Getting Off Auto – Producing an Impossible Picture

I had a conversation the other day with another Minsmere regular about how to merge a couple of pictures into one. Whilst producing such composite pictures is frowned upon from a puritan photography perspective, it’s a common technique when making artwork from photographs (and as long as it’s clear which your work is intended to be, it can be fun to have a go).

When I suggested the simplest way to approach the task was to use layers, it became clear that words alone wouldn’t help too much & that a few pictures would be required. So here we are!

There are all sorts of ways to achieve this sort of result with editing tools (this is using Photoshop Elements 14) and there’s no right or wrong method. This is one way to do it, but it would be interesting for others to comment on their own approach – or to have a go and add some results :-)

Usual disclaimer, this thread uses Canon and Photoshop Elements terms as that is what I use, but the principles will apply to anything. Earlier GoA threads can be found by following these links to Settings, Exposure+, Post-Production, Choice & Extras.

OK, so first we must select our source pictures & open them in Elements. I’m going to re-visit an idea from a while back and sit a Kingfisher on a Bittern (just for fun!)

You can see the two pictures opened in Elements here (circled in red)

 

This is the Expert view in Elements (Layers aren’t available in the Quick mode which is ideal for basic tweaks). Using the Quick Selection tool (circled) I select the Kingfisher (you click & drag (or just keep clicking) the tool over the subject until you’re happy).  You can see the dotted line around the subject.

Zooming in (Control +) allows tidying up – in this case to include the feet that I missed on the first pass (red circle). I notice however that Elements has got a bit carried away and selected some extra background (blue circle) so we’ll sort that out next

Swapping the Tool Option to “Subtract” from the default “Add” (red circle), means I can de-select the bits I need to (blue circle)

There are still some bits that aren’t right, but we’ll sort those out in a minute.

OK, time to get my Kingfisher into the same image as the Bittern. Copy the selected Kingfisher (Edit, Copy) and swap to the Bittern image (blue oval shows the tabs at the top where you can see the two pictures).  Before you paste in the Kingfisher, add a Layer (green circle).  You’ll see this new blank layer on the right hand side (circled in yellow).  Make sure this layer is highlighted as shown (click once on it if necessary) then use Edit, Paste.  This will stick the Kingfisher in the middle of the screen, but selecting the Move tool (red circle) will allow you to shift it about.

We can now tidy up the Kingfisher. De-selecting the eye on the Background layer (blue circle) means you can now only see the layer that has the Kingfisher (I’ve zoomed in using Control + again).  The grey checked background means there’s nothing there – it’s bird on fresh air.  Think of the layers as being sheets of clear glass you can sit on top of each other.  By de-selecting the Bittern background, we’re only seeing the Kingfisher’s piece of glass.  You can see bits of unwanted green on the kingfisher now (circled in red).

I can now use the Eraser tool to clean up the edges. You can adjust the size of the tool (blue circle) and zoom in and out of the image to get into all the nooks & crannies (as you can with most of the tools) until you’re satisfied (red circles)

Now we can finish things off. Click on the (pink circled) eye in the Layers section again so you can see the Bittern once more.  Use the Move tool (green circle) to drag the Kingfisher to where you want it (red circle).  It’s a little bit big, so shrink it by dragging the corner (blue circle) and rotate it using the yellow-circled node.

Once you’re happy, use the menu in the Layers section to flatten the image (red circle). This removes all the layers and flattens them into a single image

You can now finish the image off, doing any final crops, lighting tweaks, sharpening etc that you wish before saving the file as a final image

Ta dah!

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Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • Thanks so much for taking such time and effort over this latest thread WJ;   it's years since I did any editing like this and was using Photo Elements (probably version 10 ! ) at the time.  Although it appears I can merge whole photos through LR6 which is my current editor I'm not sure it allows this sort of capability and since my year's free subscription to PhotoCC has expired I would probably have to purchase Elements again.   I used to love manipulating the photos and cut outs, etc., which I used when I created birthday/greetings cards for family/friends so I will bookmark this excellent tutorial for future use :)      You are a clever lad and love the last photo !   If I was let loose I would probably have a lot of use for the Cyril's and enjoy cutting their heads off and sticking them on to other bodies   lol !!

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    Love the idea of a kingfisher perching on a bittern!

    I too have Elements and once had to incorporate a photo of a friend in a piece of classic art for a poster we did for his birthday and used the techniques you did (and then had to make his photo blend in with the painting). I'd not thought of doing it with bird photos but fully agree it can be fun and really doesn't matter, as long as it's not being passed off as natural.

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    Nige   Flickr

  • In reply to Nigel O:

    What an enormously useful thread!  Thank you so much for taking the time to post this.

    Our herring gulls are red listed birds.  Think about that the next time you hear some flaming idiot calling for a cull of them.

  • In reply to Clare:

    Clare Bailey said:

    What an enormously useful thread!  Thank you so much for taking the time to post this.

    You're welcome :-)
    We'll all have to be nice to Hazy now, or she'll stick a squirrel head on us!!

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Whistling Joe said:
    We'll all have to be nice to Hazy now, or she'll stick a squirrel head on us!!

        too right I will    LOL !!

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    Good fun can be had with Photoshop. I personally use a few different selection tools (quick selection & Polygonal). I also often use the Refine Edge tool box. If you have a grainy photo it can often make a difference if you can make an accurate selection of your subject, then invert the selection and actually reduce some of the ‘noise’ from the background (without going overboard with the noise reduction). This can actually help by making the subject appear a bit sharper without actually applying any sharpening to the image at all. This is great technique for birds against darker backgrounds. If I can get a bit of spare time I may try to add a bit more info regarding this. :-)

    I use Photoshop but I’m quite sure the same process can be used in elements, the only difference would be in the layout of the workspace and toolboxes.

    My bird photos HERE

  • In reply to Paul A:

    Paul A said:
    I personally use a few different selection tools

    That's one of the benefits (and confusions!) of these tools - there are many ways to achieve the same goal.  A lot of the time it's just a case of trying the different options until you find the one best for yourself.

    Paul A said:
    If I can get a bit of spare time I may try to add a bit more info regarding this

    That would be great :-)

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    It's entirely typical that just as I get this useful information our main computer goes in for repair - yup, the one with Photoshop on it!

    Our herring gulls are red listed birds.  Think about that the next time you hear some flaming idiot calling for a cull of them.

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Whistling Joe said:

    If I can get a bit of spare time I may try to add a bit more info regarding this

    That would be great :-)

    [/quote]

    Info here

    My bird photos HERE

  • In reply to Paul A:

    We'll soon have our computer back........WOO HOO!  Looking forward to putting this into practice.

    Our herring gulls are red listed birds.  Think about that the next time you hear some flaming idiot calling for a cull of them.