Is there a distinction between mixing and compositing?

Is there a distinction between mixing and compositing in post-processing? Some make no distinction between the 2. However some do. Let’s have a better look!

I’ve spoken to quite a lot of photographers about mixing and compositing. To my shock, some photographers, particularly if they don’t do a lot night time pictures, don’t make a distinction between mixing and compositing. I’m going to explain how most night time photographers use the 2 phrases.


A composite is while you mix parts from two totally different pictures right into a single picture. An apparent occasion of that is when you use a program similar to Photoshop or Luminar to switch a bland sky with a dramatic sky. That is typically executed in panorama or actual property pictures. 

Compositing can be executed typically in night time pictures. A photographer may take a very nice photograph of the Milky Approach from one night time and blend it with a panorama photograph taken on one other night time. It’s attainable to take a photograph of a Milky Approach in Utah and add it to a panorama photograph of Arizona. Conceptually, it’s much like somebody chopping out an image of an individual from one journal and pasting it on to a different image, solely significantly extra subtle (hopefully).


Probably the most well-known strategies of mixing is HDR mixing. That is the place you may repair your digital camera to a tripod and take a number of totally different exposures of that very same scene in succession. Then in post-processing, you’ll mix these a number of exposures collectively right into a single picture. The purpose is to render the scene however with a excessive dynamic vary. 

HDR mix of six long-exposure night time pictures. The signal was significantly brighter than the remainder of the picture, so HDR mixing makes the picture look significantly extra prefer it seemed in particular person. Learn extra about how I acquired the photograph right here.

For an evening photographer, mixing shouldn’t be altogether totally different. You’re taking pictures in succession with the identical tripod, digital camera and lens setup across the similar time. Like HDR, it’s nonetheless bracketing. It simply takes place over an extended time period.

A mix of two radio telescopes and the Milky Approach. The mix was executed in order that I might have time to light up the 2 radio telescopes and achieve this utilizing low ISO so I might hold the noise stage down.

Examples of how an evening photographer may mix pictures

Discover how every of them bear some resemblance to HDR in that they’re typically controlling some facet of dynamic vary.

  • Taking a really lengthy publicity low ISO photograph of the panorama. After that, taking a shorter publicity excessive ISO photograph of the Milky Approach. The primary photograph might or might not contain gentle portray as effectively. The low ISO picture is an efficient means of maintaining the noise stage down.
  • Taking a “blue hour” or moonlit panorama. After that, ready some time with the digital camera and lens in the identical place to {photograph} the Milky Approach.
  • Mixing a number of pictures over time to point out the passage of time, solely in a single picture. For instance, you can present the transition between sundown to “blue hour,” or considerably like above, the transition of “blue hour” into night time.

The philosophy between compositing and mixing

With compositing, you take totally different parts from totally different pictures, then combining them collectively to create artwork.

With mixing, you might be doing so to handle dynamic vary and limitations of the digital camera to attempt to recreate what you see and expertise.

The distinction between compositing and mixing could be fuzzy. Each can look considerably related in case you are watching somebody post-process. However I imagine there’s sufficient elementary distinction to tell apart between the 2. Definitely, night time photographers appear to really feel this manner.

I virtually by no means do compositing of night time pictures. I imagine I’ve solely executed one or two. Nevertheless, I’ve no points with compositing. For night time pictures, I would favor if the artist had been up entrance about composites.

Nevertheless, it truly is all artwork. Compositing, HDR mixing, mixing to point out lengthy passages of time and pictures are all totally different types of artwork. Some try and recreate the way it seemed or felt to be there whereas others try and create a fantasy picture. And like all artwork, some may enchantment to you whereas others may wrinkle your nostril in disgust. Magnificence, in spite of everything, is within the eye of the beholder.

What are your opinions on what constitutes composites or mixing? Or for that matter, what constitutes pictures and what falls into the realm of digital artwork? Tell us within the feedback under.

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