Monday, September 19, 2011

Merging a Group Shot Manually

When you plan to merge a group photo and take the shot accordingly, the results of an automatic photomerge can look great.  But what if you weren't planning on merging the group shot?  In that case, merging a group shot manually may help you get better results.

Over the weekend, we visited my parents.  Our kids had a great time and I was able to capture several shots with great expressions.

Unfortunately, as in many group shots, none of the shots had the best expression for each person in the shot.  Here are a couple of shots that I took:
Shot 1.  f/9, 1/250, ISO 640.  

Shot 2. f/11, 1/250, ISO 640.
[As a footnote, both shots were with TTL flash using a handheld 25" shoot-through umbrella (the SB-800 was triggered using CLS Advanced Wireless Lighting).  I brought the handheld umbrella with me because I knew we were going to shoot outdoors in the hot desert sun.]

Anyway, I have Photoshop Elements 9, which has a feature called Photomerge that was designed specifically for combining the best expressions among several group shots.  The problem here is that I wasn't working with Photomerge in mind so I didn't do the things that I should've done like use a tripod and use a consistent exposure.  So when I tried Photomerge it didn't work very well:
Photomerge fail :(
Instead I went to the second shot, extracted the image of my dad and my son using Topaz Remask.  I pasted the extracted image as a new layer on the first shot.  After transforming the pasted image to match the scale of the target shot and doing my best to align them, there were still misalignments and differences in exposure:

Check out the obvious line on my father's arm and sleeve
To blend the pasted portion more seamlessly with the target shot, I used eraser (brush mode) along the edges of the new layer.  

I partially erased the pasted image especially along the edges.
Voila.  It's not going to survive close scrutiny but it's much better than the Photomerge result (or either of the unedited shots) and took only a few minutes.  Here's the shot again for reference:


  1. Thanks for the tutorial Mic, I have a question, why did the aperture vary between f/9 and f/11 in the two shots? It seems to be seconds apart, is it you or were you using shutter priority mode?

    When I'm in your place I usually use machine gun mode and try attracting everyone's attention while I'm still firing.

  2. Yes the shots were taken 5 secs apart and yes I was in shutter priority mode (set to the sync speed of 1/250). Serves me right -- teaches me to use manual exposure next time :)

    Thanks for sharing the group shot tip!

    Best regards,


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