Ghost Rider by Hartwig HKD on Flickr.

How to Create Ghostly Composite Photos With Adobe Photoshop

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Pin to Pinterest
+

Let's have a little fun with creating a photographic spooky image of ghosts and apparitions. There are more than a few ways to get the job the done, but here is a fast and simple way to capture a “ghost” simply by utilizing some post production magic.

after-desaturate

Using Photoshop, you can create “ghosts” in just a handful of relatively basic steps. To get started you'll need to find two images that will serve as your background and “ghost”. Here are the two I selected. The forest scene is a photo I took on a foggy morning hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The second is a cool, old photo I found in the Creative Commons that had the appropriate liscence to allow it to be modified.

This is the image I selected to use as a background. I liked how the fog gave it extra creepy factor.

This is the image I selected to use as a background. I liked how the fog gave it extra creepy factor.

  1.  Once you have the images you are going to use selected, go ahead and open them up in Photoshop and make any minor tweaks and adjustments that need to be done (i.e. curves, exposure, shadows, etc…). 
  2. Next, go to the window of the image you are using as your ghost and select the magnetic lasso tool. We'll be using it to select the person that will serve as our “ghost.” (Just a quick tip: When you are choosing the “ghost” photo, it will make this step a lot easier if the subject doesn't blend into the background.) Select the the subject the best you can by tracing around their edge like I have shown in the screensnap below. It doesn't have to be perfect at this point, we'll fix it in the next step. (One more quick tip: A graphics tablet is a useful tool that makes this insanely easy!)

    Use the magnetic lasso tool to roughly outline your subject. In this case, the two girls.

    Use the magnetic lasso tool to roughly outline your subject. In this case, the two girls.

  3. Once you have your selection made, navigate to Select > Refine Edge. Now tweak the sliders until the edges of the subject look just right. I prefer a softer edge that was feathered a bit so the edges will appear to be slightly fuzzy and fall off into the background of the final image.  Once you have it just right, press OK. Here are the settings I used, but these will vary by case:

    For best results,refine the edges of your selection that will give a blurry, feathered edge.

    For best results,refine the edges of your selection that will give a blurry, feathered edge.

  4. Now, press CTRL + C on Windows or CMD + C on Mac to copy the selection you made in Step 3. Navigate over to the image you selected as your background and press CTRL + V or CMD + V to paste the selection onto the image. Once the selection appears on the background, press CTRL + T or CMD + T to transform the image. You'll need to resize the “ghost” to scale it to the contents of the background. Depending on your images, it will most likely need to be made larger or smaller. Use the Move Tool to drag the “ghost” to precise location you want it to appear. 

    Paste the "ghosts" in and use the transform tool to scale and move them to the right spot.

    Paste the “ghosts” in and use the transform tool to scale and move them to the right spot.

We're almost done! All we need to do now is adjust the Blend mode and Opacity settings to give the “ghost” it's ghostly aesthetic. Make sure the “ghost” layer is still selected then start working your way through the blend modes, seeing which one you like best. I settled on “Overlay” then moved on to the Opacity slider. Here are the settings I ultimately went with.

Browse through blend modes and Opacity settings on the "ghost" layer until it's just right.

Browse through blend modes and Opacity settings on the “ghost” layer until it's just right.

After completing all those steps, I was left with this spooky image:

after-opacity



At this point, feel free to experiment with your image to give it an even more scary feel if you so desire. To me, there is something inherently creepy about many black and white images so I decided to try the look in black in white, too. Not entirely happy with it, I added a soft glow and changed the paper tones up a bit using Nik Color Efex Pro, to create the very first image you saw in this post. This is all part of the creative process so find what works for you and run with it!

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Pin to Pinterest
+
The following two tabs change content below.
Tiffany Mueller is an adventurer and photographer based in Hawaii. When she's not climbing volcanoes or swimming with sharks, you can find her writing articles and running the official blog at PhotoBlog.

One thought on “How to Create Ghostly Composite Photos With Adobe Photoshop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *