s above the water, and what’s below the water.

Unsure of how to pull this look off, I developed the concept for my “Bass Pro Shop” Composite, and went for it.

This turned out way better than I ever imagined it would.

November 2015 Composites

November was another crazy month of Silent Auctions, the biggest being for Best Buddies, which benefits kids with mental disabilities.

Amazing charity and amazing people. All of them.

family portrait created by dallas portrait photographer

Before creating this White Trash Composite for Bill and Tara, I went through the process of illustrating at whatever pace felt good to me.

Usually taking several days to a couple of weeks.

For this Composite, however, I literally had two and a half weeks from start to finish to have this Photillustration ready to be displayed at Best Buddies.

Using my super human skills, I actually surprised myself and met the deadline.

December 2015 Composites

December, as to be expected, was occupied with family and the holidays, which was one of the best that I’ve had so far.

I spent a great deal of time in production of two upcoming Photillustrations, and working on the Photillustrator Process, which I believe is as important as the artwork itself.

In other words, I used December to gear up for 2016.

A Year in Review

Every year when December rolled around, I would tell myself, “Next years going to be different.”

And every year in January I found myself in the same situation, miserably practicing Chiropractic.

My biggest success through 2015 was closing my practice in February, which was the BEST thing I have ever done in my entire life.

For the first time, I LOVE what I do, LOVE the people I work with, and LOVE being a Photillustrator.

It’s been a GREAT year for Photillustrator, and I appreciate every single soul who has helped me along the way, in whatever capacity they’ve helped me in.

As for 2016, I know I’ll be writing this Year in Review post next year, showing you no less than 36 new Photillustrations.

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Comments (8)

Awesome 🙂

I have been wanting to do more composite work myself, but never “gotten around” to it.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Absolutely… As you can see, I’m on the beginning steps of this journey myself, and I look forward to sharing my experience as I go.

Good Luck Tor Ivan Boine on “Getting Around” to it in 2016.

I’m in school for Photography and we’re doing composites now, glad I found this page, it was inspiring and your work is amazing! Going to see if you are on Instagram and follow. If you see famouslee_22, that’s me. Cheers and once again, fantastic work sir!

Thanks so much Chris… I love Composite Photography, so if there’s anything I can help you with, don’t hesitate to email me. I’ll look for you on Instagram, and thanks for commenting.

Truly wowed by your work. I am just starting out in composite photography I hope that I can be as aww inspiring as you one day with my work. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Cheers

Thanks so much. You should check out our Facebook Group called Photillustrator Masters.

These are GREAT! Im a wildlife photographer at heart but id love to start to play around with this style of art. You’re an inspiration.

Thank you so much. There are so many awesome things you could do with the wildlife theme. I’d love to see what you create.

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