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How to Merge Photos in Affinity Photo: A Step-by-Step Guide

merge photos in affinity photo

If you want to merge photos in Affinity Photo, the process is surprisingly simple. But there are a few tips and tricks that will help you merge two or more photos – and help you make adjustments so your final image looks just the way you want it.

Digital imaging allows for endless manipulation and combining of photographs. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve will make for a more efficient workflow. If you’re more interested in messing around and experimenting with how you can merge photos in Affinity, give yourself some time to play around. The possibilities are endless.

Getting started with merging photos may seem daunting. But the tools in Affinity Photo are designed to help you merge photos easily. The process can be completed quickly or it can take ages, depending on the photos you choose and the degree of detail you want.

Merge photos in Affinity Photo
Here’s a Tuktuk driver leaning on his vehicle in Khao San Road, Bangkok. This part of the city is very popular with budget travelers and is known for its bars and cheap accommodations.

What is a photo merge in Affinity Photo?

A photo merge in Affinity Photo is the combination of two or more images to create a new one. You can merge similar or very different images. 

For instance, I love creating photomontages. This involves merging many photos to create a single, cubist-like picture.

Merging several near-identical photos with different exposure values is known as high dynamic range (HDR) blending. You can also take a series of photos to make a panoramic image and merge them in Affinity Photo. These are very specific merging techniques that will not be covered in this article – but you will notice there are options under the top File menu for these functions.

In this article, I’ll take you through a step-by-step workflow for how to merge two photos in Affinity Photo. This will be helpful if you have two similar images you want to combine into one final, great-looking result.

For example:

If you’ve taken some portraits and your subject has blinked in many of the photos, you can use this technique to select their eyes from a photo where they are open and merge them with photos where their eyes are closed. That way, you can combine the best pose and facial expression with the best shot of your subject’s eyes.

two photos merged of a woman blinking
© Kevin Landwer-Johan | Nikon D800 | 85mm | 1/800s | f/2.8 | ISO 400

How to merge photos in Affinity: A step-by-step guide

Now let’s take a look at how to merge two images in Affinity Photo, starting with:

Step 1: Select your photos

One of the most critical aspects of merging photos in Affinity is selecting suitable images. This depends on what your aim is. You may want to create a very realistic-looking merge, or you might want to make an image that is a complete fantasy. 

Knowing what you want to achieve with your merge project will guide you in selecting photos. Picking photos taken with the same or a similar focal length lens is important when you want to achieve a realistic look. Trying to combine one photo taken with a 20mm lens and another with a 200mm lens will not look natural.

Photos taken from a similar perspective are also easier to merge for a more natural look. If you have one image taken from a low angle and the other taken looking down from above, then it will be very difficult to merge them so the final image looks realistic.

Lighting is also an important consideration. Having one of your photos taken in the shade and the other in full sunshine will make it more challenging to combine them for a natural-looking result.

To keep things simple, I am using two photos taken with the same lens and at the same location from a similar perspective:

Tuktuk driver in Bangkok for merging
This Tuktuk driver photo will be used for the background.
Nikon D700 | 20mm | 1/250s | f/5.6 | ISO 400
© Kevin Landwer-Johan
guy with a flaming wallet for merging
This guy with a flaming wallet will be merged with the background image.
Nikon D700 | 20mm | 1/125s | f/4 | ISO 400
©Kevin Landwer-Johan

Step 2: Combine and size your images

Select the photo you want as the foreground. Copy and paste it onto your background image. 

If one of the photos is bigger than the other, you’ll need to resize it. Select the Move Tool from the Tools panel (or tap the “V” key to select it).

Then click on the layer you want to resize in the Layers panel. Click and drag a corner of the bounding box that surrounds the photo. If you are resizing the background layer, you’ll first need to check the padlock icon in the Layers Panel to unlock it.

You can reduce the opacity of your top layer as you resize and position your photos. Drag the slider in the Layers panel down to about 50%. This makes it easier to see when your photo is the right size and in the best location. Then turn the opacity level back up to 100% again.

Affinity photo screen grab

Step 3: Mask out unwanted content

Using the Selection Brush Tool (“W” on the keyboard), carefully select the areas of the foreground photo that you want to keep. This tool will auto-select based on contrast. So where there are elements with little contrast between what you’re selecting and the background, you may have to manually refine your selection.

Zoom in on problem areas and reduce the brush size, then select with precision. In places where the selection accidentally covers an area you don’t want to select, press and hold the Alt key (Option on a Mac) and paint over the area to deselect it.

Finally, look over the entire edge of your selection to ensure you’ve only selected areas that you want to be selected.

Once you’re satisfied with your selection, click the Refine button in the Tool menu above the image. A dialogue box will appear with various options, all designed to help you refine your selection. Use the various sliders to make adjustments. How much you need to move the sliders is somewhat based on the size and resolution of the photos you’re working on.

When you’re finished, click Apply.

At the bottom of the Layers panel, click on the Mask Layer icon. This is a light rectangle with a dark circle in it. The unwanted parts of your image will become masked out. You can make further alterations to this layer mask using the Brush tool. To remove more of the image, paint with a black brush. You can switch to a white brush to restore the areas you painted out.

Affinity photo screen grab illustrating refining a selection

Step 4: Make further adjustments

Now your two images should be merged and looking more how you want them to.

However, depending on the photos you’re working with, you may still want to make some changes. If the lighting in both photos is different, you can use a Linear or Radial Gradient filter to add light. 

In my example, I used a Blur filter on the background image to help create a sense of depth. To do this, select Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur from the top menu. Move the slider until you have a satisfactory amount of blur.

I also used a Levels adjustment on my background layer so that it better matched the tones of my foreground photo.

This step can be endless. There are many adjustments you can make to get your two photos looking as similar or as different as you like.

merge photos in Affinity screen grab

How to merge photos in Affinity: conclusion

You can merge photos in Affinity Photo with great ease and effectiveness.

Note that having a clear idea of what you want to create helps speed up the process of merging images. When you are not sure of the final outcome, you can spend endless hours experimenting until you get a result you are happy with.

Practice with the various tools and learn how to use them well. Duplicating your layers and preserving the originals is a good safety step. If you’ve duplicated your layers and hidden them, you can always revert back to the original if you make a mistake or overwork a layer.

Have fun while you learn to merge photos in Affinity. Take your time, experiment, and be as creative as you like!

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Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with over 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his e-books and his website.

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