FAKE BIGGER BACKGROUND: Photography and Photoshop Solution

In Retouching by Glyn4 Comments

A few months back I found myself at the Tower of London photographing Yeoman Warder, Scott Kelly.

I’d been invited along as Scott was going to be presenting World War 2 Veteran Jim Hooper (Glider Pilot Regiment) with a cheque on behalf of the Blind Veterans UK Charity; money he’d raised to help with the incredible work that they do.

Earlier in the year I’d photographed Jim for my 39-45 Portraits Project and he’s since become a friend so any chance to meet up with him I’m there, but to also meet up with Scott and great friend Jane Barkway-Harney was an added bonus.

Getting privileged access to the Tower of London was quite something; driving my car into the grounds under the portcullis with Scott escorting me in did feel very special indeed.

The Problem

Once all the public began to leave we ventured out onto a lawned area to take some pictures of Jim and Scott during the presentation of the cheque BUT before that I took some portraits inside and with that came a potential issue. Now, I say potential  issue because this was one of those occasions when Photoshop was most definitely needed and made the impossible, possible and the reason I say this is because the background I was using measures 7′ x 5′ however Scott also had with him the Partizan which is way taller than the backgrounds.

The Solution

With the background set up and my light in place I photographed Scott against the background as you can see in picture (A). I then asked Jane to lift the background up so that it extended above the top of the Partizan whilst Scott stood completely still, and took a photograph as in picture (B).

*Note: It was essential to use a tripod when doing this so that the camera position remained exactly the same for each of the pictures.

Editing / Post Production

With the photographs taken, once loaded into the computer and safely backed up, here’s the process I went through to blend the images together..

  • In Lightroom (as above) I cropped the images so that there was nothing either side of the background visible
  • With both of these images highlighted / selected in Lightroom I then went to the menu bar at the top of the screen and chose PHOTO > EDIT IN > OPEN AS LAYERS IN PHOTOSHOP

  • Once the images had been opened in Photoshop as Layers (one above the other) I then clicked on the bottom layer and held down the SHIFT key whilst I then clicked on the top layer. Doing so highlighted them both in the Layers Panel making them both ‘active’ …

  • Knowing that I was going to be blending the images together, and although I’d used a tripod, I could see when turning the upper most layer on and off that the layers didn’t line up perfectly. So, to fix this, whilst both layers were highlighted / active I then went to EDIT > AUTO-ALIGN LAYERS

  • When the Auto Align Layers dialog box appeared, all I did was leave it in the default of ‘Auto’ with no other options checked and clicked OK

  • Now that the layers were aligned, to make blending them together easier (and work a whole lot better) I first of all cropped out areas of each photo that were no longer needed i.e. any area within each photograph that didn’t include the background behind Scott…

  • Once I’d cropped out the unwanted areas of each picture, I then highlighted both layers in the Layers Panel…

  • …and then went EDIT > AUTO-BLEND LAYERS

  • In the Auto-Blend Layers properties I selected the STACK IMAGES option and then at the bottom ticked the checkboxes for  Seamless Tones and Colors and Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas, and clicked OK

  • As you can see from below, Photoshop does a pretty good job of blending the images together and way quicker than doing it manually…

Of course there was then some tidying up to do such as making good the area where the background and floor meet (in the final image at the very bottom you’ll see I added skirting board) but with what I would call the ‘heavy lifting’ having been done, it was then a case of working on the picture to extend the width of the background and adding final touches to the image to give it the look that I wanted…

Hope that’s useful, but of course if you do have any queations / comments, please feel free to make use of the comments section below and I’ll be sure to reply.



  1. Hi Glyn,
    Pleas would you consider doing a part II to this on how you added the skirting board?

  2. I’m reading through this article and I’m thinking to myself… Pretty sure I know how he’s going to do this… Just a case of auto-aligning the layers and then masking the top part in. But then you go and add the twist with the Auto-Blend-Layers and you blow my mind. Would have never ever thought about using that. Thats why I love reading your blog, always pick up new and useful things.

    Also, really like the little touch you did in this photo by adding the molding where the wall meets the floor. Think I might have to make a trip to a hardware store and photograph some pieces of molding with my phone to try in my own images.

    Thanks again for everything Glyn 🙂

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