The Art of Illusion

January 14, 2015

I have this little trick I’d like to share with you today that I’ve used during newborn sessions.  It’s one of those ideas that after I had it, I was thinking to myself, it’s so very simple and easy…why didn’t I think of it before.  This trick can be done a few different ways in Photoshop, but I’m just showing you the way that I do it.  I think it’s pretty easy.  And you know the saying, if it ain’t broke, right?

If you have photographed newborns or small babies at any point, you know that the most common way a baby is positioned naturally is on their back.  They don’t roll over on their own, they most certainly are not sleeping on their sides and unless you place them on their tummy, well, they most often can be found on their back.  At least not the first few weeks of life.  For me, photographing a baby on their back is one of the most simple options and also can be some of the most lovely.  Just me, but I prefer to keep things simple.  However, as you likely know, there are times when a newborn is not at all happy flat on their back.  Particularly without an official swaddle.  Well, there is an easy fix for this….at least for most babies.  😉

Often times I arrive at a newborn session and the baby is cozy and perfectly asleep in one of those bouncy seats or vibrating swings such as this one shown here.  You know the ones.  They are very popular these days.  Almost every new mom has received or purchased one.  This is where my little trick begins to take form.

Number one: you want some overhead photographs of baby.  Number two: you have a baby content in their swing (asleep or awake, either are great).  Or it could be that the mom tells you their baby loves the swing or bouncy seat already, that will work too.  😉  Now, all you will need are a few medium to large blankets or throws.

And don’t worry if you don’t have a wide angle lens.  This trick will be perfect for you!  I’m sure many of you have not yet purchased (and maybe don’t plan to) a wider angle lens such as the 24mm or wider.  No problem.  If you have the very common 50mm and find yourself not being able to get newborn shots wide enough from above without being on a tall ladder, which is certainly an option at times, but if you are like me, it’s not common practice for you to show up at a a newborn session with a ladder in tow.

This little trick is also great if you have a baby that becomes difficult to soothe as the majority of babies that I’ve known love the way these seats/swings sort of swaddle them oh so cozily.

When I do these shots, I know parents are thinking…what in the world.  I take a few blankets and then put the baby back into the swing/bouncy seat.  This particular one was taller, so when I took this first photo, I was standing on a dining chair.

So sweet right?  :)  Please note this is a straight out of camera pull back including dad’s feet, ugly cord, table leg, rug pull back…well, you get the point.  Not the finished image.


For this particular session, I would have liked to have also been able to utilize the wood floor a bit more for the background.  However, this day was very cloudy outside and the lighting in my client’s home was incredibly limited.  The best light was found right next to this one window.  I actually tried to move further away from the window and get the floor more, but the lighting was just not enough and wouldn’t work.  No stress!  I decided to do my little trick for this series of shots.

I just went on shooting the series in this set and then moved on to photos with mom and dad.  Then, when baby was taking a feeding break and in other rooms, I went back to the spot, threw the same blanket on the floor and snapped a few shots like this.



Okay…just stay with me here.  This is going to be good.  😉

With both images open in Photoshop, go to the image of your blanket or fabric.  IMPORTANT PART:  Create a brand ‘new’ file from the FILE menu in Photoshop.  Copy and paste both the baby image and then the blanket image to the new file.  This is very important so you can more easily manipulate each of the image to fit just like you want.  To copy and paste to a new file, I do this by using the RECTANGLE MARQEE TOOL in your tool bar.  Choose ‘copy’.  Move to your new file and paste each image in the newly created file.  It will look something like this.


Next, use your shift to sort of size and place your top image how you want it.  Such as this as I want my subject a little off centered for this one, but you can do it however you want.


Then, you’ll want to begin masking off parts of the top image, which for me is the one with the baby in it.  I mask off at 100% first around the edges with the softest brush.  As I work in closer to the top image, I begin to use a lower opasity to blend.  You’ll just have to play with this, but once you get the hang of it, it will not take you that much time really.  Such a job takes me about 2-3 minutes to get it just as I want it.  Going from this ghosting effect:


to this finished result.  At this point I realized my blankets weren’t matching as well as I would like.  So I took another shot of the blanket (which I took several of) and copied a third blanket image in-between to help blend better.  This shows my blending of three blankets on the right and the unfinished on the left.  I hope you can see how it is beginning blending together.  Don’t worry about the colors and shadow discrepencies at this point.  Those are easy fixes later)

This is also where it is very handy and important to have all the images as layer that you can manipulate in not only size but shape.  Play around with these options by using the shift key to retain shape, but also don’t be afraid to use the transform and size without shift to make it just as you want.  However, I would never recommend transforming or resizing a layer with your subject included without using the Shift key.  Otherwise, you will likely end up with a distorted and strange looking subject.  And no one wants that.


And after a quick masking party….trust me, if you just do it a few times, you’ll get fast…and your image will begin to take shape.


But we are not quite done as we need to actually edit our photo now.  By using shadows, highlights, darkening, lightning and a little blur to blend better. Then putting your edit style on it and a nice crop, then your photo can look like this:

finalweb2 copy

And you could crop it like this:


And bam, you have two different looking photos in about 5-10 minutes.  Certainly, in an ideal world, you would just have a big blanket on the floor with a calm baby and a wider angle lens.  You would just get the shot in camera just as you want it to begin with.  Of course, this would be the most desirable situation.  However, occasionally these things just don’t work out so perfectly.   And this offers you an option for getting a certain type of image when sometimes things don’t go as perfectly as planned during a shoot.  To think this baby was in a baby bouncer.  hehe.  Well, what matters is the end result.  Gotta get a little creative sometimes.


Families, babies, and children are what make Amy’s heart sing. She catches the divine in the ordinary using natural light and everyday settings. Amy’s style is pretty simple. It’s a dab of traditional mixed with modern lifestyle portraiture, indoors and out. She strives to capture a child’s spirit and a family’s personality, even if that’s not traditional smiles. She wants to photograph families in real life, not something that was imagined or ‘created’…to not just tell a story or get a certain ‘shot’, but to tell your story though a collection of photographs, capturing all the joy that fills your soul. Amy resides in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. Outside of photography, her life is full of faith, family, fashion, food, and all sorts of DIY projects. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: