There’s an old trick that works very well when trying to remove people from public places in your photography. Let’s say you have your tripod set up and you’re facing your camera at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Or even the Colosseum in Rome. It could be anywhere that’s popular and that people often congregate. And your camera doesn’t even need to be attached to a tripod. It can be hand-held. The point is, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to capture a photograph of an empty venue that’s always got the public milling about. So what can you do? Well, the old trick I’m referring to is to take multiple photos of the same area while the people are walking around. Then, bring those photos back home and open them up in Adobe Photoshop. There’s a way to align the images in Photoshop so they’re virtually indistinguishable from one another in all areas, except for the people in the photos. Then, you can use masks to mask out each and every body. When I first discovered this trick on Youtube some years ago, I put my palm to my forehead and wondered why I hadn’t thought of something like that.
In today’s post, I’d like to walk through a very simplified version of the example I just discussed above. In my example though, I’m going to use two photos of a red squirrel that were kindly offered to me by Glaszart.com. My task is to align these two images in Adobe Photoshop. That’s as far as I’ll go. If this were a real project, I’d most likely be aligning two photos that had the squirrel doing two different things, such as looking in distinct directions. If I liked the body in one photo and the head in the other, I could easily align both photos and then mask out either the body or head in one or the other. That’s primarily what this workflow is all about.
The Working Photo
This is one of the squirrel images. The other is pretty much identical to this one, so I’ll just post one.
It’s a very nice photo, isn’t it? If you want to check out more great photography, I highly suggest you take a look at Glaszart.
Opening the Photos as Layers in Photoshop
The first thing I’ve got to do is move the images into Photoshop as separate layers, in the same file. The easiest way to do this is to access the images in Adobe Bridge and then follow a command that will make that happen.
First, I’ll select both images in Bridge.
Then, I’ll head up to the Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers menu item in Bridge and click.
Doing this will result in both photos being opened in Photoshop in the same file as different layers, just as I wanted.
Aligning the Layers
Layer alignment is a simple process. Before I go through it though, I’d like to show you how the current layers aren’t aligned. To do this, I’ll reduce the opacity of the top layer to 50% and then I’ll take a screenshot to show you just how misaligned they are. Take a look.
Man, that image makes me dizzy.
Anyway, to align the layers (or most everything in the layers), I’ll first make sure both layers are selected in the Layers panel and then I’ll head up to the Edit > Auto-Align Layers menu item and click.
When I do that, the Auto-Align Layers dialog box will appear. I’ll keep everything set to their default settings and click OK. From experience, the Auto option does a perfect job 99.9% of the time, so that’s what I recommend keeping things set to.
And that should do it. It’s that easy. If I look at the edges of each layer, I can tell that they were somewhat shifted. Photoshop bends, twists and warps images so they’re aligned with one another. This is a very powerful command. You don’t even need to have the same zoom values in your photos for them to be aligned. Check out the edges in this next screenshot.
Masking Part of a Layer
Okay, fine. You twisted my arm. I’ll go ahead and quickly mask part of the top layer, just to show you why this process is so handy to know.
Let’s say that the top layer’s squirrel face had a blemish on it, but the bottom layer’s face was perfect. The reason I aligned the layers was to keep most of the top layer’s image, but to remove the face and use the bottom layer’s face. To deal with this, I’ll select the top layer in the Layers panel and then I’ll go down to the bottom of the panel and click the Add Layer Mask button. This will add a mask to the right of the top layer thumbnail.
Once that’s done, I’ll head over to the Brush Tool, select it, size it and change the color to black. Finally, making sure the layer mask thumbnail is selected in the Layers panel, I’ll paint away the squirrel’s head. The bottom one will show through and my project will be complete.
I hope I clearly explained how to use Adobe Bridge to load files as layers in Photoshop and then how to align similar images in Photoshop for multiple uses. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section below or ask away on the Photoshop discussion board. Thanks for reading!