167. Blend Two Images into One
Before You Begin
91 About Layers and the Layers Palette
99 Move, Resize, Skew, or Distort a Layer
111 About Tool Options
If you have two photographs with similar themes, you can blend them into one image using the Editor. For example, you could blend a portrait of a recent graduate with a snapshot of his school or diploma. By using the Editor's layer and blend mode features, you can create a ghostly image of one photo on top of the other. In this manner, the portrait of your graduate is enhanced by the second photo, which provides additional contextfor example, the location of the graduation.
Open Background Image
Open the background image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode, such as an image of the Jefferson Memorial shown here. Save the image in Photoshop (*.psd) format. Convert the background layer to a regular layer by choosing Layer, New, Layer from Background. This action enables you to reposition this layer and adjust its opacity if needed. Name this new layer Background. (Yes, it's okay to name the former background layer Background.)
In choosing two photos to blend, the background photo typically works best as a landscape or other photo with minimal sharp detail (so that it doesn't distract from the main image); the main photo can be anything from a portrait to a detail shot. It also looks better if the main image is darker than the background image.
Copy Main Image to a Separate Layer
Open the main image, such as a close-up of the Jefferson statue as shown here. Arrange the two image windows so that you can see both onscreen. Drag the thumbnail of the main image (Jefferson) from the Layers palette and drop in the window of the background image (the memorial). A copy of the main image appears on a layer above the Background layer. Name this new layer Main. Close the main image because it is no longer needed.
Resize and Position Main Image Click in the middle of the main image with the Move tool and reposition it as needed so that its location complements the background image. Click the checkmark button on the Options bar to accept your changes.
In the Layers palette, select the Main layer. Click the Move tool on the Toolbox. Enable the Show Bounding Box option on the Options bar. Press Shift and drag a corner node to resize the new layer as needed. Pressing Shift as you drag ensures that you won't lose the proportions of your subject as you resize the image layer.
Don't forget that you can flip the main image layer if needed. In this example, I used the Image, Rotate, Flip Layer Horizontal command to flip the statue so that Jefferson was facing inward, toward his memorial.
Change Layer Blend Mode to Hard Light
On the Layers palette, change the Blend Mode for the Main layer to Hard Light. The Main layer now appears as a ghost over the top of the Background layer.
Clean Up Main Layer
With the Main layer still chosen, remove any portions of the Main layer you don't want to use in the final image. For example, click the Background Eraser tool on the Toolbox to erase the background from around a person's portrait, so that the portrait blends more into the background image. For this example, I used the Eraser tool rather than the Background Eraser because I didn't want to erase the background, only soften it. With a soft brush and less than full Opacity, I used the Eraser tool to soften the hard edge of Jefferson's portrait so that it blended better with the memorial image.
If you want the Main layer to appear even more ghostly on top of the Background layer, on the Layers palette, lower the Opacity of the Main layer.
View the Result
After you're satisfied with the result, make any other changes you want and save the PSD image. Resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.
Blending these two photos taken during a trip to Washington, D.C. seems to enhance both images. The result is a unique portrait of one of our country's great leaders. Look for this image in the Color Gallery.