Not every photo you take will be incredible, but that doesn’t mean you should simply throw it in the trash. Combining your image with stock images, you can get some pretty magical mystical results. Let me show you how to create a neat photo composition in Photoshop!
The image I’m starting with was shot as a 7-exposure HDR composition, but even after the toning, it didn’t stand out.
The stock images that I’m using were found over at Shutterstock, but you can certainly use your own images, or search Google if you don’t have a Shutterstock subscription.
Remove the Sky
Before we even touch the stock images, we should focus on removing the sky from the original image. This is going to be done using the Quick Selection Tool, but you’re free to use any selection method that you’re comfortable with. The Quick Selection Tool works simply by brushing overtop of the area you want to turn into a selection. As you brush, Photoshop will attempt to select similar bits to include in the selection. Once you’ve completed the brushing, you should have the full sky as a selection. This will be indicated by the “marching ants” that you’ll see running around the sky.
Now even though we’re going to be replacing the sky, we actually want everything else selected, which will help in the next step, when we refine the selection.
Select > Inverse
Inversing the selection will select everything but the sky, which will allow us to hide it after the selection is refined.
Select > Refine Edge
Photoshop’s Refine Edge feature will allow you to create much more accurate selections, especially when dealing with hair, fur, or trees. You can see in the image below, that when the Smart Radius option is turned on and the Radius is increased, you should notice a more defined and accurate selection.
You’ll also want to output the result as a Layer Mask, which will hide the sky, leaving only the mountains.
The New Skys
Now that the original sky has been hidden, we can safely bring in the stock images we’re going to use. The images can simply be dragged into the current document, then moved behind the current layer, which contains the Layer Mask.
Once the two images are in place, you’ll want to make sure that one of them is horizontally offsetted, as seen in the image above. The night sky (the top image) is more to the left, which will give us room for blending. Now in order to blend the images together, you’ll want to add a Layer Mask to the image on top, which in this case, is the night sky.
When the Layer Mask is in place, we’re going to use a gradient to gradually fade out the left side of the night sky. With the Gradient Tool active, set the gradient to Foreground to Transparent, and make sure that the foreground color is black.
Next, drag out a gradient from the left edge of the night sky, slightly to the right, as seen in the image below.
When the gradient has been applied to the Layer Mask, you should have a nice blend, as seen below. If it looks ‘off’, undo and try again.
At time point, the sky is looking neat, but the foreground doesn’t match. Let’s add some Adjustment Layers to create nice lighting that matches the sky.
The first Adjustment Layer that will be added is a Photo Filter to give a ‘warm’ feel to the left side of the mountains. Make sure the Adjustment Layers are on TOP of the masked layer, and that clipping is turned ON.
You may also want to restrict this Adjustment Layer to the left side of the mountains. This can be done using the Layer Mask that’s attached to the Adjustment Layer, using a black to transparent gradient, just like you did when you blended the sky images.
The next Adjustment Layer will be another Photo Filter to ‘cool’ down the right side of the mountains. The same technique will be used.
This will leave you with warm mountains on the left, cool mountains on the right which match the sky behind them.
You may also want to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to sharpen up the final image.