A little surreal nonsense.


This pic-in-pic is not a photo and it's not pure magic - it's something Terry saw on-line and went about figuring out how to recreate the effect.

It's a fun tutorial because it combines some a photographic set-up with some digital editing expertise.

The photographic portion is the two or three images that make up the final image. 

A successful completion of this tutorial begins in the planning and the most important part of the work occurs long before the computer stage.

Think about what you want to say before you start. Take extra images - better to discard material than to try and recreate something you did in the past because it's impossible to add photos afterwards. 

Pic-in-Pic Photo Preparation

You will need
  • A tripod or camera support.

  • A shutter release or built in time delay.

  • Frame or framed print or mirror as part of the photograph.

  • Photo processing software which has layer and masking capabilities (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Pro).

  • Your unfettered Imagination.
Here's how to set things up for the photographic portion.

Set the tripod and leave it there throughout the session. Attach the shutter release or set the delay. Switch off the auto focus, image stabilization and set the camera on Manual mode.

Don't let the camera think for itself - it'll surely make a wrong decisions - when you make the decisions then you're the only one to blame.

Take a couple shots of the background - add stuff or not - whatever you wish.  If you're sitting and the chair or stool will be visible in the final image make sure it's included in the background shots.

Take some extra images - better to discard material because it's impossible to perfectly recreate the set-up conditions afterwards!

Get yourself in position with the frame and take a shot with the shutter release or  the self timer.

Before you start

  1. Mount the camera on the tripod and leave it in the same place for the entire procedure.

  2. Attach the shutter release or set the time delay.  If you're using the time delay, best be quick!

  3. Switch off the auto focus. Switch off the image stabilisation. Set the camera to manual  - using any other setting will cause problems later in the procedure.

  4. Choose a time when the weather will stay the same for about 15 minutes - these will be the building blocks of your pic-in-pic project and you really don't want bright sun in one shot and snow or rain in the next - but hey - maybe that would work as well.

Step One: Take the images

In the final image I wanted the pic-in-pic to have some properties of a mirror, some properties of a picture, some properties of an empty frame.

Step Two: Make Your Composite

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. You can also use Corel PaintShop Pro.

pic-in-pic organizerThe two images you see are the background for the shot and the shot containing the frame.

With Elements open, load up the images you are working with and select the Background image in the Organizer (the image on the left outlined in white is the Background ).

Layers plaette

Load this image into Elements and then select the other image (outlined in blue above) and drag it onto the loaded background.

Now add a Layer Mask on the top layer - this is how things look now ...

pic-in-pic selectionThe next step is to select the inside of the frame with whatever Selection Tool you prefer. 

The Quick Selection tool works well and in the case of straight lines the Polygonal Selection Tool also works perfectly.

At this point the pic-in-pic project is perfectly set-up for the final step and that's to remove everything inside the frame so the background shows through.

That's the purpose of adding the Layer Mask in a previous step.

Set Black and White as the Foreground and Background colors by pressing the D key and if Black is not the Foreground color press the X key (this swaps the foreground and background colors)..

Select the Paint Bucket Tool (K) and click inside the selection.  The original Background now shows through the frame and here it is ...

pic-in-pic step 2

Step Three: Add something different

The pic-in-pic procedure works well however we can easily make the final image much more interesting - in this case we're going to use the Photomerge function.

What you need to do is take a couple of extra pictures with different things in the background or with one person in different locations like, oh say, two shots of Terry in two different locations like these ...

pic-in-pic Terry left
pic-in-pic Right left
Terry on the Left
Terry on the Right

  1. An alternative backdrop was made by combining two images containing the same person – again part of the surreal idea.

  2. Again drag both images into the Elements Photo Bin and then select Enhance > PhotoMerge > Group Shot.

  3. Drag one of the images onto the right hand image block.

  4. Make sure the other image is in the left hand image block.

    pic-in-pic photomerge

  5. On the left hand image highlight the piece of the image you want to add – a mere stroke on the person will do.  A composite is made.  You can combine up to 10 images (just imagine how much fun you can have with photomerge).

  6. Click <done> and Elements will do the rest.

  7. Now to add the frame as before.

  8. Drag the frame image into the workspace.  The layers palette will show it sitting at the top.

  9. Make sure the top layer is selected in the Layers palette.

  10. Add a mask to the top layer by clicking on the "add a mask" button in the layes palette.

  11. Choose quick selection (or your favorite selection) and make a selection on the inside of the frame.

  12. When you are happy with your selection, chose the Paint Bucket Tool.  Press the 'D' key to make ‘Black and white’ the default colours and make sure the black is the foreground colour.

  13. Make sure the mask area is selected and then Click within the selected area.

  14. The image is made.

pic-in-pic end

Once you've got the steps down then you can apply them to any group of pictures and make some really neat pic-in-pic images.

Page Links

Photo Preparation

Before You Start

The Steps

Step One - Take the images.

Step Two - Make the composite.

Step Three - Add something different.

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