December 19, 2009
This example is a technique we use frequently when we're out hiking or being tourists. Frequently, there isn't anyone around to take our picture, and even if there were, I'd be reluctant to hand them my camera. (I've seen too many cameras bounce off the ground when being passed!) If I have a tripod along, it's easy. Otherwise, we do a quick composite from two photos.
This example was taken on Martha's Vineyard in October 2009. (You may recognize it from our Christmas Card.) Being October, we were the only brave souls to walk out onto the beach with the lighthouse, and I was travelling light, so no tripod. No problem...
Roll your mouse pointer over the photo below to see the two photos that were used to make the final composite. The process is simple, First, I position Deb and take a picture of her, leaving enough room in the frame to add myself. Then, Deb comes and stands exactly where I was standing and takes a picture of me. That gives me two images with roughly the same background composition. It also helps to set the camera's exposure to manual so that the two images have exactly the same density.
Then, I load both images into Photoshop as separate layers, so that one image is over the top of the other. Since the backgrounds aren't exactly the same, I need to align the layers, using Photoshop's Auto-Align feature, or manually. In this example, you'll notice some areas on my picture where the edges don't line up, but the horizon and lighthouse are very close.
Once the layers are aligned, I simply add a layer mask to the top image to hide the portion where I want to see through to the bottom image. In this case, I "painted away" the beach and sky to the left of the lighthouse to reveal myself on the lower layer. Like magic, we're both in the picture.
This photo also had some further retouching work. I extended the background a little on the right to balance the composition, and removed Deb's purse so that it wasn't a distraction.
All in all, it's a quick process, and we use it quite a bit. In fact, both photos on our 2009 Christmas card were done this way.