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Ever wish you could be in more places at once? I think we all eventually find ourselves in the position where that would be handy, but probably not recommended in real life. This is a compilation of a number of shots in my main studio space. It was really my first foray into multiplicity image manipulation. Multiplicity essentially involves taking a number of photos and blending them into one primary shot for a unique image. This particular image is a compilation of 5 shots.

Compilation Images

How To: Multiplicity/Cloning in Photoshop


Final Image


How is is done? Here are some tips…

  1. The Shoot. You’ll need to decide what your overall image should look like. For this image, I decided to go with something simple and the place I spend my most creative moments in — my office.
  2. Light. This is really important. Having complete control of the light is always easier for multiplicity and cloning images. Why? Keep in mind that the light reaching your primary subject(s) needs to be constant so that it looks like the entire photo was shot all at one time. That’s the fun of multiplicity. You’re creating the impossible.  Shot outside, you need to move very, very quickly and it helps if it’s a cloudless day. Have 3 bright images, 2 medium images and one dark image…really doesn’t blend well when you’re assembling the final image. Of course, you can use Photoshop to overcome these obstacles and that may be worthwhile on a paid shoot, but it’s probably not worth your time if you’re doing it for fun. My recommendation? Do this in a controlled environment like a studio or interior building space of some kind. It gives you more time and the lighting remains a bit more constant. Try out this process and you’ll see what I mean.
  3. Initial Processing. (also found in Step 7) You may wish to actually take all of your images in Camera RAW or Lightroom or some other program and make all of your image quality adjustments before you start composing your image. Whatever works best for your workflow.
  4. Image Selection. So now you have your images, preferable taken in your system’s native RAW format. Decide which images make the most sense for your overall product and make your image selections. For me, the easiest way was to take and all of the images as layers in Photoshop, then reduce the opacity of each layer so that you can faintly see the images all at one time. If some don’t make sense, cull them. Once you have your final selection of images, get rid of what you don’t need. Now you’re ready for the magic.
  5. Blending in Photoshop. The basic idea here is to pick one primary image where everything is in focus — tack sharp. If they’re all in focus, that’s great. That not always being the case, find the best one and place it on the bottom layer. Turn off all your other layers, then turn on the second layer (the one on top of your bottom layer), apply a mask to this layer, invert the mask (CMD+I or CTRL+I) so that the layer mask is black. Now you see your original layer. Click “B” on your keyboard to get into brush mode. Go in with a fairly hard brush, hit “X” on your keyboard to give you the default brush colors. Use a white brush color (toggle back and forth between black (conceal) and white (reveal) and use white to reveal the part of the second image you’d like to be visible. Use your opacity control on the second layer to see what you’re working with without completely covering the first image. Start revealing this second image with your brush. If you reveal too much, just hit “X” again turning your brush to black, then conceal the part of that image where too much was revealed. It doesn’t have to be exact because the background should be completely the same in every image except for spot where the person or objects of interest appear in a different location.\
  6. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Use the above process to add each cloned image into your overall image in a different location. Take care to examine which images you want located on top of other images. For example, if you want one version of you to show up nearer to the camera’s point of view than others, move that image further down in the stack of layers, nearer the base image. It’s up to you how many images you’d like to include.
  7. Finishing. Once your entire image composition is complete, you have a couple of options for making adjustments to the overall image. You can group all of the layers together and apply and adjustment layer to the group or duplicate this group, merge all of the layers, then flatten all of the images in that group while still maintaining a separate copy of each layer in the group beneath it. I chose to flatten the final image, keeping the original layers in a separate group beneath it, then made my final adjustments to that layer. You don’t have quite as much control over the image when it’s flattened, but for my purposes, this was more than okay. You may wish to actually take all of your images in Camera RAW or Lightroom or some other program and make all of your image quality adjustments before you start composing your image. Whatever works best for your workflow.

And that’s it. You now have an interesting multiplicity/cloning shot. You can use this technique outdoors, indoors, to show a series of action shots or even just to create a simple image like the one shown here. The sky is the limit. The most important thing is to have fun with it. You’ll naturally get better at it along the way. Just takes a bit of practice.]

I hope your new year is off to a fantastic start and if you have any questions at all about how this is done, contact me anytime or leave a note in the comments. Enjoy!