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Dreamlike Nightscapes — Exploring Reality and Beyond

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It’s not real.

It’s just being lazy.

It’s not photography.

As a landscape and astrophotographer, and composite artist, those are typical comments I received at the beginning of my journey into the medium of composite photography. It felt tough to keep on doing it, even though I was being transparent about the nature of my work. But I kept going back to the “why”:

My goal is not to represent reality as is. It’s to play within the rules of reality and see what comes out when human creativity is involved. It’s finding that sweet intersection where the real meets the imaginary.

In this article, I’d like to dive into what composite photography is, since we are seeing it more often, with very few photographers being transparent or honest about using compositing techniques in their work. There is nothing wrong with composites. I truly believe it is not less work or effort, nor easier than “traditional” photography. What is wrong is lying or denying you’re doing it.

Educating people about composite photography has been the key to attracting the right people to my work. They’re not trying to assess if what they see is real or not, but rather trying to understand all the logistics and technicalities that were required to bring the image to life.

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What is Composite Photography?

Composite photography is a creative and technical art form that merges two or more images into a single, cohesive photograph. This technique allows photographers and digital artists to craft scenes that transcend the ordinary, combining elements from various sources to create imagery that might not be possible to capture in a single shot.

The process involves selecting, editing, and blending different photographs or components, mostly with the help of sophisticated software such as Photoshop. At its core, composite photography is about storytelling and imagination. Its purpose is not to represent reality as it is. It’s the combination of nature and human creativity. It offers artists the freedom to construct surreal scenes or realistic environments with elements that were not present together in reality.

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The art of composite photography requires not just an eye for composition and detail, but also a deep understanding of lighting, color theory, and perspective. This is why to make it look as realistic as possible, you need to carefully angle and capture your elements so that when you put them back together, the difference is almost indiscernible. Each element must be carefully selected and adjusted to match the lighting conditions, angles, and scale of the base image to ensure a believable and harmonious result. This meticulous attention to detail is what sets apart high-quality composite images, making them appear as if every component was indeed part of the original scene.

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For photographers, composite photography opens up endless possibilities for creativity. It allows them to convey messages, evoke emotions, or simply create beauty that goes beyond the limitations of traditional photography.

The reason composite photography made so much sense to me is that way before I went down that path, I was always prioritizing aesthetics in everything I was involved in: decorating my place, making beautiful university reports, and building PowerPoint presentations that would make everyone react. It still holds true today, as my main goal is to convey stories with images that show beauty the way I see it.

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The Reasons Behind Composite Photography

Those who criticize composite photography don’t understand the “why” in the first place. Every individual has different reasons for doing it. If you’re doing it because you don’t want to bother hiking that far and would rather digitally insert yourself in the picture, then maybe the reason is laziness. But it could also be because getting there puts your life at risk; if you want to fulfill your vision, you have no other choice.

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There can be several reasons for compositing, the main one for me being creative freedom. Composite photography breaks the constraints of reality. While you still have to live with the conditions you captured in nature, you have much more control over the outcome than if your sole objective is to remain close to reality. You get to merge elements from different scenes that can’t be witnessed in nature as such. You suddenly go from documenting to creating a world that expresses the way you see it.

We do this in our minds all the time by imagining scenes, stories, and places. The only difference with composite photography is that you bring those ideas into the physical world.


This freedom also allows you to have better control over each element you photograph. For night photography especially, you cannot obtain a landscape with clear details if you shoot it by night to capture the stars with it. Add on top of that the use of a star tracker to get better night images and suddenly your foreground is completely blurry. This is where single shots are not an option. You have to put the landscape back in during post-processing; and if you want to have details, you need to capture it earlier in the night, at blue hour for example.

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The Rules I Set for Myself

Compositing opens up a world where there are no boundaries. It’s an incredible opportunity and a problem at the same time. Some people will go beyond wild, and mix elements that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, sometimes leaving a “cheap” impression of the medium.

I believe that for composite images to be appreciated, they need to be based on certain ethical points. For me, this means taking my images (1) in the same region, if not the exact same location; and (2) within the shortest timeframe possible from sunset to sunrise. I allow myself some freedom to reach a vision by blending focal lengths; exposures; images from different hours (e.g., blue hour landscape with night sky images); and elements that are captured from different directions (for example, the Milky Way below is impossible to capture facing this direction).

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These rules are not meant to be followed if you feel they don’t apply to you. I decided on them for myself because they give me more creative freedom and control while still challenging me to create. I still have to play with what I have at hand. If it is a cloudy sky, either I accept it or I go back on another day to the same location.

Setting these “limiting” rules on purpose makes the final image so much more satisfying, precisely because it didn’t feel easy. Happiness comes from doing hard work because this is how you create meaning in what you do. And this is how you can tell better stories.

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About the Author

Angel Fux

Angel Fux

Angel is a Swedish, French, and Swiss landscape and astrophotographer, creating dream-like night composites. Her desire to capture rocky landscapes at night became an obsession. To create her images, she immerses herself in remote mountain locations by spending nights outdoor. A lot of effort goes into creating a final image. Angel spends weeks, sometimes months, planning an image. She hikes for several hours and stays up all night to photograph the elements she needs, mostly in freezing conditions. Angel’s creations share the experience of distant places and encourage the exploration of a reality that she makes her own.
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Dreamlike Nightscapes — Exploring Reality and Beyond

In this article, I’d like to dive into what composite photography is, since we are seeing it more often, with very few photographers being transparent or honest about using compositing techniques in their work. There is nothing wrong with composites. I truly believe it is not less work or effort, nor easier than “traditional” photography. What is wrong is lying or denying you’re doing it.