|Making One From Many
A Composite Image of a Lunar Eclipse
by Kelvin Taylor
As a photographer I sometimes want to create a single image from several individual images.
The idea is to incorporate the subjects and/or backgrounds from a series of shots taken over
time, and combine them into one composition. This is especially true when shooting time
In this tutorial I will show you how to create a composite. By definition a composite image is
a photograph or other image that is made from the combination of multiple images merged
into a single plane. The steps can be simple or complex depending on what the photographer
or artist is trying to accomplish. To demonstrate this technique I’ll use my most recent work
a lunar eclipse from August 29, 2007.
The camera settings will vary depending on the specific model, and features of your camera
so don’t take mine listed here as the only ones that will work. My advice is to do some test
shots at different f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO settings to achieve the desired result. Don’t
forget about your white balance. It can make a huge difference in the outcome of your shot.
Subject: Lunar eclipse
Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro 1 with lens at 200mm focal length
Shooting parameters: ISO 50, 1/20 sec at f/5.6.
White balance setting: Cloudy
Timer delay: 2 seconds
Other equipment: tripod, lens cap (prevent condensation on the lens), lawn chair, bug spray
and chocolate candy. Coffee is optional, but may be needed by some this time of morning.
Editing software: PhotoShop Elements 5.0
Step 1: Go out and take some shots!
I woke up at 3:55 am Tuesday morning. The eclipse started about 4:50 am so I had time to
find a good spot with a clear view of the western sky. I decided to take a series of shots
spaced about 5 minutes or so apart. My total shooting time was about 2 hours. From where I
was in eastern North Carolina, the sunrise prevented me from seeing the entire eclipse. I did,
however, get to see the moon go completely dark.
Step 2: Review the images and select which ones to use in the composite.
Out of 25 shots I selected 12 images to use. This would give me the time frame I was
looking for. Now to Step 3.
Step 3: Open, copy and paste.
After opening all 12 files in PhotoShop Elements 5, I used the Rectangular Marquee Tool to
draw a square around the moon (see Figure 1).
Selecting the subject
Arranging the moons
Digital Composites Using Adobe Photoshop Elements 5
Next I cut the selection and pasted it onto a blank white background (see Figure 2).
The reason I choose white background was it allowed me to position each moon in a
diagonal series so they would appear evenly spaced. Once I was finished with the cut and
pasting, the next step was to color the background to a dark night sky.
Step 4: Make a night sky.
Using the Eyedropper Tool I changed the color palette to black. Next I used the Paint Bucket
Tool to change the entire background to black (see Figure 3).
At this point I notice the “night sky” was a bit plain so I decided to it needed some cosmic
additions. Using the Pencil Tool at a very small pixel size I dotted the background with
specks of different colors. Then I used the Blur Tool at 40% strength to blend the “stars”
into a fuzzy display.
Step 5: Resize, sharpen and save.
The final steps were resize to the desired dimensions, sharpen and save. The end result was a
composite of 12 images blended into one.
Night sky background
I hope this tutorial inspires you create some of your own composites. Don’t be afraid to
experiment and have fun trying something new. Questions and comments are welcome.