Photoshop Elements is more than just a Photoshop alternative. Discover how you can use Layers to make a composite image in Elements, replacing dull skies and creating an overall image with wider depth of field.
Layers are one of Photoshop Element’s most useful and powerful tools. Here, we’ll use layers, adjustment layers and layer masks to combine three separate images into a single composite shot that has a wider depth of field than the originals.
In theory we could have captured our tutorial’s end result in-camera.
By waiting for the right time of day, we could have photographed the cathedral against a romantic sunset backdrop. By using a narrower aperture setting, we could have captured both the foreground tree and the background building in focus in one shot.
In practice, we may not have had the time to wait around for the right weather conditions. In auto mode, our camera may choose a wider aperture setting, causing foreground objects (such as a foreground tree stump) to be nice and sharp while leaving a background building looking blurred (or vice versa).
We shot two versions of our landscape scene. In one, the foreground tree is in focus while the building is blurred. In the other, the tree is out of focus while the cathedral remains sharp.
We’ll show you how to place both images into the same Photoshop document as separate layers, then combine the focused features to create a shot with a wider depth of field.
As the start images were captured handheld, you’ll learn how to re-position the two layers so that they overlap perfectly, enabling you to blend the focused details together more effectively.
How to make a composite image in Photoshop Elements: steps 1-6
01 Open the start file
Download our start files and follow along! Launch the Photoshop Elements Editor. Click on the Expert tab. Go to File>Open. Browse to the folder containing our three start images. Shift-click to select all three and click the Open button. The three shots will open in Photoshop Elements. You’ll see them in the Photo Bin.
02 Examine images
Press Ctrl+Tab to cycle through the three open shots (or double click on a Photo Bin thumbnail to view it in the main workspace). Layers01_before.jpg focuses on the background cathedral; Layers02_before.jpg focuses on the foreground tree stump; and Layers03_before.jpg features a sunset.
03 Copy and paste
Go to Layers02_before.jpg. Choose Select>All. A ‘marching ants’ selection marquee will appear around the edges of the shot. Choose Edit>Copy. This copies the selected image to your computer’s clipboard. Go to Layers01_before.jpg. Choose Edit>Paste to add the copied image as a new layer.
04 Hide and show
You now have a layered document that has two image layers. The Background layer contains the image from Layers01_before.jpg. The new Layer 1 contains the copied shot from Layers02.jpg. Click Layer 1’s eye icon to turn the top layer on and off. This enables you to compare the two shots.
05 Compare layers
By turning the top layer on and off, you can see that our handheld camera has rotated slightly clockwise when shooting Layers02_before.jpg. It’s also panned a little to the right. This means the contents of both layers are not perfectly aligned, so it will be a challenge to blend the focused sections together.
06 Change opacity
Click on Layer 1’s thumbnail to make it the active layer. Drag the Opacity slider left to a value of 50% (or type a 50% value into the Opacity box). By making the top layer semi-transparent, you can compare the position of its building and tree stump with the same features on the Background layer below.
PAGE 1 – How to make a composite image in Photoshop Elements: steps 1-6
PAGE 2 – How to make a composite image in Photoshop Elements: steps 7-12
PAGE 3 – How to make a composite image in Photoshop Elements: steps 13-18
Professional photo editing tricks: how to get perfect skies in ALL your raw photos
Best photo editing tips for beginners: 18 quick fixes to common image problems
34 Photoshop effects every photographer must try once
Photoshop reflection effect: how to add water to your landscapes
Image Sharpening: how to bring out more detail in your favourite photos