How to transform 2 ordinary images into 1 extraordinary image


If you are like me and have a bunch of images sitting on your computer quite uselessly taking up space on your hard drive, then read on. I’m going to show you a simple way to ‘recycle’ these seemingly useless images to create something extraordinary that will impress.

For this tutorial you will need the following programs: (I assume in this article a basic level of fluency in both programs)

- Adobe Photoshop (Any old version will do) but for this example I am using CS5.

- Adobe Lightroom (again, it doesnt matter which version) I am using Lightroom 3.

In this example composition I have taken two images that are both focused on the theme ice. Keep in mind however that  the two image subjects do not necessarily need to be related. The subject matter is totally up to you, but as you choose your images try to imagine what they might look like placed on top of each other. In order for these compositions to be most effective it is your selection of images that will make or break this procedure.

As a general rule: Select one image as your main subject and the second image should play a supporting role, to spice things up a little.

Lets begin…

Select your images

The first image is of a wall of ice that had been created as part of an ice bar. I have chosen this image to act as the support /spice role.

An ice wall used as the background element in the composition


The second image will act as the foreground element in the composition. It is the essence of the composition and is actually what the image is all about. It speaks a thousand words of the natural world and her ever present patterns, shapes, lines, forms and harmony.

Frozen ice crystals found in the valley are hard and rough. This image is used as the main feature image in the composition.


Import into Lightroom (this step can be skipped if you feel happy with your images overall appearance)

I wanted to accentuate the lines and forms in the images, therefore clarity, contrast, black and exposure have been adjusted.

Export as PSD

The images can then be separately exported as full sized PSD’s (right-click the image> Export) onto the desktop or somewhere else that it will be easy to find.

Import into Photoshop

Open Photoshop, locate your images in Finder/Explorer, click and drag the two image and drop them onto the Photoshop pane. This will import them. Alternatively File>Open or Ctrl+o

Working with layers

Now here is where the essence of the project is and when the fun begins.

1) Arrange your Photoshop layout by clicking Window>Arrange>Float all in Windows.

2) Choose your background element image and hit ‘v’ (Move tool)

3) Click and drag the background image onto the foreground images pane. This will drop your background image onto a new layer OVER the foreground image.

4) Ctrl+Shift+; to turn on ‘snapping’ and with the Move tool selected drag the foreground image to the top left corner of the pane until it ‘snaps’ into alignment with the background image. In the case that your two images are different sizes, I reccomend downsizing the larger image to the size of the smaller image as increasing the scale of a small image beyond its original size will cause a decrease in image quality.

5) With the background layer highlighted, choose from within the layers pane the dropdown box that is by default set to ‘Normal’.  By clicking the small drop down arrow it will open the box and give you a display all of the different layer blending styles available. I prefer to click once more on the drop down arrow as it will then allow me to scroll through one by one with the down/up keys.

6) Dont forget the Opacity. If you like the effect of the blend stlye but it is a little too strong, you can adjust the Opacity using the slider to tone it down a little.


Take your foreground element image and duplicate it, layer it with a different blending style, bring a third element into the mix and see what that does. What is key here is to create something that you like and that when you look at it makes you go WOW!

What you can also try here is to take a paintbrush in any colour that you like, create a new layer and set its Blending style to overlay (or whatever you prefer) and begins painting onto you image. The variations are limitless. Just as a painter paints with paint, we photographer/digital artists paint with light, so get in there and start painting.

The image below was created using the Overlay method of blending (often the best), then a second layer (same image) overlayed using the ‘Linear Light’ blending method.


Final composition of the two images.

Just remember, there is no such thing as a useless anything, even seemingly useless images can be used to make something amazing, its only limit is that of the creators imagination.

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