Perfect Group Photo Without Accidental Disfigurement in 10 Steps for PSE 12

10 steps to create the perfect group shot, and cure accidental deformation using Photoshop Elements 12 PhotoMerge Group Shot tool

You know how there’s always at least one person with a finger inserted into a certain orifice—or hair in their eyes, or blinking, or crying—in every photo? And the idea of trying to “Photoshop” the right people in the right place causes you to break into a cold sweat?

Well, sweat no more. It’s so easy to take everybody’s best shot and combine them all into one perfect picture using the PSE 12 Group Shot PhotoMerge tool that you’ll want to PhotoMerge all the live long day.

*Note before we get started: I didn’t have any good PhotoMerge examples handy, and my regular photography victims were at school. So I had to resort to a couple alternatives.

Here’s the video tutorial, or you can continue reading for written step by step instructions and screenshots.

So let’s begin this glorious process. In the Guided mode.

Photoshop Elements 12 Photomerge Group Shot1. Click “Guided” there at the top, and open the photos (Ctrl + O) that have the pieces you would like to combine into the perfect photo. This can be accessed from the Quick and Expert modes as well. Also, you will want to do the PhotoMerge before you do any exposure, colorbalance, white balance or other tinkering of the kind, because your photos might not match each other.  

Photoshop Elements 12 how to open photomerge tool, group shot2.  Hold Ctrl as you click on each of the photos in the Photo Bin that you would like to be able to use it in your PhotoMerge session.

3. Click Enhance>PhotoMerge>PhotoMerge Group Shot

photoshop elements 12 how to fill the source and final photo panes4. Drag your best photo to the window on the right, the Final pane. This is where the compilation of adjustments to the photos you use in the left window, the Source pane, will show. I wanted Woody’s Gumby leg to show in the final, so I put that one in the right pane.

5. Double click on a photo you would like to place (partially) in the Final photo. It will appear in the left pane. I wanted to transfer Rapunzel’s natural and windblown tresses to the Final so she’s my source material on the left.

photoshop elements 12 how to align your photos in the photomerge tool6. Once you have a photo in each pane, the adjustments will be most precise if your photos are aligned. Plus there’s less chance of deformation and maiming of subjects when the photos are aligned. To align your photos use the Advanced Options in the lower part of the right side panel.

7. Each photo has 3 markers numbed 1-3. Place these markers on corresponding background points in each picture (not the subjects, or objects that may have moved. Must be stationary).

a. Click “Align Photos”

b. If you are pleased with the results click “Done” at the bottom of the panel. If not, try moving a marker. Keep in mind that if you move one, you must move the other of the same number to match. This process should be repeated every time you switch to a new source photo.

 photoshop elements 12 how to merge photos using the Pencil in the photomerge tool8. Click on the “Pencil Tool”, adjust the pencil size if necessary using the slider or—shortcut—use the bracket keys “ [ ] “. Outline the person or area that you would like to transfer to the final photo. I outlined Rapunzel. Boom. Rapunzel and her wild hair are in the Final.

photoshop elements 12 how to use the photomerge tool, eraser tool9. Beware extra limbs and other unnatural deformations. Inspect the Final photo for these abnormalities after you merge it with each source photo, it’s much easier to fix at this point than later.

a. If you encounter this problem, use the “Eraser Tool” to erase your Pencil markings around this subject. Refine your Pencil size and outline more carefully, so as to include or exclude this area properly.    

  • b. Also, look below the “Eraser Tool”. There are two little boxes (Show Strokes, Show Regions). Check the “Show Regions” box, which will illustrate the parts of the photo that will be taken from the source. That way you can adjust your Pencil outline accordingly, or even use the eraser on the areas you don’t want included in the final.

*Side note: My own nephew was tragically deformed by one photographer’s careless PhotoMerging. The final family photo included his terribly misshapen and discolored baby face. My daughter still asks “Who is that?” every time she sees the photo. A family tragedy.

10. If you have more than two photos to combine, repeat steps 5-8. If not, then you are DONE!

Now go forth and PhotoMerge without compunction. It’s so liberating. You’ll see.


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About the author

Cecilia Harvey

I'm a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I've also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.

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