Cut and Paste Portraiture

I have a confession to make: Not all of the portraits you see on this blog (or in my books) come from a single image file. Sometimes, maybe about 2-3% of the time, the facial expression I like on the subject isn’t the pose I like. Typically I will make several variations on the same scene, shooting through a pose, sometimes zooming the lens sometimes just zooming my body to arrive at the final cropping. If you missed my take on cropping—I hate it—you can read about it in my post “To Crop or Not To Crop: That is the Question.”


Let’s take the below images of Kim. I really liked her body position and the image’s overall cropping but didn’t like her expression. A few frames later I made the right-hand shot but it felt cramped and I preferred the looser copping of the left-hand image. What to do? Cut and Paste.

I opened the files in Adobe Photoshop. Working first with the right-hand image, I used the Rectangular Selection tool to select an area around her face. Tip: If you try this, make the selection a little bigger than you need. Then I pasted the selection onto the left-hand image. Use the Zoom tool and set the opacity of the pasted layer to 50% and then resize the top layer to get it to match the bottom layer. This may take several tries so be patient, gradually resizing until it’s perfect. Tip: I always use the eyes as a reference.

pam.cutNext, use the Move tool to, well, move the top layer around so the two layers match and then increase the opacity to 100%. Next use the Eraser tool with a soft-edged brunch to gently erase the edges of your selection blending top and bottom layers. When you’ve got it where you like it, flatten the layer. Next I retouched the portrait using a lot of the tools I mention here, including this time Nik Dfine because the images were shot at ISO 1000.

Important—This is not journalism, photojournalism, documentary photography or the news. Portraits are, as Richard Avedon one said, “a picture of somebody having their photograph made.” And since Daguerre people have retouched and manipulated portraits to create an idealized version of the


Joe is the author of  “Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography.” You can pick up a copy at your local camera store, favorite bookseller as well as

Author: Joe Farace

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