Photoshop tutorial: Combine the best parts of two studio portrait photos into one shot

Tigz Rice looks at combining two photos to get the perfect image

Intro


Have you ever taken what you thought was the perfect body shot, only to be find that the model had blinked or perhaps the angle of their face was slightly better in another image?

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This tutorial will show you how to seamlessly combine the best parts of two photographs from the same shoot in Photoshop, using a series of adjustment masks for non-destructive editing. Although this tutorial is focused on the head of the model, the same techniques could be applied to any part of the body.

The images used in this tutorial are taken from a recent shoot with vintage model and pin-up girl Fleur De Guerre (fleurdeguerre.com) for Betty Blues Loungerie’s Autumn/Winter 2011 collection (bettybluesloungerie.com). They were originally shot on plain white backgrounds, with background colours added in afterwards to achieve the desired vintage look.

Time to complete

15-30 minutes

Software

Photoshop CS or higher

Step 1

Step 2

STEP 2

Select the Move tool (V), and click and drag on one image to bring it into the other document. Hold down Shift while you do this to align the two images. Make sure that the layer with the new head is the top layer. Rename this ‘Head’ and the bottom layer ‘Body’.

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Step 3

STEP 3

With the ‘Head’ layer selected, hold down the Shift key and click on the Add New Group button in the Layers panel. Now, with the group selected, hold down Alt and click on the Add New Layer Mask button to create a negative (black) mask over the entire group. Your Layers panel should look something like what’s shown above.

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Step 4

STEP 4

On your new layer mask, toggle the ink to white (X) and, with a soft-edged brush (B) at 100% opacity, brush over your image to reveal the head from the ‘Head’ layer. Make sure you can see all of the head – including some of the surrounding background – and a good expanse of the neck that we can blend in later.

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Step 5

STEP 5

Once you’ve revealed the new head, you’ll probably find that it doesn’t quite align with the old body. You’ll need to go back to the Move tool, zoom into the area and move what’s left of the ‘Head’ layer so it aligns with the ‘Body’ layer.

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Step 6

STEP 6

As with this image, you may find that the new head is slightly bigger or smaller in proportion to the body and needs a little resizing to fit properly. Use Edit > Free Transform (or Cmd/Ctrl + T) on the ‘Head’ layer to resize it to fit, holding down the Shift key while you resize the image to help keep the image in proportion. Press Enter to confirm your changes when you are done.

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Step 7

STEP 7

Now that the head is in proportion and in the correct position, start cleaning up the background area. As the
two images are from the same shoot, the backgrounds should be almost identical. Using white on the layer mask, blend the two backgrounds into each other with a 30% opacity soft brush for a graduated blend outwards.

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If you’re working on a shot with a patterned background, it can be better to use a brush with 100% opacity right to the edges.


Step 8

STEP 8

One of the major issues with lining up two heads from different photos is that the shoulders, necklines and hair of the two images will be different. Again, use the layer mask to bring in and mask out the elements of the neckline you want to keep. There are no strict guidelines on this, so trust your judgement. Here I’ve chosen to stick to the original neckline as it matched the angles of the body better.

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Step 9

STEP 9

It’s now time to start blending the skin on the neck together. Although the two images were shot in identical lighting, the difference in angle will mean that the lighting hits the model differently, so we’ll need to do some minor alterations to the skin tone. Start by using a soft brush at 30% on the layer mask to blend the two sections of neck into each other as tidily as possible. This will give us a good starting point.

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Step 10

STEP 10

Highlighting the ‘Head’ layer, head up to the top menu bar, click on Image > Calculations and change both the channel options to green.

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Set the blending mode to Screen and result to Selection. Before pressing OK, make sure that your pop-up menu looks like that shown in the screenshot above.


Step 11

STEP 11

Once you’ve clicked OK, you should see ‘marching ants’ around certain areas. Back in the Layers panel (still on the ‘Head’ layer) add a Curves adjustment layer, which is masked to the area of the selection.

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Step 12

STEP 12

Click anywhere on the Curves diagram to bring up the numerical Output and Input options, and set both to 50%.

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Step 13

STEP 13

Now with the Output box active, press and hold the Up (or Down) arrow key to lighten or darken the ‘Head’ layer in 1% increments. Focusing on the skin, adjust the output as required until the skin in the two images matches up. In this image, the change is 6% lighter.

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Step 14

STEP 14

Merge the two layers together by highlighting everything in your Layers panel and pressing Cmd/Ctrl + E.

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Step 15

STEP 15

Now that your new head is firmly in place, you can go on to edit the rest of the image as you would normally.

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