Creating a Composite Self Portrait

April 30, 2012

in Photography Tips, Photoshop

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

If you missed Maryanne’s first two tutorials on self portraiture, be sure to take a few moments to check them out.  They are inspiring and packed full of tips that will help you begin taking your own creative self potraits.

In Part 3 of her series today, you will learn how to make artistic photos by creating a composite in Photoshop.

Now that we’ve covered the why and the how of self portraiture we can move on to creative edits. I’ve discovered there is a silver lining to using a tripod and set exposure. It can really set the stage for smooth creative editing. More on that in a moment.

Now just because you can do something fancy smancy in Photoshop does not mean you should rely on it for every picture. Try to have a vision before you start. Is it accentuating your image or will it just look gimmicky? Ask yourself if you can make an image in camera without relying on Photoshop to create a composite. I’ve recently been experimenting with long exposures to push the in-camera limits. The first picture in this post is a six second exposure while I walked along a lake shore. That is the real shadow of my body the camera picked up as I paused.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

The above picture of my feet is 1/20 of a second. Just enough time to create a motion blur of the fabric. You see how great using a tripod can be! Below I really wanted some sort of pattern or texture over skin. I finally decided to layer up with a pattern in real life instead of trying to overlay an image in Photoshop. Just a little water and plant leaves was all I needed.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

But sometimes, you have a vision for a final self portrait that you just can’t get in camera. Sometimes, you need help to create a composite self portrait. Enter post-processing.

Creating a Composite Self Portrait in Photoshop

Now on to the edit of the self portrait that I just was having a terrible time trying to achieve in camera. I wanted my dress to blow back as if tossed by the wind. Unfortunately, the wind was not on my side. I set the tripod and exposure then handed a cable release switch to my four year old while I scrambled up the rocks. When I yelled “GO!” he pressed the switch. Well, he pressed it sometimes when I said go and other times when he thought it was funny.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

Below you’ll see I have one picture of my head bent down, then another throwing the dress like the wind has taken hold. I’ll show you how I merged just the parts I wanted to keep.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart FacesSelf Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

1. Open up your first file. This should be the layer you want on bottom.

2. In Photoshop go to file, place, and then choose your next file. You can repeat this step with as many photo layers as you like. For simplicity’s sake, I am only doing this once.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces
You will then have the option to align the top layer but it should be aligned just fine, so press enter to continue. I’ll call my top layer “Layer B.”

3. Now add a layer mask to Layer B by clicking the layer mask icon in the layers palette. It is the grey square with a white circle in the center. You will see a white box pop up in the palette next to Layer B. If it is a black box just press Ctrl+ i on your keyboard and it will invert to white.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

4. I then selected a black paintbrush with the opacity set to 100%. I painted over Layer B anywhere I desired to become transparent. Make sure the layer mask is selected and not the actual layer or you will be painting black all over your picture. This is very much like how you could use an eraser tool in other editing programs. Masking layers just grants more control. If you want to undo anything, just paint back over it with a white brush. Use the bracket keys [ and ] to make your brush bigger or smaller as you paint. Another quick key to remember in Photoshop is Ctrl+z to undo whatever your last key stroke was.

5. This is all I want to do with layers on this particular photo so I flatten them before moving on.

6. I used the clone stamp to fill in the upper corners then lightened the skin a bit. And that’s it! My favorite part about this photo is I’ve never had someone guess it was a composite made possible by Photoshop. It does not scream trickery in my opinion.

Self Portrait Tutorial for I Heart Faces

Now the cat’s out of the bag hee hee. I hope this gives you all some ideas to work with and achieve your own visions. Happy snapping!

Maryanne Gobble Profile PicMaryanne Gobble is a fine art photographer located in Redding, CA. Not only does she heart faces, but also waterfalls, redwoods, the Pacific Ocean and Sasquatch. You can browse her portfolio or follow her on Facebook if you heart these things also.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff J Coates May 1, 2012

RT “@dexography: Creating a Composite Self Portrait #photography”



Amy Locurto April 30, 2012

RT @iHeartFaces: We've really enjoyed Maryanne Gobble's photography series on Self Portraits this month!


Declan Mc Glone April 30, 2012

Creating a Composite Self Portrait #photography


May April 30, 2012

Very impressive! thank you for sharing.


Susan Keller April 30, 2012

Maryanne – I think your SPs are both beautiful & brilliant! I’ve enjoyed this whole series; thanks so much for sharing! 🙂


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