Lesson 4


It's finally time to start putting together all the basics and use them to edit pictures. For this example, I will use two pictures (below). On the left is a photograph of Mt. Daigo as seen through a plum tree orchard in bloom, taken with a videocamera. On the right is a picture of a sunset taken with a cell phone camera. The objective is to merge the two to create a picture of a sunset over Mt. Daigo.

The first step is to open both pictures. Note that the sunset picture is turned 90°. This happens frequently with photographs as the person taking the picture turns the camera to frame the best shot. The image must be rotated so that it is horizontal before it can be used.

Go to Image → Rotate Canvas. This will open a sub-menu with a number of choices. In this case, the picture needs to be rotated 90° counterclockwise, the third item on the list. Other options are to rotate the canvas 180°, 90° clockwise, or "Arbitrary," which allows you to type in a numerical degree value. The two items at the bottom of the sub-menu flip the picture as if reflecting it in a mirror.

Next, it seems that the colors in the sunset picture are grayish and not as vibrant as one might want. The gray is a sign that there is not enough contrast between the lights and the darks in the picture. This can be remedied by going to Image → Adjustments and using the actions in the sub-menu that appears.

As you can see from the picture (right), this sub-menu has many items. All of them are useful depending on the circumstances, and it is possible to spend a great deal of time using them to fine-tune the color, contrast, brightness, and so on of the picture. Since this is still an early lesson, however, I am just going to provide a starting point.

The easiest thing to do is to click on "Auto Contrast." This allows Photoshop to judge for you what the appropriate contrast should be. If you like the result, you're ready for the next step. If you aren't completely satisfied, you can undo the action and try something else.

Probably the most familiar way to undo an action is through the Edit menu. Undo is the very first item on the menu. The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + Z. It is also possible to undo using the History palette, but that will be discussed in a later lesson.

If "Auto Contrast" doesn't suit you and you wish to try something else, you could click on the other automatic functions "Auto Curves" and "Auto Color." If none of the automatic functions gives you the desired result, you can adjust the image properties manually. Right now I will introduce only one, "Brightness/Contrast."

Clicking on this menu item brings up the "Brightness/Contrast" dialogue box. In this box, you can input a value manually or use the slider to adjust the value. A negative brightness value makes the whole image darker, while a positive brightness value makes the whole image lighter. A negative contrast value makes the image tend toward an average gray, while a positive contrast value makes the lights lighter and the darks darker. You can use a combination of these two properties, keeping an eye on the image preview as you fiddle with the values, until you get a result that you find pleasing.

In this example, I am satisfied with the result of Auto Contrast and do not adjust the image any further. The image (right) shows what it looks like at this stage.

Next the mountain picture must be tackled. The first thing I want to do is make the image smaller. I want to crop out the left side of the picture that has the evergreen foliage in it. I could do this using the Crop tool, but I can also use the Marquee tool.

Click on the Rectangular Marquee tool and select the portion of the image that should be kept. Once satisfied with the selection area, click on Image → Crop. The area outside the selection marquee will disappear.



The next step is to enhance the content of the picture. In this case, however, the automatic functions don't spruce up the vivid color of the plum blossoms quite enough. It's time to turn to one of the other manual actions.

Click on Image → Adjustments → Hue/Saturation. This brings up the "Hue/Saturation" dialogue box (left). Increasing the saturation makes the colors more vivid, which is just what is needed to make the plum blossoms stand out more.

If the plum blossoms still aren't red enough, another thing to try is adjusting the color balance. Click on Image → Adjustments→ Color Balance. This brings up the "Color Balance" dialogue box (right). This dialogue box adjusts the overall color in the picture. Use the sliders to play with the values, watching the preview image carefully to make sure you get the color exactly the way you want it without making it seem unnatural.

The adjusted picture is shown on the left. Compare with the image above and see how the blossoms are now much more striking.

