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Composite multiple photos with the Auto-Align Layers command

Added on Thursday 18th of June 2009 12:26 am EST


Photoshop CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

When shooting a photo series for a client, you’ll probably find at least one flaw in each image. Deciding which image to use is never an easy task. Well, you don’t have to settle because with Photoshop’s Auto Align Layers command you can choose the best features from multiple images and combine them into one perfectly staged image.


To composite two nearly-identical photos into one ideal photo, we’ll:

       Set up our image layers in the proper order for the Auto Align Layers command to work correctly.

       Explain the Auto Align Layers dialog box options to show you how to set the options to suit your needs.

       Create a layer mask to reveal the underlying image’s content for our final composite.


We have good news and bad news. The bad news is that capturing the perfect shot is never an easy task. The good news is that Photoshop’s Auto-align Layers command provides an effortless way of combining and manipulating multiple images to create one perfect image. We’ll show you how you can pick out the best features from two photos, as shown in Figure A, and combine them into one magnificent shot, as shown in Figure B.






Auto-Align your best features

Auto Align lets you combine the best features in both photos to get one error-free image. For example, this command is an excellent tool to use when you take a series of posed shots and in one photo, a person has his eyes closed while in another photo a different person isn’t smiling. You can use the Auto-Align Layers command to:

            Delete or replace parts of images that have the same or nearly identical backgrounds.

            Stitch images together that contain overlapping content.

            Add or delete content across multiple video frames to create one image with a static background.


Create your best shot

We’ll walk you through the steps necessary to auto-align your layers. To begin, you’ll need two images of which you’d like to combine the content. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the files Jump1.jpg and Jump2.jpg, launch Photoshop, and open the images. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To set up your images for compositing:

1.          Click on the Jump1.jpg document to make it the active image and press [command]A ([Ctrl]A in Windows) to select the entire image.

2.          Press [command]C ([Ctrl]C in Windows) to copy Jump1.jpg.

3.          Click in the Jump2.jpg document and press [command]V ([Ctrl]V in Windows) to paste Jump1.jpg into Jump2.jpg. This creates a new layer.

4.          In the Layers panel, rename the Jump1.jpg image Stripe and the Jump2.jpg image Red, as shown in Figure C.



We purposely set up the layers in this order so that the content we want to change is on the topmost layer. For example, the Stripe layer contains the image we like with the girl wearing the striped shirt, but we want to alter it by adding the girl with the red shirt from the Red layer. We placed the Stripe layer on top of the Red layer because the Red ...


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