Yea, it certainly isn’t easy.
You most likely know these things already but to avoid misunderstanding, I was commenting on the composition. Background elements wouldn’t be very detailed (less detail relative to the foreground) in the original composition, especially if there is a lot of athmosphere or even fog/mist/smoke.
Don’t take the following the wrong way. I don’t mean to be condescending or anything, I’m certainly no expert on these things. Throwing this in so that I’m not just giving negative feedback but try to leave something that might actually help.
If you’re not starting with a sketch, or even if you are, could try blocking major shapes with some big blobs in the beginning to see how they get placed in the scene (basic composition). I mean really quick, big brush, zoomed out and using just few different values to clearly place them in perspective.
For the original image that could look something like this
From top down:
- Small image, just few values to get the placement for whatever.
- Just a hint of aerial perspective
- Still looked good so could add some more big elements in.
Might not know what those things are yet but might be able to see where to put your main thing that you want to show and if the elements around it support the chosen placement. In case of portals, you might notice at this point that their placement is not good to be the focal point of the image. Or you might conclude that yes it is but the point is that you’re making a decision early on.
That could be one way of avoiding composition issues when going further and might even help to give ideas on what to put there since it’s not a blank canvas.