The Auto-Align Layers Feature in Photoshop

JGaulard

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Staff member
Did you know that Adobe Photoshop offers an incredibly accurate and extremely handy feature in it that aligns similar images? It does and it's marvelous. For a comprehensive article written about this alignment feature, click on through. First though, please allow me to explain what alignment is all about.

Generally, when photographers are out in the field taking photos, they snap, snap and then snap some more. What I mean here is that most photographers take many more than just one photo of the same thing, almost guaranteeing they get "the shot." I'm sure you've heard the click, click, click of a photographer's camera as he or she is shooting. Now, if you look at those resulting images, you'll probably find that they all look identical. They're not. They may look it, but there's variations in each one.

Let's say a photographer is taking photos of a bird at a bird feeder. For the first shot, the bird is looking at the camera. That's good. But the legs aren't in a good position. For the second shot, the legs are in the perfect position, but the head is turned the wrong way. And for the third shot, the body is great, but the legs and the head are all wrong. In all three shots though, the bird looks like it's standing in an almost identical pose. This is the ultimate situation to take advantage of the auto-align feature in Photoshop.

To take advantage of the alignment feature, you'll first need to open your similar images as layers in Photoshop. After that, click to select each layer so they're all selected simultaneously. Then, head up to the Edit > Auto-Align Layers menu item and select it. From there, a dialog box will appear that gives you a few different options for different types of alignments. Choose the Auto option and then click the OK button. After a few seconds, you'll notice that Photoshop has aligned the similar parts of each photo, so each of those parts perfectly lies on top of one another in their own layers.

So what's the use? Well, since there are good and bad parts of each photo, you can simply mask away the bad parts and leave the good parts. So if all you want is the bird's head that's facing you in the first photo, then go ahead and mask away everything in that photo, but the head. Then, for the second photo, you can mask everything away, but the feet and for the third image, you can leave it as is, because the good head and the good feet will be covering the lousy head and lousy feet in that image, but the body and everything else is okay. So really, it's all about aligning multiple images to take advantage of the good parts and masking away the bad parts. A combining, if you will.

For a more thorough discussion on this topic, you can read all about the auto-align tool here. If you have any questions regarding this feature of Photoshop, please ask below and if you have anything to add, please add that below as well. Thanks!
 
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