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Copyright ○ 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

How to make a composite of the Phases of the Annular Solar Eclipse

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I had some idea about how to go about assembling the composite above.

I knew there would be layers and masks involved, but how to actually do what I needed was beyond me. For days before the Annular Solar Eclipse I searched online for a tutorial but didn’t find anything close.

I asked a couple of friends and they said, “Oh, it is easy!” That was followed with, “you use a mask, and then change the opacity, move things around or you can make a selection…” I appreciated the responses, and admire their Photoshop, photographic skills, and talent immensely. Their “want to help a friend” generous spirits are why I love them. However those answers weren’t specific or detailed enough for my brain to understand all the steps involved. I need “step by step” guidance so I went online again to YouTube to look for a tutorial on basic blending in Photoshop. I just did a search and starting watching tutorials. After watching a couple of tutorials I decided I’d give it a go since I do have a basic understanding of masking, and painting, and I’ve used blending before with other photos, and the tutorials assured me the way I was thinking was the right way to make the composite image I had in mind.

After finishing this composite I thought I’d write down the steps to help me in the future, and to help a couple of people who have asked me how I made this after seeing my finished work. There are many different ways to go about doing things in Photoshop. This is what I did.

1. Working from Bridge in CS5 I determined which photograph was to be my background layer. I chose the “Ring of Fire” – the middle image from the composite image above. I selected it, and then determined which 4 additional photos I would use to show the Phases of the Sun in the first half of the Solar Eclipse. I selected each photo by holding down ctrl + alt then clicked on each of my desired photos. Next I opened the 5 selections in Adobe Camera Raw by holding down ctrl + o.

2. Once opened in Adobe Camera Raw hereafter called ACR. You’ll see all the photos in a film strip on the left of the ACR workspace. I clicked on each photo individually rather than syncing them all at the same time. Some of the exposures were slightly different and I wanted to tweak the exposure of each Sun so all would be the same color. If all your photos are a color to your liking then you can Select All, then after making the adjustments you want click Synchronize> OK. However I did this:

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3. Click on the top photo in the film strip then make the following adjustments:

4. Exposure slider– adjusted so all the Suns were approximately the same color.

Recovery – Slide to the right so all the clipping was gone or nearly gone.

The following settings can be tweaked to your own liking. This is what I used and they should give you a good start.

Brightness– +50

Contrast– +36

Blacks– slid slider all the way to the left to recover blacks

Clarity-+20

Vibrance -+15 or just until the photo “pops” you’ll know it when you see it.

Then I went to the Lens Correction filter the 6th filter in the options bars of ACR.

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Check the box “Enable Lens Profile Correction” and my lens profile automatically popped up in the next section of the panel named Lens Profile. If yours does not pop into the dialog box then go down one section to “Lens Profile” and click on the drop down menu and select your cameras brand then from the box under that click on the arrow to open the drop down menu to select your lens or one close to it.

Then moving to the left side where the strip of all your photos are click the next photo and make the same adjustments to it, and then repeat until you’ve made the same adjustments to all the photos in the strip. Then at the top of the Film Strip you see Select All click it, Then hold down the Alt key which changes the button “open image” in the bottom right corner to “Open Copies” click to open copies. All 5 photos will be opened in Photoshop’s Editor.

5.

When all the photos are in the Editor you will see the background layer in your layers palette on the right highlighted. Go to menu bar on the top of Photoshop and click Windows> Arrange>Tile. This changes all the photos into tiles in your workspace so you can see them a bit better. Select the photo you want to place on the left of the Ring of Fire hereafter called the Background Layer. We’re going to copy that photo onto our Background layer. Click on the photo>From the Menu bar click Select>All. Marching ants are now all around the selected photo. Hold down ctrl+c to copy it then go to your chosen Background Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 1. You don’t need the photo you copied now that it’s been moved onto the Background Layer, but before closing it I clicked File>SAVE AS renamed it Phase 4, and chose “Save As” a PSD file then closed the file. I’ll be able to find it quickly if I need it again.

6.

On your Layers palette there are two layers one is named Background, and one top of it named Layer 1 which should be highlighted. To give yourself more space to work let’s go back to Window in the top menu bar and select Arrange> Consolidate All into Tabs.

7. Next go to your Layers palette. There just above the highlighted layer you’ll see a box labeled Opacity

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Then Reduce the Opacity of Layer 1 until you can see the Ring of Fire which is the layer underneath the Highlighted Layer. I reduced mine to 74%.

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8. Once you see the layer underneath go back to your workspace and click on layer 1 photo; Grab the Move tool from the tool box then drag your photo into the place you want it next to the Ring of Fire. I just eye balled this. If you know how to bring up the Guides from the Ruler use them to help you keep the alignment straight.

9. Then slide the Opacity slider back to 100%. Then click the Add Layer Mask button on the bottom of the Layers Palette to add a mask to Layer 1.

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10. The mask should be white. Click on the mask to make sure it’s activated then make sure your foreground color in your tool palette is black.

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11. Select the Brush tool from the Tool palette or click B on your keyboard. Then paint over the area where you know The Ring of Fire is to bring it out.

If you accidently paint some of the Layer 1 image and it disappears change the foreground color to white and paint over the area to reveal it again.

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Once you have both the Background Layer and Layer 1 the way you want them to look. You’re ready to add the next layer.

12. Layer 1 should still be highlighted in your Layer Palette. Now we’re going to repeat the steps we just used to complete Layer 1. Going back to the top Menu bar click Window>Arrange>Tile from your tiled photos select the next photo you want to add to your composite. Click on the photo Go to Select> All>then when the marching ants are all around the photo click Ctrl+C then go to your Composite Image click on it then click crtl+ v to paste the photo to the image as a new layer named Layer 2.  Then repeat steps 5-12 until all the Layers you want to add are done.

If you want to add images to the right of the Ring of Fire Repeat the steps 1-12 using the additional photos you want to add for the final phases of the Eclipse. I chose to work in batches of 4 photos because it was easier for me to manage them.

Note: You may run out of canvas on one side or the other if you do follow these steps:

From the Menu bar click Image>Canvas Size then in the dialog box that opens

Change the inches to pixels>then leave height alone but double the number in Width and type that number into width box then change the color to Black then click Ok.. If you only want to add more canvas to the right side click the middle box in the left row with the arrow in it that is in the dialog box. You’ll crop the finished image so having extra to work with is alright.

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Elements might be slightly different – much depends on the version you have too. Newer versions have the Add Layer Mask feature, but older versions like Elements 7 and older do not. There are free actions you can install that allow you to add a layer mask.

As I stated at the beginning there are a lot of ways to do one thing in Photoshop. If you know how to do something differently than I did to achieve the same result and are more comfortable with your known method use that.

Deborah

May 21, 2012

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