Getting the Best Group Photo Possible (in Photoshop)

Have you ever tried to take a photo of a group of people? How did that turn out? Did everyone in the photo turn out alright? It seems there is always someone blinking/not smiling/looking off at something else, right? Well, in Photoshop we can fix this. However, you must take a few photos of the group in quick succession to get the best results. With that, let’s dive on in!

[As always, I work with the assumption that you have already launched Photoshop, and that you know your way around the program at least on a basic level.]

Here are the two photos I will be using. If you look closely, you will see that most everyone in the first photo is smiling, eyes open, and looking at the camera. Well, with a few exceptions. Can you find the troublemakers? Yep, the boy in the center of the photo is looking off to the left, and the two ladies at the far right need some adjusting (one lady is completely blocked!).

Group Merge One

Now the second photo is not perfect either, since the girl above the distracted boy is now looking at something more interesting to the right. Also, the young lady above and to the right of the woman with the red visor isn’t smiling and her eyes are closed.

Group Merge Two

If we take the best elements of these two photos, however, we will end up with a nice image.

The first thing we need to do is open the photos you want to work on. (File>Open, or Ctrl+O in Windows or Cmd+O for Mac).

Group Merge Three

Group Merge Four

Next, stack them as layers. To do this, go to File>Scripts>Load Files into Stack.

Group Merge Five

Make sure the option “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” is selected at the bottom. Click on Add Open Files and select OK.

Group Merge Six

You should notice that the photos are now in the layers panel (bottom right of screen).

Group Merge Seven

If you deselect the top layer, it may be possible that the photos still don’t line up (Photoshop isn’t infallible, after all). If they don’t line up, follow these steps.

Group Merge Eight

Select both layers (select a layer, then either click the other while holding either the Shift or Ctrl/Cmd key). This will select both layers. Choose Edit>Auto-Align Layers.

Group Merge Nine

You can choose Auto here, and let Photoshop work its magic for you.

Group Merge Ten

Now, the photo you want to “cut through” needs to be the top image, so you may need to drag it to the top position in the layers panel.

Group Merge Eleven

With the top layer still selected, click on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers Panel.

Group Merge Twelve

Make sure the Layer Mask is selected. Note: I have only zoomed in here just to verify I selected the correct layer (which I did, by the way).

Group Merge Thirteen

Select the Brush Tool.

Group Merge Fourteen

Make sure the foreground color is black.

Group Merge Fifteen

Now “paint” over the faces/parts of the group photo you would like to fix. In doing so, the bottom layer will appear. It is more like erasing the top layer, and exposing what is underneath (a good photo of that one person in the group). In the photo below the brush tool is shown as the red circle. Using the brush tool is just clicking on the mouse button (the left one, that is), and carefully running the cursor over the portion of the image you want to expose.

Group Merge Sixteen

As you can see in this photo below, the boy in the middle of the frame is now looking straight ahead, the lady hidden previously on the right is now visible, and the lady next to her has been corrected.

Final Group Merged

If you come across any problems with this tip, or need assistance with any other Photoshop “trick,” please contact me.

Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
John.Holsonback@victoriacollege.edu
Ext. 3425

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