Monday, October 31, 2011

Sequence It!

The lip is a little sticky this morning. I'm only going to do this jump once," crackles over the radio. "Are you ready?"
Text And Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Sequence It!


Okay, now you have gone out and shot this incredible sequence of your neighbor flying off a jump on his dirt bike. How do you combine all these shots into one image? I use Photoshop and layer masking for this task. And even if you're new to Photoshop, the process isn't that difficult. Follow these steps below and start creating your own sequence shots.


Open the first image in your sequence. If you shot JPEGs, then simply open the file. If you shot RAW images for your sequence, then the RAW processing dialog box will appear before you can go to the next step. If you make any adjustments to your RAW file, you need to do the exact adjustments to every shot in the sequence for consistency.


With the first image open, open the second image. In Photoshop CS5, the default viewer uses tabs rather than multiple image windows. For this process, it's a lot easier to work with both images side by side, so click on the second tab and drag it until it's in its own window. Now you should have the first two images of your sequence open and visible on the screen.



Next, using the move tool, grab the second image and place it on top of the first image. If you hold down the Shift key as you place the image on top of the first image, they should be perfectly aligned. The layers window should show both images as layers at this point, with the second image on top of the first image.



Now we want to add a mask to the second layer. This can be done from the file menu by choosing Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. This will add a mask filled with black, hiding the second (top) layer.

You can also add a mask filled with black by choosing the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers window. Hold the Option (Alt on PCs) key down when you click on the icon, and the mask will be added filled with black.



Here's where the fun begins. First, set your foreground color to white. This is located at the bottom of the tools panel. Use the arrow keys to switch colors, or click on the foreground color and set it to white.

Now choose the Brush tool (shortcut is the "B" key), and set the brush hardness to 100 percent. Then brush on the image where you think your subject will be, based on his direction of travel. Presto! Your subject magically appears. Since you used manual exposure and a tripod, everything else in the frame should stay the same. Sometimes your subject will merge over his previous position in the image below. I generally brush the top image subject over the earlier sequence shot.



Repeat steps 2-5 again for the next image in the sequence. Continue this process with all the frames in the sequence. After all the sequence images are merged, you should have a single image with your subject rendered multiple times moving through the action.


Since this process takes a lot of time, I save the layered version of the image as a PSD file I can go back to if necessary. For my final version, I'll flatten the layers (Layer > Flatten Image) to create a smaller file to work on and send to clients. I'll do any other touch-up like color, dust spotting and sharpening on this image before I send it out.

So the next time you're photographing action, why not capture all of it? Wouldn't it be great to see every little move that ski jumper performs in the air? All you have to do is sequence it.

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