How to Create a Composite using Photoshop- Tutorial

Copyright © 2012 -2017 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a Total Solar Eclipse event happening August 21, 2017 that can be seen in a large swath of North America. If you’re fortunate enough to be living in the center zone or can travel to see Totality, and photograph it you might want to make an image showing all the phases of the transition.  I thought this tutorial I wrote back in 2012 after viewing and photographing the Annular Solar Eclipse on blending multiple phases of the transition might be useful.  You can see my post and images on that event here.

I have been thinking about reposting this post for a month but,  actually doing so was because Joanne, the blogger of My life lived Full   said to me she’d like to know more about blending images earlier this week, and she thought others would like to understand it better as well.  I hope this makes some sense to you after reading it Joanne. 🙂

Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to travel to see Totality of this Eclipse but, I plan to photograph the Partial eclipse I’ll be able to see in my city. If all goes well with my imaging of the Eclipse I’ll be using these steps to make a blended composite image of the phases of the Partial Solar event.

There are a lot of steps, and it can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with Layer masks, and painting within Photoshop’s environment.  Take it slow, and practice with images you already have before hand. If you already know how layers work, and have used masks and blending modes within Photoshop before this will make more sense to you.

Let’s get on with it! 🙂

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 Note: The steps I followed work with Adobe CC as well. 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 just 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 accidentally 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 of Photoshop 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 if your version of Photoshop Elements doesn’t have a layer mask feature.

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.   May 21, 2012

I hope this tutorial helps you with your layer masking and composite images. Have a great week-end everyone!

more to come…

Drops and Splashes

Copyright ©2017 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I didn’t have anything planned this week-end because it was raining in the morning on Saturday, and when that cleared out for a few hours break before the rain returned that evening He-Man, Diva Dog, and I went to stretch our legs in the hills. We went up down the hills walking about 3.1 miles then we were slugs the rest of the day.

Today, Sunday I wanted to photograph water drops and splashes. It’s been raining so much I guess I have drops and splashes on the brain. 🙂

After breakfast and my first cuppa tea I set up my kitchen sink with diy water drop rig.

I thought others might like to know/learn how to do it so, I have written down the gear, and steps I used to achieve the images below.

In the first image below I have my trusty Nikon Df with my Nikon SU800 wireless trigger mounted on it, and both are mounted on my travel tripod. On a light stand next to that is my Nikon SB600 speedlight. I was shooting tethered using Lightroom’s Tether Capture feature on my laptop  which is just out of frame.

I attached a doggie bag filled with clear water to the faucet with a rubber-band.  I poked a little hole in the bag to drip into a bowl filled to the brim with water.

Under that is a colorful beach towel to create nice colors in the water, and catch any splashes and or spills.  The little spoon behind the faucet I used to focus on by placing it in the bowl where the drops were falling then focused on that and switched to manual focus. The lens is a Nikkor 105mm Macro lens.

Waterdrop and Splash Set Up

iPhone 7 Plus

I took a few test shots to get shutter speed, focus, and exposure set, then started trying to time the drops to get a few nice drops and splashes. You need to shoot a lot of frames to get the timing just right.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Suspended

Waterdrop

Balancing Act

Balancing Act

SPLASH!

Splash!

Settings: I used F/16 and F/18,  1/1000s and 1/1600s, ISO 100, Manual Priority|Matrix metering| Manual Focus: I developed these 3 frames in PS CC 2017 & On 1.

I shot about 100 frames then transferred them all to a memory stick to upload to my desktop computer.  Once there I culled the images down from 100 to 33.

It has been  3 yrs since I last set up to shoot water drops and splashes (here). I forgot how challenging and fun it is trying to catch the drops and splashes at just the right time.

You don’t need a Speedlight or wireless trigger to make this type of shot. A continuous light bulb in a shop clamp light would work! You’d probably want to diffuse it with some tracing paper,  velum paper, or shear white shower curtain though.  Be aware that bulbs can get very hot so keep your diffusing material several inches away from the light!

I hope you found this interesting, and I hope you give it a go! If you do let me know how you did and please post your images. I’d love to see your results!

More to come…

Product Photography

Copyright  © 2014 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

As you may have noticed I’m working on improving my Product, Still-life, and Artificial Lighting photography skills. Developing this skill set has been quite the challenge.

Working with lights is a whole new animal to work with. You have to learn how create light. For me Landscapes are so much easier.

First there’s the composition to make…yes make! In nature I find them ready-made. It’s not always easy to set up more than one object so it is pleasing to the eye. All the rules of composition I learned in art classes are coming in handy when shooting still-life and product images.  FYI- I didn’t do well in any art class I ever took but,  the rules are proving themselves very valuable indeed with still-life photography! Then one must create the light that one sees in the mind’s eye. Let me tell you…it’s is easier seen in the mind than it is to create!

It took me months to get this composition just right:

Flute and Stargazer Lily 72 dpiI’m sure you’re thinking….what? Months? You’re kidding?  Yes months! It just isn’t something that comes to me naturally. I wish it did.

I’ve continued to push myself and create still-life images, and to use my Speedlight, and continuous lights.

Breakfast Still life

Woody Studies the SB600One of my recent images was a watch though not magazine worthy I’m happy with it:

"Madison" Rose Gold Watch by Michael KorsMy latest self-imposed challenge has been to photograph a wine bottle.

This has proved very hard to photograph. There are several problems to fix.

Here’s my first image of a wine bottle:

Apothic Red Wine Bottle ShotProblems with this image I need to fix: the hot spot which showed the light source: a Speedlight (SB910) with shoot through umbrella, (I cloned that out in this image), on the right side of the label there is light spill, the wine isn’t filled all the way up to the cork wrap, and it’s too close to the edge of the frame.

Those of you who are more knowledgeable with product photography may find other issues, but these are the issues that scream at me.

So, today I set up and re-took the shot. I moved my Speedlight with Shoot-Through Umbrella further away from the subject,  then placed a black flag near the bottle to block the light from spilling onto the label, and I moved the bottle back an inch or two. Here’s that image:

Apoctic Red 2nd better outcome_0564I still have a hot spot, the flag worked pretty well as did moving the bottle back an inch or two. It’s not the image I hoped to create so I’ll keep working it. Perhaps, the third time will be the charm and I nail it. I am getting closer and that is progress!

Settings Nikon D700| AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4@ f8| 1/160sec|ISO 320| Manual Priority| Matrix Metering| Hand-held

Strobist- SB910 @ 1/2 power camera right through a shoot through umbrella, white foam core reflector subject left, and black flag subject right.