- The shots that I took for this demo were made with the knowledge that I would be adding a person to the group photo. So in that respect they represent more of an idealized situation for this type of compositing scenario. But even though they were planned, I didn't really meticulously plan out every single detail with the aim of trying to make a perfect composite. Instead I tried to take quick casual photos that would more closely represent what a casual group photo might look like.
Even with the knowledge that I would be using these in a composite project, I still ran into some challenges where things didn't really work out as well as I thought they would. In this type of project, especially when using photos that you didn't shoot, you always have to manage your expectations in terms of what is possible based on the raw materials that you have to work with. Hopefully the solutions that I came up with will be useful to you in terms of adding to your compositing knowledge and skill set. So I already have these open in Photoshop so we'll go over there.
I have the files arranged here in Photoshop in the default view which is the tabbed view of showing multiple files. You can see I've got the individual file here and then the group shot file here. The first thing I'm going to do is get the Move Tool and I'm going to drag the image of Katelyn up into the group photo. So I'll just click in the image with the Move Tool and drag up to the name tab for the group image and then down into the photo and let go of the mouse to place that there. Next I'm going to put the image into full screen mode, I'll do that by tapping F on the keyboard.
And I'm going to rename layer one here by double clicking it and we'll just call that Katelyn. So the first thing that I notice here is that I've got a fairly significant size discrepancy between how large Katelyn is and how large the rest of the people in the group are. So, that's a fairly common thing that you'll run into in this type of compositing project actually. Even if you are taking the photos yourself as I was here, you know my camera to subject distance was maybe a little bit off even though I was trying to make it the same.
And of course you're really going to run into it if you're using images that are provided by somebody else. So we need to resize something here to get it to match better. And I think that the first inclination that most people would have would be to resize the layer that you just added. But in this case I want to kind of pause on that and not go into that immediately because if I have to resize the Katelyn layer it means I have to make it larger. And that means that Photoshop's going to have to interpolate the pixel data to add new pixels, to make up new pixels. So before I do that I want to check the image size of the photo I've added her to, this group photo here.
So I'll go up to the Image menu and I'll choose Image Size and I'll change the units for width and height to inches here. And I can see here that I've got a resolution of 240 pixels per inch which is pretty common resolution that I use for Inkjet printing. And at that resolution I could make a print that's nearly 16 by 24 inches, which is far far larger than really I'd ever need to do with this image here. This is just a casual group photo, so you know I might make a five by seven or an eight by ten.
The largest I could see making this picture would be maybe an 11 by 14 print. So I'm going to click cancel here, and that tells me that what I'm really going to do is actually resize the background layer. Now I can't resize the background layer as it stands now because the background layer just has some kind of built in limitations to it, you can't resize it, you can't place layers underneath it, you can't change the blend mode of the background layer, things like that. But you can easily unlock it just by clicking on the lock icon here, and that sort of promotes it to a regular layer.
I'll double click on that layer name, rename that layer Group. And now I want to apply my transformation of this layer nondestructively because I'm going to scale it smaller which means that in a normal scaling operation I'd be throwing away pixels. And I don't want to do that here. So to make it a nondestructive scaling operation I will convert the group layer into a smart object. So I'll right click on that layer in the panel and I'll choose Convert to Smart Object. The next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to lower the opacity of the Katelyn layer so I can see through it.
So I'll just tap 6 on the keyboard which will lower that opacity to 60 percent. So whenever you have the Move Tool active, tapping a number on the keyboard, or a series of number, two numbers really quick together, will affect the opacity of the active layer. Very very useful shortcut. Hit the space bar to get the grabber hand so I can move this more into the center of the picture. I need to make sure that I'm on the right layer, I need to have the group layer active. All right, free transform, that's going to be command T on a Mac or control T on Windows.
And I'm going to click on a corner handle here and start to drag in. I'm going to hold the shift key down as I do that which will constrain the aspect ratio. I can add in the option key, or the alt key on Windows, which will transform from the center point rather than from the corner. So I'm just bringing this down a little bit here so that I can resize this, and I'm kind of looking at the size of her face and head in relationship to the other people there.
And compare these side by side, let m zoom up here, command plus on a Mac, control plus on Windows. Just to sort of get an idea of the size I can move this underneath here and this way I can sort of compare the placement of eyes and mouth. And of course, you know, not everybody's head and face are the same size, but it allows me to sort of roughly ballpark this. Just to sort of get this in there. And let me just bring that down a little bit more.
And up in the options bar here under the width and height you can see the percentage that you're scaling this here. So I'm guessing that this looks pretty good at about oh roughly 85, maybe 86 percent. And again let's just position this, that looks pretty good. So I'm at about 86.82 percent. That looks good for now, I'm going to press the enter key or click on the check mark button up in the options bar to apply that transformation.
And again, since this was done to a smart object, it is all nondestructive, so we could always return back to the original size if we needed to. I'm going to return the Katelyn layer back to a hundred percent by just tapping 0 on the keyboard. And moving her, you know, roughly into the position where we want her to be for moving forward. I'm not going to crop this right now, I will eventually crop this obviously because I don't need all this extra transparency, but I'll be doing that more at the end of the project.
So in an ideal situation the person that you're adding will be the right size to fit into the group shot. But in the real world, as we see here, it's not too likely that that will happen and you may have to do some resizing. Whether you choose to resize the main group photo or the person that you're adding will be determined mainly by the final size that the image needs to be. No matter which layer you end up resizing, using smart objects will ensure that the transformation is applied nondestructively.
Whatever the reason, Photoshop offers the solution: You can simply composite the missing person into the group shot. In this course, photographer and educator Seán Duggan shows how. He uses Smart Objects to nondestructively resize the images, adds and refines a layer mask, and then inserts the missing person behind the group. With some simple tonal adjustments, the end result can look completely natural. In chapter 4, Seán tackles a fun bonus challenge: placing new figures in historical photos.