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Sometimes you'll have an interesting foreground in a photo, but the background will be distracting. It might be a crowd of people or a bland white looking sky like this one that you can get when you shoot in the middle of the day. Compositing the foreground from one photo with a better background shot can solve that problem. The best way to combine photos for that purpose is with a layer mask, because layer masks are re-editable and they are nondestructive of the foreground photo. I'll start this process by selecting the bland white sky, because the sky is all the same color and tone, I think the Magic Wand would be the best tool for that.
I'll select the Magic Wand in the toolbox and I'll leave all of its options at their default, including the Anti- alias option which will help to soften the edge of the selection. Then I'll click in the sky to select the part of the sky that's contiguous to the pixel in which I've clicked, and I want to add this extra bit of sky and this bit down here, so I'll go up to the Options Bar and I'll click the Add to Selection tool. Then I'll come into the image and I'll click here and here to add all the rest of the sky to my selection.
The reason that I selected the sky is that I don't want it in my final composite, so you may be thinking, well why doesn't she just delete the selected area? The reason is, because that would make a direct and permanent change to the foreground photo. Instead I'm going to hide the sky from view with a layer mask that remains editable in the future so I could bring the sky back if I needed to, and that doesn't directly and permanently change the photo. The next thing I am going to do is invert my selection, so that instead of having the sky selected I have the building selected.
The reason is, that I'm about to add a layer mask, and when I do add a layer mask with a selection like this active, the layer mask will reveal whatever is selected and conceal or hide whatever is unselected. I am going to invert the selection by going to the Select menu and choosing Inverse. And now the buildings are selected so they'll be revealed. The sky is deselected, so it will be hidden. Now I'll go over to the Layers panel to add a layer mask, but first I need to convert this background layer into a regular layer.
Often when you first open a photo it has a special background layer like this which is locked down. One of the things you can't do to a background layer is add a layer mask to it, so I'll turn this into a regular layer by double-clicking the word Background, and in the New layer dialog box that opens I'll type a name for this layer, I'll call this foreground, because it's going to contain the foreground elements in my Composite, and then I'll click OK, and that changes the Background layer into a regular layer that doesn't have a lock on it.
So now I can add a layer mask to this layer. To do that, I'll go to the bottom of the Layers panel and I'll click the Add layer mask icon. Immediately the sky is hidden from view and since there is nothing below it in the Layers panel we see this gray and white checkerboard that represents transparency. Let's tale a closer look at the layer mask, I'll Alt or Option+Click on the layer mask and that brings it up in the Document window. The black parts of the mask correspond to the unselected area which was the sky, and as you know black pixels on a layer mask hide content, so the content here of the sky is hidden from view.
The white parts of the layer mask correspond to the area that was selected which was the buildings. As you know white reveals on a layer mask, so we can see the buildings on this layer, and in between the buildings and the sky, if we were to zoom in, we would see some gray pixels which are partially transparent. Those were caused by the anti- aliasing on the Magic Wand tool. I'll Alt or Option+Click again on the layer mask thumbnail to bring the image back into view. Now I'm going to bring in another photo of the sky that's more dramatic.
You know that I'd like to use the Place command when I bring one photo in another during compositing so I explained in the last movie. Before I can use the Place command I have to make sure I'm no longer working on the layer mask. I can see that I am because there is a border around the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, so instead I'll click on the photo thumbnail, and that will make the Place command available under the File menu. I'll go to that menu and I'll choose Place. Then I'll navigate to a photo of the sky and I'll click the Place button, and that brings this photo into my Composite.
I am going to go up to the Options Bar and make sure this check mark, next to Constrain Proportions, now I can make this sky bigger and smaller so that it fits just underneath this hole in the foreground image. I'll click and drag on one of the corner anchor points, and then I'll click inside this bounding box and I'll push the whole sky up so that it's covering the top of the photo. I see there is a little more that I have to cover here, so again I can move over any of the corner anchor points and drag the sky a little bit bigger.
It doesn't matter that the sky is horizontal and the foreground photo is vertical. In fact, that gives me more latitude to move the sky around, so I have just the parts that I like showing through that hole in the foreground image. I am going to green check mark to accept those changes to the sky layer. And let's go over to the Layers panel, the sky layer is above the foreground layer, and so the sky really doesn't look right in the image. I want to put the sky behind the buildings so I'll drag the sky layer beneath the foreground layer in the Layers panel, like this, and now the image looks a lot better.
Because I use the Place command, the guy is on a special resizable layer. I can tell that because it has this little icon at the bottom right of its layered thumbnail, and that means that I can make the sky bigger and smaller as much as I want to get it so the clouds look just right for this particular photo. I'll get the Move tool and that gives me the bounding box around the sky, and I can click again in any of the corner anchor points, make the clouds smaller, make them bigger, and I can click inside this box and move them around to get just the composition that I want.
When I am satisfied I'll click that green check mark again. And when I click off the Move tool onto another tool, that bounding box is gone and I can enjoy my composite photo. Hiding a distracting or boring background and replacing it with a better image is one use for layer masks in compositing. In the next movie I'll show you another way you can use layer masks when you're compositing, which is to blend two photos together.
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