Compositing.. The old fashioned way! 1985-1992

Ah.. the good ol’ days of imaging yore and a little Star Wars miniature photography. Are you tired of computers and long for a return to simpler times? I’m tired of computers but there is NO way I would go back into a darkroom just to comp two images together and wait a week for the result!
Here are some of my early attempts at image compositing – created WITHOUT a computer, using optical compositing tools, ie. cameras and film.
I used a 4″x 5″ view camera, litho film (as a mask), paper punch, a pin registration system (to keep the film aligned), a dark room and lots of patience!
Not sure if I still have it but I wrote up a manual on how to composite multi-element images together using a 35mm slide copier, lith film way back in my 9th and 10th year in secondary school.
The Process..
1. Beauty shot.
2. Is the same model, same position only backlit and all modeling light turned off.. (could have done better here and saved myself time in the darkroom later..)
Get those two shots processed at the lab and wait for their return…
From here I would painstakingly align both the beauty shot and silhouette shot together and tape them together.. Then I would punch them with a paper punch. If this was out, the whole thing would be out!
3. Is a Lith Film contact print of #2. Lith film is a super high contrast, super fine grain orthographic film. ie Pure black against clear film base. Which gives you a MASK!
4. Is #3 taped up with black tape and/or matte black paint to create a garbage matte.
5. Is a Lith contact of #4. Every time you make a lith contact you get a negative.
6. Is a lith contact of #5
** What I haven’t shown here is the BG image, which I cant seem to find unfortunately.
Okay, so I have a Beauty shot of the model, a BG image and two lith masks. All of these are pin registered and in alignment (hopefully) together.
7. Is the #1(Beauty shot) pinned onto the board and along with the lith mask #6 over the top of it.
I then shoot this with my 4″ x 5″ large format camera. I re-cock the shutter and leave the film in the back. Only the portion of the frame that has the model in it is exposed, the remainder of the frame is still UN-exposed.
8. Is the same as #7 except that the BG image has lith mask #5 placed over it. Then another exposure made onto the same piece of film as in step #7.
9. Final composite after it has been returned from the lab…
No sooner had I started to come to grips with this process, I found Photoshop!

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