4 Easy Steps to Realise Credible Photo Montages with Photoshop

In April 2019, I had the chance to travel from the North to the South of Nepal. I was impressed by how different the country was compared to The Netherlands, where I currently live. I thus decided to continue to dream and to combine what I love the most in each country to create unique sceneries.

To do so, I used two tools, Adobe Lightroom, to adjust the settings of my photographs and Adobe Photoshop for the montage of several images into a single one. The purpose of this article is not to give you a step by step tutorial on how to make a Photo Montage, but more to understand what steps to take to get a satisfying result. If you have little knowledge of photoshop, this article is for you.

1. Selecting a subject in a scene

Adobe Photoshop proposes several tools to cut a subject from a picture. I believe that the choice of which one to use will depend on your personal preferences and the type of background surrounding the element you want to extract. I realized that I spend less time using the Quick Select tool. The tool also allows removing any unwanted zone from the selection easily.

I generally finalize the selection by using the Select and Mask interface to clean or add pixels and to make sure my edges are not too abrupt.

If, after that, I would still need to adjust my subject, as shown in the picture below, I would add a Layer Mask to the current layer and use the brush tool to remove or heal pixels from an image. I recommend using Layer Mask whenever possible as it is a non-destructive tool, meaning I can always revert any change I make.

Now in some cases, the element I want to isolate has complicated shapes (such as hair or trees) that make it very complicated to isolate it without removing a lot of details. For these occasions, I need to use the Background Eraser tool (it works best with a unified background). I put the Limits and Sampling, as shown below, and I adjust the Tolerance as needed.

2. Adding an item to a picture

The first step when adding new content into a picture is to change its size, move it around, or maybe to flip it. The Transform tool (CMD+T) allows me to do all of that. Optional: It is also possible to play with the 3D plane of a picture, for instance, by clicking CMD+SHIFT and grabbing a corner of the transformed image.

3. Exposure and White Balance

Once my subject is in the desired position, the last steps consist of integrating it with the rest of the image. I may need to work on its Color and check if the color tint or temperature are matching those of its surroundings.

A homogeneous Exposure is also capital, either by modifying the Shadow/Highlights values or by working with the Dodge and Burn tools, there are many means in Photoshop to achieve it.

4. Last Touch

Last tips, I look at where the light comes from in the image and insert shadows to the added elements accordingly, and using an Exposure Mask to draw shadows works like a charm. Additionally, I apply some Filters to add some Blur or Noise to match the scene.

Finally, I review my montage in Adobe Lightroom with some final adjustments, such as using Presets to give a unified look to the image.

Using Presets in Lightroom gives a unified look to my image

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