The Joy of Photoshop…

by | Feb 5, 2018

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

By now you’ve heard all the the brouhaha over the Vanity Fair cover that features a group of celebrities and one of them has thee legs. Part of the problem is how photographer Annie Leibovitz creates these pastiches. There are really composites of many photographs that are made with one or more of these celebrities present and then stitched together to make the final image.

But sometimes mistakes happen. BBC News reports that James Franco was digitally removed because of #metoo and it may have been that change that caused the retouching error or it may just be the retoucher wasn’t given enough time and Vanity Fair’s photo editor perhaps blinded by celebrity worship didn’t notice that not only did the Emperor have no clothes but one of the ladies had three legs.

But hey, I cut and paste portraits together—typically just one person as you see here in this portrait of Bella Fire—all the time. If that’s something you want to try, here are a few tips.

  • It might seem obvious but it’s worth mentioning but, wonderful masking plug-ins aside, your composite will be easier to make if the background and lighting is the same for both shots. It’s one reason after I shoot an image I really like, I’ll make another “safety” shot right away and the subtle differences between the two are often the stuff of what great composites are made.
  • In the “cut” part of this cut and paste operation, select a much larger part of the second image than you think you’ll need. You can always erase the extra area later but, like a bad haircut, it’s hard to add parts back in without having to go back later (wasting time) and make another “cut.”
  • Enlarge the pasted areas as much as your screen allows and use a soft edged Eraser tool to blend the edges of the pasted images. Women’s hair, especially long thick hairs, is especially easy to blend. If you have to you can use the handles on the pasted layer to slightly rotate the layer to make it fit better. I do this all the time, sometimes with the same photograph, just to give the subject a head tilt, I should have suggested before clicking the shutter.
  • Finally, before you flatten the image and save it as another file, wait a day to see if there are any surprises lurking (like an extra leg) when you look at it tomorrow. This is something I’m sure Ms. Leibovitz’s retoucher wished they could have done.



If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available from with new copies selling for $17.43 and used books starting at $9.77 as I write this.