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Creative Compositing with Photoshop’s Layer Blending Modes

By David Salahi on August 24th 2014

Photoshop’s layer blending modes can be perfect for creative compositing. Many interesting effects can be realized when blending two or more photos in this way. In the video below, Mark S. Johnson demonstrates the process of layering a model’s photo onto a wintry scene with a tree and some birds.

Mark explains the three major groups of Photoshop layer blending modes (darken, lighten, contrast) and what types of effects you can expect from each group. Knowing these major groups helps to provide you with a starting place when combining images. Still, knowing the general type of effect doesn’t necessarily allow you to predict the specific result you’ll get from any given pair of images. But that’s fine because trying out different blending modes is easy to do and often yields happy surprises.

© Mark S. Johnson Photography

Masking in the Model’s Photo

The basic compositing process as shown in the video takes only a minute. Then, a bit of masking allows Mark to overlay the model’s photo onto the tree within the scene in an interesting and pleasing way.


Mark also demonstrates an easy technique to use two separate masks on a single layer. The first mask extracts the model from the background in the original photo while the second one adjusts the extracted image to overlay the composite scene nicely. This allows for fine-tuning the extraction and the overlay separately at any time.

Using Multiple Layer Blending Modes

To finish up, Mark overlays a second copy of the model photo onto the scene using a different blending mode to intensify the color in her eyes and lips. Again, some simple masking allows limiting the more intense effect to just the eyes and lips.

Combining photos in this way provides opportunities for creative expression that go beyond what might be achieved with a single photo. And the layer blending techniques shown here can be applied in other ways. These include adding texture or grain to a photo and adding lighting effects. Give it a try and see what you can create.

[Via YouTube]

CREDITS: All photographs and videos by Mark S. Johnson are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Dave Salahi is a photographer, Photoshop artist and Photoshop instructor in Southern California. In a previous life Dave was a software developer and still does some website development work. His website, The Photo Performance, features Photoshop tutorials and other photography info.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Great thanks

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  2. Michael Moe

    i love this multiple exposure shots!

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  3. Jesse Rinka

    Great article. The video was extremely well-done and the end-result was pretty awesome.

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  4. Isaak Kwok

    Thanks for the tips! Need to use my Photoshop a little more. :)

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  5. Paul Faecks

    Great article, David!

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    Great article and i absolutely love the composition

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  7. Rafael Steffen

    Photoshop can provide some really stunning results! Thanks for sharing again!

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  8. Brandon Dewey

    Thanks for the tips!

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