Photoshop Head Swap Tutorial

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You’ve asked, we are delivering! I’m going to aim for a PHOTO TIP TUESDAY post each week,  I’m scared to announce that–that I won’t keep up with it, but if I don’t announce it, it really won’t happen! So watch for some photography tips on Tuesdays. I’ve got a handful of fabulous photographer friends helping me out in this effort, and today we get to hear from Shari Hanson, my photography friend in California.


Hello again!  I’m so happy to be guest posting again here on Kristen’s blog!  Today I’m sharing a tutorial on how to do a head-swap using Photoshop.

When I am shooting groups, especially groups with wiggly little ones, I try to snap a lot of pictures in each pose so that if I need to do a head-swap in post-processing, I will have plenty of options.

In this image, everyone looked great except big sister was looking in a different direction…so, let’s fix it!

STEP 1:  Find another image with the same pose – preferably with the head/body in relatively the same position, facing the same direction.  I found that the image I snapped right after this one, she was looking at the camera, so I chose to use that one.

NOTE:  Make sure both images are exposed the same, otherwise it will be VERY obvious that you’ve swapped a head if it’s darker or lighter than the rest of the faces in the picture.  Make any necessary adjustments to exposure and white balance in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom before opening your images.

STEP 2:  Open both images in Photoshop and set up your display so that you can see both images at the same time by choosing Window>Arrange>Tile OR Float All In Windows.

STEP 3:  Use the Lasso Tool to select the area you are swapping.  Try to keep a small border around the head because it makes blending easier later.

STEP 4:  Choose the Move Tool (or just press V) and drag the selection over to the other image and place over the other face.

STEP 5:  Now that you’ve dragged the face onto this image, you will see a new layer in your layers palette.  Turn the opacity down to 50%.  This will make it easier to see where the original face is as you carefully position the new face.

STEP 6:  As you are adjusting the position, you may need to resize or even tilt the new layer to match it up better.  Ctrl + T (free transform) will allow you to do this.  To resize, hold the Shift key down while you click and hold one of the corners.  (If you don’t hold shift, it will be distorted! so be careful!)  Once you’re satisfied that it’s the right size and at the right angle, hit Enter to release the free transform.

STEP 7:  Change the layer opacity back to 100% and turn the layer on/off to see if it looks like it’s in the right place.  If not, make the necessary adjustments before moving on.

STEP 8:  Create a layer mask by clicking on the little box with a circle in it located at the bottom of the layers palette.  Once you click on that, you should see a white box within that layer.

STEP 9:  Blend the layers together.  Use a soft round brush and select black as your foreground color.  (**NOTE:  black HIDES and white REVEALS)  Start brushing over the perimeter of the face/head area.  As you do this, you’ll start seeing the layer underneath as you HIDE parts of the top layer by brushing over different areas.  I started with the top of her head/hair and then continued by hiding everything below her chin – this way her hair will match up as well as her necklace.

STEP 10:  Zoom in on the face and check all the details to make sure you haven’t missed anything or if anything looks weird you can use a white brush to clean it up.  (NOTE:  use X to toggle back and forth between black and white as you edit to save time)  Here you can see that there is a small area by her chin/cheek that needed to be cleaned up.

STEP 11:  Once you’ve checked all the details, ZOOM OUT to see the whole picture.  Then turn the layer on/off a few times to check if it looks natural or not.  I’ve included a gif below to show you what that looks like:

STEP 12:  If you’re satisfied with the swap, go ahead and flatten your layers and then save the image.  Hopefully it’s so good that no one would EVER know!

This method works great for swapping closed eyes as well — just follow the same steps!  You’ll be amazed at how easy it is after you try it a few times!
That was amazing, Shari, you taught me a new trick! I’ve done this the HARD way, your tips are so much easier. I’ll be referring back to this–love seeing the moving GIF file in action, you rock!
If you’re in Southern California, get in touch with Shari for Family Portraits this fall, she’s fabulous!  She took ours on the beach two years ago when we were visiting.

Want more photography tips? I’ve got lots!  CLICK HERE to see all of them, more specifically:

How to Start a Photography Business

How to Shoot a Great Silhouette



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