I took some Christmas portraits of the kids, and anyone with kids can relate that getting everyone to look right at the same time the shutter goes off is quite a challenge. I ended up with a shot where one kid looked good and one where the other kid looked good, but no shots where both kids were looking their most loveable cutest. Enter Photoshop (PS).
A lot of people are scared of Photoshop, and it can be rather daunting. But no more daunting than trying to get tables formatted in Word. You can patch up your digital pics rather easily with an image editing program. They are so advanced now there are many built in features and tools to make the job go pretty quick. I didn’t spend more than an hour working on this picture.
The Task: Merge the good headshot of the brunette with the good head shot of the blondie.
- Evaluate the pictures and select which one can provide the majority of the shot. Pic A has the good head for the brunette, but the blondie’s hair is all over the place and she looks slumped. In Pic B the blondie looks good and the only thing wrong is the brunette has her chin too far down and the hair falls in her face. So I decided to lift the head from Pic A and place in on Pic B.
- Using a select tool (in PS I used the lasso tool) I made a loose selection around the head and into the shoulders of the brunette in Pic A.
- I then dragged the selection to the other picture file and lined up the hair length by setting the transparency of the copied head to 50%. I choose the hair length to dictate placement because if I lined up her facial features, her head would have been sunk into her body, and if I had lined up her shoulders, she would have gotten a very long neck. Essentially we need to tilt back her head as that is the issue with the current picture.
- Next I used the eraser with a soft brush at 50% or so opacity to erase away the picture data we don’t need. I lower the opacity in order to create a soft edge of transition. Full opacity would create a hard edge.
- Now the head blends in with the background of the original picture, but the lighting is all off. I select the Pic B image layer and adjust the lighting. In PS I use Curves.
CurvesThe Curves tool is another feared element in Photoshop. But it can be used to easily to correct color and lighting in any image. At the far right of the Curves palette are three eyedropper icons. One each for black, gray and white. Select one of the icons and click your image where it should be or is closest to the pure color. So for instance, select the black eyedropper and click on your image where the blackest spot is, and so on with the other two eyedroppers. Personally I rarely use the gray one as it can be tricky to locate pure gray in your image and when you do often the effects are minor. After setting all of the eyedropper color references, click and hold in the dead center of the grid to the left and drag the crosshairs up just a bit to further lighten your image. It is that simple.
- We can now see the big lighting difference that made. The copied head is now a bit paler than the background and it is especially noticeable in the red sweater. So I switch to the copied head layer and pull up the Curves tool once more. But we don’t need to improve the overall lighting, just adjust the intensity of the reds. So this time I switch to the Red channel and do the same black and white eyedropper selections and bump the grid line.
- The floating head is now firmly seated in the image. Now it is just time for some general portrait treatments. I merged the layers and created a copy. I then applied a blur (in PS I used Guassian Blur). I want to do just enough to soften the background but not make it look like I placed a sharp image on top of a fuzzy one.
- Using a select tool (in PS I used the lasso tool) I made a loose selection around both kids and feathered the selection. The feather will soften the edge. I delete out the selection, so I end up with a blurred background with a soft edge leading up to central focus of the picture.
- I applied an additional blur on the stuff to the right of the picture as it was distracting, and used the patch tool and rubber stamp tool to remove blemishes from the skin. Waa-lah, here is my final version: