Let’s learn how to merge two photos in Photoshop in a few simple steps.
Among other countless amazing features, Photoshop allows you to combine two or more photos and obtain amazing images. The reasons for merging photos in Photoshop are many. If you’re a landscape photographer and don’t fancy having people in your composition, for example, you might take more shots and merge them later to fix your photos.
Or if you are into double exposure photography you’ll need to merge two images to obtain the desired result.
So, let’s hop into this guide and see step-by-step what to do to merge two photos in Adobe Photoshop. You can also find a video tutorial at the end of the article.
How To Merge Two Photos In Photoshop
Needless to say, you need multiple images. As I said before you might need to remove people from a background or any other distracting elements from your composition. Maybe you are working on a double exposure or you are just blending multiple images taken in different light conditions to obtain a certain effect.
My advice in general is to always take extra photos so that you can decide later what to do.
Let’s begin with the first step:
1. Select The Photos You Want To Merge
Start by selecting the two photos you wish to merge. Make sure the photos are taken with the same focal length lens because you can not merge the photos if the difference is too big.
Also, the lighting in the selected photos should be similar otherwise it will result in artificial-looking photos. Choose simple photos with the same resolution. In case you’ve selected two photos that are clicked at different places and time, make sure to adjust the white balance so they look as close to each other as possible.
Take the two photos below as an easy example. They were taken one after the other with the camera on a tripod and the only difference is the exposure.
The photo on the left has a correctly exposed sky but the dock is way too dark. You’d have to spend hours in Lightroom to fix the exposure there and even then, you would end up with an unnatural result.
Luckily I shot the same image at different exposure and I could use the image on the right to blend the parts I needed. The dock, in this case, with the reddish reflections of the fiery sky, is what I need.
2. Open The First Photo
Open the first photo. If the main subject is of different sizes in each photo, then begin with the one with a smaller size. The reason is, upsizing the photo may result in distortion whereas downscaling doesn’t mess with the quality.
In our case they have the same resolution so no resizing is needed.
Now, tap the padlock icon from the right side of Layers Menu to open the background layer.
3. Open The Second Photo
After finishing with the first one, simply drag the other photo on the top of the first and align both the photos.
You can resize the pictures properly by using the transform handle around the edges and corners. Avoid enlarging the photos more than 30% because it will make them look noticeably different from the originals.
4. How to merge two photos in Photoshop: Align The Photos
It’s time to position the photos. For this, select the Overlay option for the top image so that you can see the second layer easily. This way, you can align the main subject in both images precisely.
Now, press Ctrl+T (Windows) or Cmd+T (Mac) on your keyboard to select the Move option. Using it, align the top image to make it look perfect.
Make enough use of resize handles to shrink, enlarge or rotate the top layer so that both layers look alike.
In case your main subject gets disturbed, it will become difficult to match both the photos. Therefore, be careful and avoid moving your camera or the subject.
Press Enter when you’re done with the positioning of your top layer. Now, change the blend mode of the top layer back to Normal from Overlays.
5. Add The Layer Mask And Erase The Unwanted Parts
Select the top layer and click on the Add Vector Mask option from the Layers panel for adding a mask. By creating the mask, you will be able to eliminate the parts of the top layer you don’t want to see.
By clicking on the vector mask button you’ll create a white mask.
That means, the mask has full opacity and everything is visible. Now select the Brush tool (B) and set it at 100% opacity and black color.
Now, with the mask selected, simply brush over the parts you wish to remove. Begin with the parts which are far from the parts you want to keep, this will ensure you don’t erase any desirable part. Minimize the brush size and lower the opacity as you move closer to the parts you want to keep.
Using a soft edge brush will also make sure you don’t affect unwanted areas when you come to close to it.
This will make the transitioning very smooth and prevent you from making mistakes. However, if you accidentally erase the desirable parts, simply change the color to white and reduce the opacity to 0.
In masking the image above I had to hide the majority of the photo, so a convenient trick I used was to create a black mask and use a white Brush tool to unhide the needed areas. To create a black mask use Alt + Click (Windows) or Option + Click (Mac).
6. Check The Results
Especially when learning how to merge two photos in Photoshop you need to pay attention to your layer masks.
You can highlight the layer mask by pressing backslash ” \ ” on your keyboard panel to check the accuracy of the mask and whether or not you need to work on it.
The masked area will appear in red. To see the image underneath the red mask, adjust the mask density and see if there are elements you want to mask out (or in). Keep using the brush tool with the mask highlighted to fine-tune your work.
7. Merge Both The Layers
You’re almost done here. Check again that your mask is accurate and finally merge the two layers.
There are a few different ways to merge different layers in Photoshop:
- Select Layer then Flatten Image option from the top menu. Photoshop will ask if you want to discard hidden layers (if any) and combine the images. Hidden layers (if any) will be deleted.
- You can use the command Merge Visible, Ctrl + Shift + E (Windows), or Cmd + Shift + E (Mac) and all the visible layers will be merged. Photoshop won’t delete hidden layers in this case.
- Then there’s also a hidden command, which is a keyboard shortcut. Press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E (Windows), or Cmd + Option + Shift + E (Mac) and Photoshop will merge the visible layers and automatically create a new layer with the merged images.
The third is my favorite way of merging layers in Photoshop since I like to keep my editing layers separate to be able to go back and make changes if needed.
Voila! You’re done here. Now, you have a single photo that looks much better than each one of the photos you’ve merged.
Bonus Video How To Merge Two Photos In Photoshop
You can also check this official guide from Adobe here.
Hopefully you’ve learned how to merge two photos in Photoshop, or more than two!
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