So.  I’ve been beefing up the Hire Me page with Freelance stuff that I do, and I really wanted to include Photoshop stuff as part of that.  Specifically, I was thinking of the photo restoration and touch-ups I’ve done in the past, which lead me to search through three computers and a couple of external drives looking for examples I could show off to try and bring in a little business.

I found one of the cooler projects I worked on and wanted to share that with you here today.

A couple of years ago, my aunt contacted me with a possible project for some of our family back in Kentucky.  Whenever she visits, one of her hobbies is to go through old photos and scan them, preserving them for future generations.  On a recent trip, she’d gotten quite a few and one set in particular was on her mind.

A couple of cousins had these photos, all taken within a few minutes of each other, that depicted two daughters with their mother, their brother by himself, and then the brother with the sisters.  I believe the brother died and there were no photos of the family together.  She contacted me with the question: Could the photos somehow be merged together?

My answer: Yes!

Okay – let’s take a look at the images.

Here’s the original:

Click to see a larger version

In this image, you see the mother with her daughters and the little brother riding his tricycle in the background.  There’s also some miscellaneous dust particles and other stuff that you’d expect from an older picture like this one.

Here’s the next shot she sent me:

Click to see a larger version

in this image, we see the little brother on his trike between his sisters.  The image is a little more washed out than the first one.

We lucked out with these images for a couple of reasons.

  1. They were taken in the same basic spot
  2. They were taken seconds apart from each other

If they’d been taken hours apart, the light would’ve been different, as would the shadows – it would have been a lot harder, but they weren’t and so I went to work.

The first thing I did was to take the image of the three siblings and cut the little brother out – this didn’t have to be perfect, just a rough cut out.  I did want to leave a little of his sisters on either side though for scale – that’ll make sense in a second.

With the brother cut out, I placed him on top of the other photo with the mother.  This is called ‘layering’ and it really is the most powerful tool in your Photoshop toolbox.

Click to see a larger version

In that photo, you can see the rough cut out and the fact that the brother is in two places at once – in front of the family and behind them.  You can also see why I left a little of the sister in the cut out – this gives me scale.  Placing the brother in the photo, I can line him up properly by comparing his sisters skirt from both images.  here – I’ll show you what I mean:

Cool, right?  Now I just have to do some clean up.  I make this all sound very easy and quick, it actually took hours to get everything right.

Trimming away the rough edges of where I cut him from the background was the first step.  This can result in jagged lines and those lines will distract your eye.  The key is to blend the edges, essentially blurring them just enough that they look like they are part of one, cohesive image.  I’ll show you an example – here is the brother, edges trimmed and blended into the photo:

The shadow is a nice touch – one left over from the original image and luckily, one that fits.  Now, here’s the image without the brother:

Cool, right?!

I still had some cleanup to do.  Like remove the brother from the background of the image.  Remember this?

Well, I couldn’t leave him back there so I used a combination of the Clone Stamp Tool and the Healing Brush to remove him from the image and make it look like he was never there in the first place:

I also had to adjust Brightness/Contrast between layers (remember how one photo was a little more washed out versus the other?), clean up the dust and scratches (Healing Brush – it samples a ‘healthy’ area of the photo which you can use to ‘brush’ over the unhealthy areas) and add some finishing touches to the brother.

The end result pretty much speaks for itself:

Click to see a larger version

My aunt was thrilled with this, as were the sisters from the photo.

Anyway, I wanted to add this to my freelance page and share it with you guys here today.  🙂