The effect of double exposure with the silhouette in Photoshop

If you have not seen Taylor Swift’s clip on her hit Style (Style), then be sure to watch it!

As you might have guessed, the video is very stylistic, and contains amazing inspirational effects with silhouettes and double exposure.

In this series of lessons, I will look at some of these effects and show you how to recreate them in Adobe Photoshop.

We will start with a high contrast profile profile, inside which is a beach scene. This effect requires a special profile snapshot, and I decided to make it myself.

1. Photo session

This image with strong backlighting is an integral part of the whole process of recreating the effect. Instead of looking for a suitable image on the Internet, I took my daughter (fan Taylor Swift, ready to participate in the project with joy!) As a model for creating an effect.

Step 1

The background must be completely white so that we can simulate the effect of the video. We can do this with a background of white muslin or even an ordinary white sheet. Do not forget to leave space behind the background for highlighting.

Step 2

If possible, use as a source of light a large, brightly illuminated sun window. Natural light will create a surprisingly warm glow, and will also look beautiful when penetrating the background fabric. If nothing comes out of the sunlight, a large and powerful spotlight will also work. I set mine approximately to the same height as the model, and pushed it about 2-3 feet away from the background (note: 1 foot = 30.48 cm.)

Dim the rest of the room, and the full installation will look something like this.

Step 3

Attempts to get the camera to take a good picture in the case of a highly illuminated background can be something terrifying. Light background combined with a dark silhouette can confuse camera sensors. The best way out in this case will be shooting in full manual mode (full Manual). Here are the settings I used:

  • Diaphragm: f/four
  • Shutter speed: 1/60 second
  • ISO: 400

Take a few test shots to adjust the shooting settings for your camera to get a picture with a strongly illuminated background, but with the perfect silhouette of the model – there should be a faint light in the photo that reveals its features.

Step 4

Place the model sideways, directly opposite the light source for the profile photo. Tell her to expose a little and lift her chin. It will look unnatural and even silly, but it will give us the ideal profile bends for the project.

I have attached my photo for this tutorial. Profile silhouette (ProfileSourse.jpg). I fully support you in creating your own snapshot for this project, but if the materials or the time do not allow it – use my snapshot to continue working on this lesson, which you can download from the link at the beginning of the lesson.

2. Processing Snapshots

Now that the snapshot is ready, it’s time to apply digital magic. The effect, which served as a source of inspiration, was a very smooth background and sharp silhouette lines. Our profile picture turned out to be quite close to this, but we didn’t hit the target a little more. The background is nice and bright, but there are noticeable folds on the fabric. To isolate the model when working with the background, we use a two-level technique: one for soft lines of the face, and the second for the area with hair.

Step 1

Open the image in Photoshop and retouch the necessary areas, for example, distracting hairs or obvious skin imperfections with SpotHealingBrush(Spot Healing Brush).

Step 2

Duplicate the background layer and name it. FaceShape (Face Form). Use the tool Pen (P) (Feather) to create a contour around the silhouette. Do not waste your efforts trying to pinpoint the contour of the hair precisely – just draw it along the edge. Then click on LayerVectorMaskCurrentPath(Layers – Vector mask – Active contour). This is the best way to create a dense, even selection with an object.

Step 3

Hide the Face Shape layer and create another duplicate of the background layer. Then use the tool QuickSelection (W) (Quick selection) to highlight the shape of the profile, focusing on areas with hair.

Translator’s Note: on the screenshot layer HairShape

Step 4

Press the button RefineEdge(Refine edge) to refine the selected area. Install Radius(Radius) on five pixels, Feather(Feathering) – on 2.5 pixel. Then use the tool RefineRadius(Specify radius) to clarify the contour of the hair. In the graph OutputTo(Output to) select LayerMask(Layer mask) and click OK.

Step 5

Select a background layer in the layers panel and clickLayerSmartObjectsConverttoSmartObject(Layers – Smart Object – Convert to Smart Object). Next, apply the filter GaussianBlur(Blur according to Gauss) with a radius of 40 pixels This will remove the folds on the fabric in the background, but it will leave a strange glow around our model.

