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Photo Fun: Clones (aka, an Army of Me) – Episode 2

Posted by Matt on July 27th, 2008 filed in Digital Photography Hints & Tips, Photo Inspiration, Photo Manipulation

This follows on from the last article – how to take photos to make a ‘cloned me’ image, so if you haven’t already read that you might want to first.

Army of Me

Now you should have at least a few photos of you with the same background composition, but with you in different positions, all downloaded to your trusty computer. So fire up Photoshop and get ready for some cut and paste action, along with good ol’ layers and layer masks.

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Note: Depending on how much memory and processing power your computer has, and how big your photos are, this activity can start to make your computer struggle a bit. Saving and processing large files takes a long time – so be patient, and if you’re having trouble keeping going then purge the undo/history from your photoshop to free up some space.

The basic process to follow is:

  1. Load the first photo into Photoshop – this will normally be the photo for the ‘background’ – ie, the one with you in furthest away from the camera. Once this is loaded, save the file out as a PSD rather than anything else so you don’t accidentally wipe your original photos.
  2. Now load the photo that contains the next nearest you – and copy the whole photo and paste it into the first as a new layer. You should see your original photo disappear behind the new one, but hiding the front layer will make it appear again. Already you should be able to see how the final image will come together. Take a moment now to check that the backgrounds all line up – tweak the position of the new photo using the arrow keys if it doesn’t as this is critical.
  3. Repeat the last step with every subsequent image of you – moving closer to the camera all the time. If you can load all the images in without Photoshop / your computer struggling then we’re in a good place. By this point you should have as many layers as you do pictures of you.
  4. Now for the tricky part – working from the ‘front’ image back you need to create an image mask for each layer to reveal the you behind. Personally I like to do a rough cut using the lasso tool to get a sense of whether it’s working, and then do the fine masking, again with lasso, later. Remember: you are not painting/cutting your photo – you are only masking it – this means if you make a mistake or do something like cut your head off, then you can just clean up the mask and your head will re-appear. Splendid. One trick is to make your layer active, mark around you with lasso, and then click the ‘mask’ button on the layer palette – this automatically creates a mask around you as you can see from the photos below:
    Lasso - rough cutLasso the you

    Masked Me
    Create the mask – voila!

  5. Now repeat this for every layer until you end up with a version similar to what we have at the top of this article. You may need to adjust the brightness/contrast of different layers so they match better if your light source has changed at all – other than that though, you should be able to see if your clone masterpiece has worked.

Finishing Off

At this point you should have a Photoshop file (make sure you save it) with many clipped layers and a version of an image that has multiple yous in. Genius! You may find you need to tweak each layer to make the effect more realistic, as things like reflected light and shadows from ‘each’ person will be missing. My preference here is to be as minimal as possible, as it is easy to go overboard with being clever in Photoshop however whatever makes you happy with the finished article is good.

Now it’s time to go take over the world with my clone army. Send in the clones!

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