How to Fix a Botched Tourist Photo in Photoshop

How to Fix a Botched Tourist Photo in Photoshop

Samantha Decker (see her Flickr Account here)shows us how she merged two photos together to get a better photographic memory of her trip to France.


I recently took a trip to Europe with my parents, and throughout the whole trip, we only got one picture of all three of us, because I didn’t like the idea of giving my precious camera to a stranger to take one. Well, when I finally caved in front of the Eiffel Tower, the person who took it didn’t even bother to get the whole Tower in the shot with us! Realizing the shot was far from suitable for framing in its current state, I did a little creative Photoshopping and masked me and my parents in front of a picture I took of the Tower around the same time.

NOTE: This works best if both photos were taken from roughly the same distance, same perspective, same time of day, and same settings.

First, open up both images in Photoshop. You’ll need to take the one with the people in it and paste it as a new layer on top of your other picture (CTRL+A to select all and CTRL+C to copy, then CTRL+V to paste when you’re at the other picture). It’s important that your subjects be the correct size, or the Photoshopping will be too evident.

In my case, I ended up completely removing the botched Eiffel Tower from the image and just left me and my parents masked in front of the Tower, but in most cases, you will want to blend the two Towers (landmarks, etc.). To make the landmarks roughly the same size, lower the opacity of the top layer to about 50 so you can see both at once. Press CTRL+T to transform the layer.


Now you can move it around freely without having to select the Move tool. You can drag the corners in to make it smaller and out to make it bigger. It’s wise to make sure the height/width ratio is locked so you don’t distort the layer (click the chain link icon in the options panel up top). You may need to rotate the layer, by dragging the cursor in the direction you want it to go. When you’ve got them about right, click the check sign up in the options panel to accept the transformation.

Now it’s time to make a layer mask! Select Layer–>Layer Mask–>Reveal All. If you’re familiar with masks, this next part will be a cinch for you. If you’re a stranger to layer masks, sit tight because it’s not hard at all!

Make sure you have the Brush tool selected. Next, make sure black is your foreground color and white is your background colors (if not, just click the little icon next to your colors that resets them). To start you will want a very large brush with a hardness of 0. Paint away the top of the monument attempting to find a good place to blend the top and bottom layer seamlessly.

At some point, you’ll want to bring the opacity of the top layer back up to 100. If you can’t (I couldn’t), you’ll have to make the brush size much smaller (probably in the 50-150 range depending on the size of your image) and the hardness around 50-75. Then paint in as close to the people in your picture as you can.

At any time, you can undo any painting mistakes by pressing X (makes white your foreground colors) and painting back the layer, then press X again to continue masking. The beauty of this as opposed to taking any old pic of your family and sticking them in front of a monument if they weren’t really there is that the surroundings should make the masking much less obvious. When you’re all done you can choose to flatten your image and save it or save it as a PSD and come back to it later.


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Some Older Comments

  • sovi March 28, 2010 06:31 pm

    how lucky we are if we have an opportunity to see some beautiful places in this world...

    nice info..thank you

  • Rick June 28, 2009 09:10 am

    An alternate method in GIMP would be to extract the three people in the first shot and add them in at a strategic spot in the second.

  • Marriedin79 June 25, 2009 02:53 am


    Yes, you can do this in PSE. It doesn't have a mask option like Photoshop does; however, you can get around it by creating an adjustment layer (i.e. Levels). Immediately close out of the adjustment layer without making any adjustments. Then click on the mask thumbnail and go ahead with the painting as the article suggests.

  • Reid June 22, 2009 11:32 am

    Hugin (the panorama tool recently discussed) is really good at this kind of thing too -- less fiddly than the above steps.

    If you want to use pixels from just one image in some areas, you can export the transformed images as TIFFs, paint in transparency on the non-desired images in the appropriate places, and then blend as a separate step.

  • Eliza June 19, 2009 10:27 pm

    The exact same thing happened to me when they took my picture in front of the Eiffel Tower and I fixed it the exact same way :)

  • Melissa June 19, 2009 10:03 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial! I'm sure everyone can use this trick to fix up a photo or 2.

  • bee June 19, 2009 07:10 pm

    Such an easy trick for great holiday photos - a shame I didn't do it till today... Thanks for this idea!

  • Royce Bair - YourPhotoVision June 19, 2009 12:40 pm

    Can you do this with PS Elements, or just the regular Photoshop?

  • Reznor June 19, 2009 10:34 am

    I use the same technique when I take photos of groups. There's always someone blinking or looking funny, so I take a series of shots in continuous shooting mode and then paint the best versions of every person into a single image. Since all the shots are taken in a row, they are pretty much aligned but Photoshop does a good job aligning images when they weren't in the first place.

  • Alex Bischoff June 19, 2009 08:57 am

    Perhaps Photoshop's Photomerge function might make the interim steps a bit more automatic?