It's entirely possible to keep adjusting the pictures, but this is good enough for a preliminary example. It's time to combine the pictures. Return to the sunset picture and select the entire canvas. Then copy the selection area either by clicking Edit → Copy or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C. Click on the mountain picture to activate it and paste the sunset picture on top of it either by clicking Edit → Paste or using the shortcut Ctrl + V. This pastes the sunset picture in the exact middle of the mountain picture.

Click on the Move tool. The cursor will change into a picture of crossed double-headed arrows attached to a pointer arrow. Click on the sunset picture and drag it to an upper corner of the mountain picture.
If you are finding it difficult to fit the sunset picture exactly into the corner, there is a way to make this easier. Click on View → Snap To → Document Bounds as shown (below). When the object you are moving gets within a few pixels of the edge of the canvas, it will automatically snap exactly to the edge.

However, there's one problem: The sunset picture is smaller than the mountain picture. It has to be enlarged in some way to fit the space. One method to do this is to check the image size of the mountain picture and then enlarge the sunset picture to the same width before copying and pasting it.

Even after it has already been pasted over the mountain, though, it is still possible to change it using the Edit menu. Click Edit → Transform. This opens a sub-menu with many options for transforming objects within an image. Since the goal is to widen the sunset image, select "Scale." Click and drag on the handles that appear surrounding the sunset to widen the image far enough to match the width of the mountain image. If necessary, adjust the height so that the sky does not look unnatural. When satisfied, either double click on the image or click on the check icon in the upper right corner of the menu bar.

At this point, look down at the lower right corner of the workspace. There should be a palette marked "Layers." The Layers palette will be discussed in detail in a future lesson. Right now, just know that the layer on the very bottom is the background and each additional layer stacks on top of it, in the order listed. The eye icon on the left edge of each layer shows that the layer is visible. The paintbrush icon in the square next to the eye denotes which layer is "active." Currently both layers should have the eye icon and the top layer, called "Layer 1," should be highlighted in blue and have the paintbrush icon as in the picture (below).

Make the sunset invisible by clicking on the eye icon for its layer. The sunset is still there, it is simply no longer displayed. This allows you to work on the background layer without interference.

Select the sky area of the mountain image. I find it easiest to use Select → Color Range, but use whichever method works best for you. When you have the area selected, click Select → Modify → Expand and increase the selection area by two pixels. This is because the slight fuzziness of the object borders prevents the selection tool from selecting all the way up tightly against the object. If you use the selection as-is, it will leave an unnatural line of color all the way around it. Next, click Select → Feather and feather the border by two pixels. This will make the border less sharp so that the two images blend together better.

Once this is accomplished, click back on the eye of the sunset layer. You should see the same selection area displayed on top of the sunset. Choose the Marquee tool and use it to click and drag this selection area until it surrounds an area of the sunset that you like. At this point, my image looks like the picture (right).

The current selection area is the part of the sky that will be pasted into the mountain picture, so it must be kept. The rest of the sky can be deleted. The easiest way to accomplish this is to invert the selection area (Select → Inverse), then delete the selection area either by clicking Edit → Clear or by pressing Delete. You will no longer need this selection area, so you can deselect.

Use the Move tool to move the remaining piece of sky to fit in place over the mountain. It should now look like the picture (below).

It now looks like a single picture of the sunset over Mount Daigo. You can, of course, continue to tinker with things like brightness, contrast, and color balance, but this is good enough for the time being.

You can save the image as it is, but in order to preserve the two layers, it will take up a lot of memory. To compress the image so that it can be saved in .jpg format, click Layer → Flatten Image.
Save the image by going to File → Save As. Select the appropriate file format from the pull-down menu and give the file a name.

If you want to give the image a final, framing touch, select most of the image with the Elliptical Marquee tool. Feather the selection area by about 20 pixels, invert the selection, and delete. The result should look something like this (right).


Open two different files, either your own or downloaded from these lessons. Practice adjusting the brightness, contrast, and color balance of each picture. Copy all or part of one picture and paste it into the other picture in an interesting way.