Everybody Smile

The larger the group, the more difficult it is to get a shot where everyone is looking at the camera and no one's making a face. Fortunately, with just a little Photoshop wizardry, you can combine multiple photos into a single image. Here, photographer Laura Vanderbeek shows how she used this “face-replacement” technique—plus a few additional artistic touches—to create a portrait every member of this big family will be proud to display at home.

1. Switching Heads
The quickest way to improve the look of a group photo is by replacing unsmiling faces or closed eyes with counterparts from another shot. For the best results, choose photos with very similar compositions; most group photo sessions provide workable source images. Select the best overall image to use as your base layer. Using the Selection Brush tool set to a round, soft-edged brush, copy and paste elements from other photos onto your base layer. You may need to use Image > Free Transform to rotate, resize and nudge the copied elements into place.













2. Adjusting Color
If a group member's outfit clashes with other members' clothing, or if a bright T-shirt proves too distracting, use the Burn tool set to Midtones to darken the offending color. Adjust the exposure, starting with 25% and increasing the setting if needed.

3. Softening the Background
Using the Selection Brush or Quick Selection tool, select all foreground areas: your subjects' and bodies, plus any details whose sharpness you want to preserve. Click Select > Inverse. Apply a soft-focus effect to the background with Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Choose a radius for the blur that maintains the background's overall color and texture, while eliminating hard-edged lines that distract from the photo's composition.













4. Vignetting the Edges
For an artistic, painterly look, apply a vignette (or darkening) effect to the edges. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a free downloadable action such as MCP Burnt Edges from














5. Sharing the Results
Your finished portrait is now ready to share. Consider printing it on a textured material such as inkjet-printable canvas or Velvet Fine Art paper (made by Epson) for added interest.

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