Sarah Lister | Head-swaps and Background Replacement for Family Portraits

Head-swaps and Background Replacement for Family Portraits

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

One of my goals as a photographer is to provide the best possible images for my clients within my abilities. One of the ways I do this is by using my skills in photoshop. I've been using it for over 10 years and happily confess my love and addiction to the program.

As is the case with young children, trying to get the perfect decent photo is very difficult. Even though I'm constantly snapping shots, more often than not I need to do at least one head-swap. Also, with shooting in public places in busy-town London, there are people EVERYWHERE. This was the case in a recent shoot I did for L and her boys.

For this session, there were a few shots that needed some post-work. BUT I'll be going showng you just one image, seen below. I'll share why I did what I did and try to explain briefly how I did it. Time to look behind the curtain...

I started with these two images...


I love Mum's expression in this one (shot A). The kids were engaged in what was going on and there's the anticipation of jumping. But poor Lil' Buddy has got his eyes closed and there are people in the background (BG). This makes the composition muddy. Oh dear. :(

In this one(shot B), Mum is in-between expressions and, although Lil' Dude on the right is having a blast, I much prefer his pose in shot A - he's visually clearer, the silhouette is more appealing, and he's actively looking at Mum.

On the plus side, Lil' Buddy looks great here, looking up at Mum. With this image, I'll also be able to make the bridge look empty. Fabulous! Time to combine them!

I started off with shot A as my base image. I then copied over Lil' Buddy's head from shot B. The reason I swapped over just his head, rather than his whole body was due to his relation with mum. His body was lower down in shot B, as was Mum's position. Because I wanted to use Mum's pose and expression from shot A, using her arm and hand from shot B would be near impossible. Therefore, I figured I would be much more successful with simply copying over his head.

There's just a slight problem; his original head was still visible in the picture.

To remove the double head, I did some cloning (it's a photoshop tool) of shot A's BG, mixed with adding elements from shot's B BG.

And then there's those guys on the bridge. They needed to be removed. I used the same method of copying over the BG from shot B, cleaning it up with masking, and then cloning where necessary.

By choosing the preferred expressions, I'm left with an image where mum and buddy are looking at each other. By removing the people from the BG, the family becomes the only subjects, leaving us with a visually cleaner image.

And that's that. :)


If you would be interested in a more detailed tutorial, please let me know in the comments!

If you would like to spend a morning or afternoon with me, and come out of it with beautiful keepsakes of you and your family (or just you!), just shoot me an email for more details. I look forward to hearing from you!


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