Combining Photos

 15-20 min

  

One advantage of digital cameras is the ability to take (almost) an unlimited amount of photos—in fact, you may find you frequently take several shots in quick succession to try and get the best out of a scene. What happens if you have almost identical scenes but like different sections from each? You can use PhotoPlus to combine them.

By the end of this tutorial you will be able to:

In this tutorial, we will combine two photos of the moon.

To download the tutorial project file(s), right-click the  link(s) and, depending on your browser, select either Save Target As... or Save Link As... In the subsequent dialog, ensure that you choose a suitable file location, such as a 'downloads' folder or the 'desktop', so that you can easily browse to your file when required.

 

 moon.jpg
 moon_glow.jpg

Let’s begin...

  1. On the Standard toolbar, click  Open.

  2. Locate the moon.jpg file and click Open.

    The photo opens in the workspace.

  3. Repeat the above steps to open moon_glow.jpg.

    The second image opens in the workspace and both are displayed in the Documents tab.

We are going to examine two methods of combining these photos to retain the detail from moon.jpg but the ethereal glow from moon_glow.jpg. We'll use a mask in the first instance and the Clone tool in the second. Let's get started.

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Technique 1: Masking

Masks are discussed in detail in Importance of Masks, so let's dive right into the combining process.

To copy and paste as new layer:

  1. On the Documents tab, click to select moon_glow.jpg.

  2. From the Edit menu, click Copy (or press Ctrl+C).

  3. On the Documents tab, click to select moon.jpg.

  4. From the Edit menu, click Paste>As New Layer (or press Ctrl+L).

    The copied photo is displayed in the workspace and added to the Layers tab as Layer 1.

With both photos now in the same project, the next step is to align them.

To align two photos:

  1. On the Layers tab:

  1. On the Tools toolbar, select the Deform Tool.

  2. Drag the photo on the Background layer until the moon aligns with the central glow of Layer 1.

  3. When you're happy with the positioning of the moon, on the Layers tab, increase the Opacity of Layer 1 to 100%.

With the photos now correctly aligned, we can begin revealing the moon on the Background layer through Layer 1.

 Save now! Click File > Save As and choose a new name for your file.

To create a mask:

  1. On the Layers tab, select Layer 1 and then click Add Layer Mask.

    A mask is added to Layer 1 and selected by default.

  2. On the Tools toolbar, select the Paintbrush Tool.

  3. On the Brush Tip tab, select Basic from the drop-down list, and then select the 32 pixel soft brush.

  4. On the Colour tab, ensure the foreground colour is set to black.

  5. Begin painting in the centre of the moon's glow, carefully moving out as you go.



    You will notice the mask thumbnail on Layer 1 (Layers tab) update as you paint.

  6. Continue painting until you are happy with the results.

You may be happy with this method of combining photos, but there may be occasions when this method just doesn't quite get the results you're looking for. A similar combined photo can be created using the Clone tool. We'll look at this method next.

 Don't forget to save your work!

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Technique 2: Cloning

We use the Clone tool to correct a single photo in Retouching & Cloning, but here we are going to clone across photos!

You'll first need to set up your PhotoPlus workspace as described in the Let's begin section. and then display both photos side-by-side in the workspace.

To display open photos side-by-side:

With both photos in view, the cloning becomes much easier.

You may also find it is useful to zoom into both photos and set up some guide lines to help you with the cloning process.

To adjust zoom level and add guides:

  1. On the Standard toolbar, click the  Zoom Tool and, from the context toolbar, select Zoom All Windows.

  2. Click on your photo to zoom into the moon areas to the level you're comfortable with. We set ours to 400%.

  3. From the View menu, ensure Rulers is selected.

  4. Click and drag from the side ruler to set up a vertical guide to bisect the moon.

  5. Click and drag from the top ruler to set up a bisecting horizontal guide.

Once you have set the zoom and guides for both photos, we'll begin cloning.

It's good practice to clone onto a new layer so amendments can be easily made at a later date.

To add a new blank layer:

  1. On the Documents tab, click to select moon_glow.jpg.

  2. On the Layers tab, click New Layer and, in the Layer Properties dialog, click OK.

    A new, transparent layer is added to the Layers tab.

Now we can begin cloning!

 Save now! Click File > Save As and choose a new name for your file.

To clone from one photo to another:

  1. On the Documents tab, click to select moon.jpg.

  2. On the Tools toolbar, select the Clone Tool and then, on the context toolbar, ensure Aligned and Use all layers are selected.

  3. On the Brush Tip tab, select Basic from the drop-down list, and then select the 32 pixel soft brush.

  4. Shift-click the centre of the moon to define the area to be cloned.

  5. On the Documents tab, click to select moon_glow.jpg.

  6. Begin painting in the centre of the moon's glow, carefully moving out as you go. As you paint, keep an eye on the area you are cloning from, marked with +.



    If you make a mistake along the way, on the Tools toolbar, select the Standard Eraser and then erase your mistake. Then just switch back to the Clone Tool and continue cloning.

That's it! This resulting, combined photo looks stunning. Of course, you can always use both of these methods to combine a photo and give yourself maximum flexibility!

 Don't forget to save your work!

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The techniques discussed in this tutorial would work equally well for group portraits (perhaps where someone is blinking in one photo but not in another) or landscapes (to eradicate distracting artefacts which move through a scene). It's particularly useful for getting a perfect picture of a popular, and busy, tourist attraction with no people in the way!

Looking for more inspiration—why not use the photo created here for creating an Alien Landscape Effect?