Masking Two Images Together

Introduction: Masking Two Images Together

About: I'm good natured, secretly shy, and much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

Photographers strive to capture the decisive moment in a single frame – and it is magical when you achieve that. Sometimes, we need help from the digital darkroom. In this installment of In Post, I mask together two images of the same scene to craft a complete story of an evening outside the Seville Cathedral in Spain.

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Step 1: Capture Your Component Images

In this scene, I wanted to tell the story of a horse drawn carriage riding through the square outside the Seville Cathedral. I captured one photo of the square, patiently waiting for the square to be devoid of foot traffic. A few minutes later, I captured a second image of the horse and carriage moving through the square.

Step 2: Adjust White Balance & Color

Make adjustments to the white balance, color and contrast on each of the images. The closer the images are in color and tone, the easier the next step will be. For these specific images, I also needed to apply some noise reduction to the horse and carriage (see the video for details).

Step 3: Use Layering Software and Masks to Blend the Images Together

With your component images complete, load them into your favorite layering software (Photoshop, ON1 Perfect Layers, Gimp, etc.). I made the photo of the empty square my top layer and the horse & carriage the bottom layer.

Next, select the top layer, reach for your masking brushes, and paint away the are of the photo where the horse & carriage is. As you mask away the top layer, the bottom layer is revealed. Using brushes with wide feathers and opacities less than 100% will help you get a smooth blend. (See the video for details).

Once the masking is done, stylize to your taste. In this photo, I also chose to remove the distracting road sign in the final image.

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    Uncle Kudzu
    Uncle Kudzu

    7 years ago

    That is a beautiful photo. I'm guessing the photos would have to be identical in size and POV?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much, Uncle Kudzu. Taking all the frames with the same composition, POV, etc. makes the blending easier. That's how I shoot. 90% of the time I'm on a tripod and will take multiple shots of my scene over a window of time (sometimes hours). If you're interested, have a look at for some behind-the-scenes from this photo shoot.

    That being said, it's not strictly necessary to have the same size and POV to create an image like this. There's all sorts of things that can be done with resizing and changing perspectives in layering tools like ON1 and Photoshop. The masking becomes more complex, and depending on how different your sources photos are, matching tones may have challenges, too. I think at that stage it's more a compositing job than a "simple" masking job.

    Happy shooting.