how to get a group shot using a small backdrop {a little photoshop magic}

Trying to get a picture of all my children together where they are all looking fairly normal is a nightmare. I think it just might be statistically impossible, what with all the possible grimaces, cries, chokeholds, etc. that have a tendency to pop up in our photos. But sometimes I’m crazy enough to try anyway. A few months ago I decided I wanted a new picture of all five kids together, and I wanted to use my white backdrop board (see this post for instructions on how to make one of your own). Two problems: 1. the 4’x4′ board was really two small to act as a background for all five kids, and 2. see the aforementioned photographing five kids at one time nightmare.

But I still really wanted the picture. So I decided to figure it out, using a little planning beforehand and a little photoshop magic after the fact. I decided to take two different photos and merge them together. Here’s how:

For the first set, I had baby, biggest brother, and middle brother sitting together in front of my white backdrop. I took about ten pictures of these three so I’d have a chance at getting one I liked. Then I kicked out biggest brother and baby, but kept middle brother (this is the key!) and added the two other brothers on the other side of him. I took ten more pictures, then chose my favorite from each set.

You can see in the photos below that the boy who is on the right end in photo #1 (left) is the same boy on the left end of photo #2. Keeping him in both photographs makes it easier to merge the two together. Also, notice there’s a tiny bit of space in photo #1 between biggest brother and the middle guy – this will make merging much simpler.

My first step in photoshop was to throw both pictures onto a new file (the photos were each 8×12, so I opened a new file and made it 8×24 so both photos would fit on it). Before I merged the photos together, I had a little editing to do. Photo #1 is considerably lighter than #2 (the darn sun went behind the clouds while I was photographing the second set), so I did a quick levels adjustment to even up the brightness: (look here for more info on brightening photos)

Then I used my move tool to grab the photo #2 and scoot it over so it was on top of the first photo.

I lowered the opacity of Photo #2 so I could see Photo #1 through it. I do this so I can check sizing, and sure enough the people in Photo #2 are a little smaller than they are in #1 (look at middle guy’s head – the bottom one is bigger).

So I grabbed one of the corners of Photo #1 and dragged downward to shrink it a bit, until both heads were the same size.

At this point it’s time to grab your eraser tool. Use a soft-edge eraser like the one I chose here.

When we bring the opacity of Photo #2 back up to 100%, we can see the portion we need to erase.

Start erasing to let biggest brother show through from Photo #1. Go slow, doing just a little at a time, so you don’t erase too much.

Keep erasing. This is where you have to do a little figuring out on your own – deciding how much to erase and how much to leave. This is much easier if your middle person stayed in the same position for both sets of photos, and MUCH easier if your middle person is not touching the person right next to him in photo #1.

I did a little cleaning up above middle guy’s left shoulder and on his tie using the clone tool, then cropped the entire image down to a 10×4, which is a fairly standard panoramic size. Be aware that by using this technique you will not end up with an 8×10 or 5×7 – your group photo is going to be too wide and not tall enough to fit into those kinds of frames. But it’s not too hard to find a panoramic frame and a place that will print panoramics for you. (I actually just plopped this photo onto a new 8×10 canvas, saved as jpg, ordered as an 8×10, and then trimmed the extra off on my own.)

A group photo of all my children, taken at home in my kitchen using my little backdrops, without turning into a nightmare. Not bad!


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