Newborn photos take a lot of time in post processing. One of the most difficult and time consuming edits is the newborn composite photo. Aside from retouching the newborn skin, you also have to take two photos and combine them into one.
Composites are crucial in newborn photography to achieve a certain look. It is not always essential, however, it can look beautiful. Please do not attempt this unless you are a professional newborn photographer and only if the newborn is in a deep sleep.
To create a newborn composite photo, you will be merging two photos of the same scene together so get an assistant, mom, or dad to help you out and show them what you are planning on doing before you get behind the camera. [Showing them ahead of time what to do for each shot will help you maintain the same camera angle for both photos making it much easier to combine them later in Photoshop.]
This is the first shot:
This is the second shot:
And this is the resulting composite photo:
This only took 5 seconds to take, and mom’s hands were on baby the entire time. No yarn balls were harmed in any way.
To begin, I import my photos into Lightroom, In the Develop module, I take the photo that will be the main photo, Image 1, and I increase exposure by +0.80. This will depend on your photo and the look you are trying to achieve, so play with the Exposure slider until you feel you like the way your photo looks. Then, I right click on it and select Edit>Edit in Photoshop.
Then make the same adjustments to Image 2.
Creating a Composite Photo in Photoshop
Once you have both photos open in Photoshop, go to Image 2, and choose Select>All, (or Cmd/Ctrl A). Then click on the Move tool, and drag your photo on top of your Image 1.
Image 2 will now be a new layer on top of your Image 1.
Click on the new layer, and from the top menu bar, select Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal all. Your image will look the same but a white layer mask will appear next to your layer.
Tip: When dealing with layer masks always remember, black conceals and white reveals.
Now, lower the opacity of your layer by hovering over the Opacity and sliding it to the left. I like it at 65%.
Once both pictures are lined up, increase opacity back to 100% and invert the layer mask by going to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All (or Command/Ctrl I). This will hide Image 2 from view.
Make sure your layer mask is selected [it will be highlighted with an outline] and then go to the Brush tool. Hit the number zero on your keyboard to make it paint at 100% opacity. Make sure your brush is at its default colors, by pressing D, and paint with white where you want the part of Image 2 to appear. You can adjust the size of the brush by pressing the bracket keys. “[” for smaller and “]” for larger and paint on the layer mask to reveal the part of Image 2 without the hand.
If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Just hit “X” to switch the color of the paint brush to black, and paint that away.
To check your progress, you can decrease your opacity and increase it to see what you are actually revealing and that will help with the visual.
When you are satisfied with the way the composite photo looks, select both layers and right click and choose Flatten Image.
You can now begin to fine tune your image by editing the skin, cloning, or maybe brightening the image, etc.
Don’t worry about anything you know you will be cropping out later. I like to do my cropping in Lightroom after I am done editing the photo.
Once you are satisfied with your photo, Click File>Save (Cmd/Ctrl S) and it will automatically update in Lightroom as well.
Your beautiful composite photo is now ready for the world and your client.
Remember when you choose a newborn photographer, that safety should always be the photographer’s number one concern. Composite photos are a safe and fun way to get creative and I hope we see more of these in our industry.
Candy Hoehn, owner of SugaShoc Photography specializes in capturing moments of love, light and laughter. Her passion lies in creating custom maternity, newborn, and family portraits. Her studio is located in Doylestown, PA, in Bucks County and yes, she does love to eat candy. Her favorite is mini starbursts and she also gives them out to all her clients. Follow her on Google+, FB page and her blog.