Step 6

Use the tool Brush (B) (Brush) black, medium size and low stiffness to paint on the smart filter mask. Draw around the contour of the profile to gently hide the blur effect, and thereby remove the dark glow.

Step 7

Add a new layer and name it. Vignette(Vignette). Make sure the foreground color is black. Then use the tool Gradient (G) (Gradient) set to Radial(Radial gradient), gradient type – ForegroundtoTransparent(From basic to transparent). Tick ​​the box Reverse(Invert) and draw a gradient from the center of the image to create shaded corners.

Step 8

Add adjustment layer Curves(Curves) and place the dots on the curves like this, to increase the contrast of the image, and make sure the bright areas are white and beautiful.

You may notice that blurring the background could have been done without creating two layers. This is true, however, this technique of isolating an object from the background using two different layers with masks is very useful and will work in almost any situation. Therefore, I decided that this is a standing technique that should be shown, as you may need it when working with your photos.

3. Drawing up the second photo

The picture in the Taylor Swift clip, which inspired me to this project, also has a second image that we see through its profile. The second image shows the exit from the cave, which is surprisingly well placed in its profile, and a fascinating snapshot of her lover on the beach. In our project we will create a way out of the cave from several images from the Internet and use the family photo on the beach instead of the guy. (Yes, I am a father, what did you expect?)

Step 1

We use images that can be downloaded from the links at the beginning of the lesson.

Step 2

Open the first cave image and upload it to the project file. Transform until it approximately fits along the right side of the profile, as shown in the image below. Positioning the transformed image will be easier if you lower it first. Opacity(Opacity) layer. When you put the image back in place, restore the full Opacity and use a layer mask and a soft brush to hide parts of the image so that it remains only inside the profile.

Translator’s Note: on the screenshot layer Cave one

Step 3

Use the same technique to add the top and left sides of the cave with the second image. I used the same image twice, and just turned it so that the edge of the cave coincided with the edge of the previous image.

Step 4

Insert a family image into the document and reduce Opacity(Opacity) up to 75%. Position the image so that the family is located in the exit loop of the cave, and the horizon line is located approximately between the lips and the nose of the profile.

Step 5

Hide the family layer and use the tool. QuickSelection (W) (Quick Selection) to highlight an area with a cave exit. Then, turn on the visibility of the layer with the family again and reinstall Opacity(Opacity) at 100%. Use the selected area as a layer mask.

Step 6

Add adjustment layer Hue/Saturation(Hue / Saturation) using the previous layer as a clipping mask. You can do this by clicking LayerCreateClippingMask(Layer – Create Clipping Mask) (Alt/OptionCtrl/CmdG). Then select Red(Red) channel in the properties panel of the Hue / Saturation layer layer and reduce Saturation(Saturation) to 47. It will slightly dampen the distracting orange tone in the sky on the image of the family.

4. Finishing the effect

Now that both our images have been completely drawn up and positioned, it’s time to add the final touches to the effect, and to make the style of the whole project very similar to the Taylor style!

Step 1

Pinch Shift and select all the layers that make up the image of the cave, as well as the layer with the image of the family. Group them in one group by clicking LayerGroupLayers (Layers – Group Layers)(Ctrl/CmdG) and change the group’s blending mode to LighterColor (Lighter).

Step 2

Add a layer mask to the group and use a soft round brush to gently draw along the edges of the profile, as if quietly blending the inside image with the profile. Add a LinearGradient(Linear gradient) to the bottom of the mask to loosen the bottom of the image too.

Step 3

Add adjustment layer Hue/Saturation(Hue / Saturation) above the group. Install Saturation(Saturation) on 54 and Lightness(Brightness) on +12. This will create a faded view, as we saw in the video.

Step 4

In general, the effect was quite warm, while the video was almost completely in cold tones. Therefore, add an adjustment layer. PhotoFilter(Photo Filter) and select CoolingFilter (80) (Cold filter (80)), reduce Density(Density) up to 8%.


Now we have an amazing double exposure image that looks exactly like the effect on video. Use this technique with your photos. Look for ways to combine images to create exciting compositions with style!

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