Head Swapping Tutorial | Oahu Family Photographer

Head swapping. We (the photographers) try to nail it in one shot, but in the case of wiggly children or Aunt Sally closing her eyes during a family reunion photo shoot, we have all come across that awesome image where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera, except for one person. All is not lost, however, because we have the power of Adobe Photoshop at our fingertips.

I will admit that since taking on a more candid and relaxed approach to family photography, I don’t mind it when a child ends up looking in another direction (especially if that direction works in my favor). There are times where a client (and even myself) needs that image with everyone looking at the camera, that’s why I usually shoot a couple frames of the same pose in case I need to switch out expressions later on.

The image (taken last year) I will be working on is a perfect example of when a head swap is needed. Before going further, a quick and adorable article on basic masking in Photoshop is explained by following this link HERE. I also use a Wacom Tablet (I have THIS model) because it’s more precise and easier for me, but a mouse works fine. Now, let’s examine below…

I adore the left image where everyone is holding hands and are close together, but the girls’ expressions are off (Miss on the left is not relaxed and Miss on the right blinked). With the second image, Mister is paying more attention to the sand ;). With a little Photoshop knowledge, I will take the girls’ heads from the image on the right and put them on the left!

Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family Photographer

Step 1: Bring the two images into Photoshop, select the areas you want to copy over to your final image, copy and paste.

Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family Photographer

Step 2: Once the images have been pasted over, they will appear as new layers. You will now want to hit the mask button to create the layer mask for each image. My awesome little red marks show you where to do that ;).

Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family Photographer

Step 3: I always lower the opacity of the head swap image and move it over the original head to line everything up. Then I return the opacity back to 100%.
Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family PhotographerStep 4: Once everything is lined up, you will want to mask off areas of the layer until everything looks blended. Remember if your layer mask is white, you will use a black brush. If your layer mask is black, you will use a white brush. You can see where I masked off in the image below…
Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family PhotographerHonolulu Natural Light Oahu Family PhotographerHonolulu Natural Light Oahu Family PhotographerAnd that’s it! I cleaned up the image a bit (I already edited it before working on the head swaps) more, but I’m done! Easy, right? Now go practice!
Honolulu Natural Light Oahu Family Photographer