How to Create Composite photographs

How to Create Composite photographs

I like to fire off images with wreckless abandon and select the famous “decisive moment” in the post process or create composites of the action like this:

It helps to keep the camera still and take the images very quickly! In this case I was using a tripod and the Canon 7D Mark ii and a compact flash card. This allows me to capture a burst like this of Camera RAW images. The cropped sensor on this camera gives the wildlife photographer an advantage: The files are smaller! So we get a lot of bang for the buck. Cropped Sensor cameras have a reputation for being “consumer grade,” or maybe so called “pro-sumer.” But the Canon 7D is the second fastest camera that Canon sells, right behind the venerable 1DX. And CF cards are faster than SD cards for this work.

The cropped sensor on [the Canon 7D Mark ii] gives the wildlife photographer an advantage: The files are smaller!

Don’t worry about any of that stuff for this brief tutorial. All you need is these example files and the latest version of Photoshop CC.

Ready to get to work?!

Trust me this is easy. In fact, if you are familiar with Photoshop, all you need do is upack these files, open them as layers, auto-align them, auto-blend them and you are done. No joke, it’s that simple. See the illustrations below to make sure you select the right blend options.

I chose these files because they allow for a quick demonstration of the underlying concepts and Photoshop tools. This method won’t work on all files taken as described above. Most file sets will require you to do a little more work, and I will cover that in a subsequent post. For now, let’s just get you started with this.

10 simple steps to Create a Composite Photograph in Adobe Photoshop CC

Time needed: 2 minutes.

Most of those two minutes are just downloading and unpacking the files and waiting for Photoshop to load!

  1. Download the example files

    The 12 files are contained in a single file. Download it and unpack it. You should have a folder called “RobinFlightExampleFile.” You should see 6 image files and 6 xmp files.

  2. Fire up Adobe Photoshop CC and select File / Scripts / Load Files into Stack

    Adobe Photoshop CC File / Scripts menu

  3. Click Browse

  4. Select all the files in the directory RobinFlightExample

    The sidecar files may not be selectable. Don’t worry about them.

  5. Select the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option.

    Your screen should look like this:

  6. Click Ok on the Load Layers dialog box.

    Your screen should look something like this after Photoshop works its magic.

  7. Select ALL of the Layers in the layers Panel.

    Photoshop created six Layers for us, one for each of the images. Select them by shift-clicking the top layer.

  8. Select Auto-Blend Layers from the Edit Menu

  9. Select the Stack Images option and check the “Seamless…” and “Content…” options and click Ok.

  10. You are done! Save the file and give yourself a pat on the back!

If you are still reading, thanks very much! This was inspired by questions I received on Just Look at Kinnelon. Thanks to everyone in that small virtual community for all the love and support of my photography.