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Question
Hi Akshay,
I was wondering if you could tell me how to merge a few images together.  Example:  Taking three shots with the camera on a tripod while my subject repositions himself in each frame to appear to several places in the room/frame. I know how to take the shot, but using the correct CS-5 technique for the finished project is still beyond me.  I am 3 yrs new to Photoshop and have been learning it through trial and error.  Anything that you can offer would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much!!


Tim!

Answer
Dear Tim,

What you're describing doesn't really require a whole lot of experience in Photoshop, thankfully.
You've also taken the right approach by ensuring that your camera is on a tripod.

Once you've imported all your desired photos, creating the final composite is fairly simple:

1. Keep each individual photograph on a separate layer. The safest way is to open each individual photograph, select all (Ctrl+A), and then paste into a new document. Do this for each photograph. You can also drag and drop, but then you'll have to align each layer and that can be a bit of a pain.

2. Create a layer mask for each layer that you've added. If you don't know how to create layer masks (or what they are), go here:
http://www.wikihow.com/Add-a-Layer-Mask-in-Photoshop
https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/masking-layers.html
If you've ever had to use masking tape before painting anything (e.g. say on a windowsill or on an electrical socket), that's what a layer mask does. Only with Photoshop, you can paint the layer mask with the brush tool -either to apply it or to remove it, and at any time. Unlike a masking tape, you can make as many mistakes and correct as many mistakes as you want.
A white brush paints the layer mask in (i.e. includes stuff on the layer that is masked), while a black brush subtracts from the layer mask so that the layer underneath the masked one shows.

3. Once the layer mask is added, paint the mask as desired, removing what you don't want by painting black on the layer mask, or adding what you DO want by painting white.
By default, if you don't select anything before adding the layer mask, Photoshop will include everything.


Continue in this manner till you have your desired composite. It will take some trial and error to get the right effect. Sometimes even when you do use a tripod, you might find that your final images aren't perfectly aligned. Occasionally the lens/tripod/camera is nudged ever so slightly, or objects in the distance have moved a little: leaves and other things affected by the breeze are a good example.
Regardless, it should be simple enough once you get the hang of it.

A few tips:
1. Use a soft-edged brush with it's hardness set to between 0-50%. A really hard brush will leave telltale signs.
2. Make sure your brush opacity is set to 100%.
3. What I usually do is invert the mask (select the mask on the layer by clicking on the icon right beside the layer icon) and then paint things IN.
4. Always use only the brush tool for adding or removing from the mask. Do NOT use the eraser, it'll complicate matters for you.
5. Paint many small incremental changes rather than making single huge ones. This way, if you make a mistake, you can undo the damage easily.


I hope that helps! If you have any other questions (follow-ups or otherwise), feel free to ask.


Happy shooting,

Akshay.

Photography

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Akshay Singh Jamwal

Expertise

I'm a professional photographer and I can answer questions questions relating to SLRs (35mm or DSLRs) and general photographic technique. I'll be happy to share my knowledge with anybody who's looking to learn or is just plain confused about something. Questions about studio lighting, studio flashes, and flashguns are also welcome. Questions about theory (e.g. colour theory, guidelines behind composition, depth of field, etc.) are welcome as well. Digital photography also involves some amount of post-processing using an image editing application such as Adobe Photoshop; a program that I am proficient with. I cannot answer typical generic questions, viz. "Which is the best camera?," as the short and sweet answer to questions such as those is "There is no such thing." Furthermore, there is a lot of literature available on the web pertaining to the same. Also, please do not ask me for camera recommendations based on a budget.

Experience

I have been passionately taking photographs since I was 13 years old. In totality, I've been involved in photography in one way or another for over a decade. I've used various cameras (and lighting equipment) over the years, including but not limited to Minolta/Konica Minolta, Nikon, Canon, and Mamiya.

Education/Credentials
High school degree.

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