Between Takes - A Basic Digital Amalgamation Tutorial


final image

This amusing composition is basically a composite of two separate photos, layered into one, using Adobe Photoshop.


Setting Up the Source Photos

The first source photo we’ll use, Photo A, is of Chef Tina in the kitchen, and the other is of Mike, Photo B, sitting in front of the TV. Although the original image was larger, we have reduced their sizes to 500 pixels for ease of working along with this tutorial.

You can see in Photo A, Chef Tina was positioned to be horizontally centered in the frame, and Mike’s left arm, (pouring the wine), is vertically centered. This is important in the set up as we’ll see later on.

As with any digital Amalgamation project, it’s important to fully optimize the levels, brightness, sharpening, etc., of each source photo, before building a composite.

On the set of Photo A, the red roses and vase (blocked by Mike’s arm) were staged to help send the “non-staged” message to the composition. Little things send a big message.

In Photo B, you’ll notice that Mike’s left arm was positioned vertically, to approximately half way the TV screen’s height, and as close to the screen as possible.


PHOTO A


PHOTO B

If you are working along with this tutorial, go ahead and make a new TIFF or PSD file titled “Between Takes,” and include the Source Photos A & B. Depending on how you get there, our starting PS work space looks like figure 1, below.


figure 1


Cut Out the TV Screen


With the Photo B layer active, make a duplicate layer. On this duplicate layer, get the LASSO TOOL from your tool bar, and start at the left upper corner of the TV’s screen, left-click on your mouse, and without releasing it, carefully trace across the top of the screen over to the right side, then down the right side to the bottom of the screen, then across the bottom of the screen to the left side, then up the left side of the screen to the bottom of the arm, then very carefully along the arm to about the middle, then up to the top of the arm, then back to the left, across the top of the arm, to the left side of the screen, then up to the point where you started, and release. It should now look something like figure 2.


figure 2

Now, choose: SELECT > INVERSE. Then choose: SELECT > FEATHER and set the feather radius to 1, and click OK. Then, again choose: SELECT > INVERSE, and press the Delete key on the keyboard. We have feathered our lasso selection, by one pixel, to ease the cutout’s edges. Press Ctrl+D to turn off the marching ants, and your picture should now look something like figure 3.


figure 3


Scaling & Positioning Photo A

Now, make active the Photo A layer, and turn off the Photo B layer. We’ll now need to resize Photo A to fit within the cutout TV’s screen area ( remembering that the Pixel Aspect Ratio of any TV’s picture is going to be different than outside the TV). With the Photo A layer active, choose EDIT > TRANSFORM > SCALE, and using a corner block on the scale rectangle, scale the layer down to about the size as seen in figure 5 (below).

Reposition the layer to fit within the cutout area, while assuring that the arms align with both layers. Leave a small gap on the left side, see figure 4, as the perspective shot of the arm, in Photo A fits best at this point. We will make it fit later. Also, don’t worry that Photo B’s arm is too long - we’ll correct that in a bit too. Your workspace should now look something close to figure 4.


figure 4


Cutting Back the Arm to Fit

Now, make the Photo B layer active, and reduce the opacity to about 38% to see just where you’ll need to cut back Photo B’s arm to mesh with Photo A’s arm.

Now, using the LASSO tool again, outline Photo A’s arm as seen in figure 5. Notice that your lasso selection is far away from the arm, except where we want to cut off the arm. See figure 5. You’ll see why in a minute…


figure 5

Now, with the LASSO selection made, as in figure 5, SELECT > INVERSE, SELECT > FEATHER, and set radius to 22 pixels and click OK. Then SELECT > INVERSE and the hit DELETE on your keyboard. Then change the layer’s OPACITY back to 100% and your workspace should look something like figure 6.


figure 6


Scaling Photo A to Fill the Gap

Since we cannot move the Photo A layer any further to the left,(and still have the arm properly aligned), we have the gap in the background, so we’ll need to use a little trick here.

First, make Photo A’s layer active. Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, select the left edge of Photo A, about 1/4 inch in from the left edge, and select the area as seen in figure 7.


figure 7

Then, choose Ctrl+T > SCALE, and pull the selected edge farther left, until it fills in the gap and is hidden behind Photo B, as seen in figure 8.


figure 8

We are just about there! At this point, I suggest saving your layered work as a TIFF or PSD file before proceeding to the next step. Once saved, now select LAYER > FLATTEN IMAGE.


Final Touches

To ease the transition of the arm, you’ll remember that we feathered it by 22 pixels, but depending on how dramatic the colors are at the feathering point, we may still want to ease that transition even more. One can do this by selecting the EYE DROPPER from our tool bar, and select the lighter flesh tone of the arm near the transition on Photo B.

Then using the AIR BRUSH tool, select a small or medium-sized soft brush, and set the Opacity at 5 – 20%, then gently “single stroke,” horizontally, across the transition area, brushing the lighter color further over the dark to taste. Experiment here, and if you’re not happy with any stroke, remember to hit Ctrl+Z to undo your last move.

Now, recheck your Levels, and your Sharpening. Satisfied with all your manipulated work, use your Rectangular Marquee Tool for your final crop.

For web posting, don’t forget to Convert Profile to sRGB IEC61966-2.1, and SAVE AS something other than your layered file.


Final Result


figure 9 - final image

Your final composition should look something like figure 9. Please remember here, as with any tutorial, it is not the final out come that is important, rather learning the methods and tools used.