Many photographers ask how they can safely create a newborn “Head in Hands” pose for their clients. This week we asked Jen Parker to demonstrate her process of merging two photos to create this pose in her editing program. Follow along step-by-step in this photo editing tutorial for Photoshop.
I had the pleasure of taking photos of my dear friend’s newborn baby a week ago. He was 12 days old, super sleepy and didn’t seem to mind when I put him in many different poses. One pose I like to capture is the “Head in the Hands”, which can easily be achieved. For this pose, two shots need to be used and will be combined in post-processing.
The key is to have a variety of photos to choose from. When you have the baby in place, have your helper hold his arms steady (I usually hold the baby around his wrists and upper arms then hand the task off to my helper, explaining where to hold.) It is important that they hold him safely and steady. Click away.
Next, have your helper hold the baby around his head (I will put the camera down, hold the baby around his head, then explain where and how to hold him.) If he starts to sink or turn, don’t worry. Just reposition him and start all over. Again, click away.
After you’ve captured both poses, it’s time to merge them together to create the “Head in the Hands” photo. Choose the best one of both poses and open both in Photoshop.
Adjust the white balance and exposure (I shoot in RAW, so I adjust both the white balance and exposure in Adobe Camera Raw.)
Once that is done, I will do some retouching, skin smoothing and color adjustment to correct skin tones on the photo with the hand holding the head. For today’s tutorial though we are going to get straight to merging the photos.
- Open both images so that they are side-by-side and click on the new image. Make a copy of the background layer by scrolling over Layers and choose Duplicate Layer. When the box pops up asking you to name your layer, you can rename it or just press OK. [Keyboard shortcut is Cmd or Ctrl + J]
- Choose the Lasso tool from the toolbar (think Wonder Woman) and change the Feather to 10. This will soften the edges of the selected area. Holding the mouse down, draw a large circle around the baby’s forehead and include the background.
- Click on the Move tool from the toolbar. Scroll over to your new layer, click and drag it to the other photo that has been cleaned up and color corrected. It does not need to be perfect. Just make sure the new layer is on the photo.
- Close the other photo that you used the lasso tool on since it’s no longer needed.
- Move the new layer so that the baby’s head matches the position of his head on the photo underneath. You can decrease the opacity so that the new layer is translucent and easier to see the photo underneath. If you need to position the new layer at an angle, rotate it by scrolling to Edit, choose Transform then Rotate. Click, hold the mouse down and rotate the new layer so it’s at the perfect angle. Don’t worry if the skin tones don’t match.
- Next, add a layer mask. Scroll to Layer, choose Layer Mask then Reveal All.
- Making sure the Brush tool is chosen from the tool bar and that the black box is in the foreground, start brushing away the new layer around his face and forehead (I basically just use his hair and above from the new layer so that his mommy’s hand, which was holding his head, is now covered. I also brush away the skin on his face so that the smooth, color-corrected skin is exposed.) Some parts of his mommy’s arm is still visible at the top of the photo, but that will be fixed, too.
- Flatten the image. [Scroll to the Layer tab and choose Flatten Image.]
Now You See it, Now You Don’t
- Cover mommy’s arm at the top of the photo by making a copy of the background layer. Next, choose the Lasso tool from the toolbar (make sure the feather is still set at 10) and draw around a clean part of the blanket.
- Choose the Move tool from the toolbar, then click and drag over the mommy’s visible arm.
- If the piece is small, make it larger. To do this, scroll to Edit, then Free Transform. Click on the bottom corner of the box and drag the box diagonally while holding the shift key down at the same time. This will make the size larger, while keeping everything in proportion. Make the box large enough to cover the shadow his mommy’s arm created on the blanket (I like making mine quite large.) When finished, press return/enter.
- Add a layer mask and choose Reveal All.
- Let’s get rid of the blinking lines. Scroll to Select, then choose Deselect.
- Select your Brush tool from the toolbar and make sure the black box is in the foreground. If not, press double-headed arrow to switch the two.
- Brush away any part of the blanket that’s covering the baby.
- Flatten the image.
- To cover the mommy’s arm at the top of the photo, use the Clone Stamp tool (it looks like a hand-held stamp.) Basically what this tool does is copies a part of your photo you select and pastes it onto another area of your photo.
- Choose an area on your photo that looks like it would not only cover the mommy’s hand and arm, but will also blend into the background as well. When you’ve found the perfect spot, hold down the Opt (or Alt) key and click your mouse. This will set your starting point. Set your opacity high (70% is a good starting point) and start painting over the hand and arm you want covered. If you need to reset your starting point, just hold down option and click the mouse.
- Clone out mommy’s hand on the blanket and the dark spot on his right arm, close to his elbow.
Adding a Touch of Color
- This looks good, but add some softness with color by adding a fill layer. Scroll to Layer, New Fill Layer then choose Solid Color. A box will pop up asking you to rename the fill layer. Click OK.
- The screen will turn to black, but don’t freak out. Another box will pop up asking you what color you’d like the new layer to be. Just click anywhere on the multi-colored bar to choose a color (I wanted something soft with a touch of color, so I chose a lilac color.) Your photo will now be covered by the color you chose. Lower the opacity so you can see your photo underneath (I decreased mine to 29%.)
- Now that we can see him, gradually take some color off of him. Click on the small white box [layer mask] on the color fill layer. Select your Brush tool from the toolbar and make sure the black box is in foreground. Set your brush opacity low (I like 20%) and start brushing over him.
- When you’re satisfied, flatten the image.
Lighten and Sharpen it Up
- Add a touch of light to his face to brighten him up. Make a copy of the background layer. [Cmd or Ctrl +J] Now choose the Dodge tool from the toolbar. Adjust your settings so that the exposure is low (mine is at 5%.) Start brushing where you want to add light.
- Flatten the image when you are done.
- To sharpen it just a bit, scroll to Filter, Sharpen and choose Unsharp Mask. A box will pop up where you can adjust your settings (I place the amount at 50%, the radius at 1.2 and the threshold at 0 since I want to add a little sharpening to the photo without overdoing it.) Press OK when finished.
Ta-da! You are done! It looks fabulous!
Jen Elnar Parker, owner of Jen Parker Photography, is a commercial and natural-light lifestyle photographer in Los Angeles, California. As a single mother of two young and crazy wonderful boys, she keeps busy with baseball practices, running, and her social media obsession (lately it’s Instagram.) “Like” her on Facebook, check out her blog, or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (username: jennipea).
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