Swapping heads in photoshop

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Now let me say that the actual “head swapping” isn’t too tricky, it’s the clean up that can be daunting.  A few years ago, I couldn’t do it at all, but I’ve practiced and now get quite pleased with myself after it’s done.  For clients, I don’t usually do it unless they ask.  Every once in a while, I’ll see the perfect shot–except someones eyes are closed, and I’ll swap before showing them.  I’ve found that if I swap after they’ve seen the images, they know what to look for, and even if it looks seamless, the image bugs them because they know “something” happened.

Let me show a few samples that I’ve done.

This first one was a clients’ session that I just shot a few weeks ago.  She wanted a lot of candid, but I was surprised when she ordered the above image b/c 2 of her kids were looking away while the others were all looking at me.  There were other great shots of everyone looking, but she was holding her daughter, and I think she wanted an image of her not holding her (I would too if I looked as slender as her in that cute dress).

She didn’t ask for a swap, but when I saw it, I said I’d give it a try.  Though there were other smiling images, they weren’t in the same setting and I don’t like to attempt swaps like that because it is a lot less natural.  (See the two on the left)

Before–above.  After–below.

I could have tried to find one of the boy on the left without his arm swinging, but he was on the trail and the background was tan, so thought I’d keep the arm.  The tree around his head still needs a little work, but if you didn’t know it was swapped, I think one might not know.

I first look for a simple background, and here we have the trees.  Not too tough to work around.  I swap mostly heads or sometimes head/shoulders.  I’ve tried to do just eyes, but haven’t found that to work to my advantage.

Another of my family…

I loved this image below (taken by my friend Katie Evans I put my logo on to prevent others taking it)  but my oldest daughter was covering her face and my baby looked cuter in the shot below.

This one I liked the girls…but not everyone else. I used the shot above and transferred the girls into it.  Tough b/c my older daughter had her legs up.


After cropping, editing out the lightswitch, picture frames, and glare on the wall, I turned it to black and white because I wanted to freeze the moment and the colors distracted a bit more (though I love the colors in other shots).  I love this moment frozen in time.  We often squish on this couch and read, so this just makes me happy. Does it make it more jaded because you know about the swap?  Not to me.  I’m ok with it:)

As with most things photoshop, there are several ways to do this but this is how I do it. Image below, I will swap the head of the boy in blue with the image below.

For easier swaps, I used the rectangular marquee tool.  It draws a box around the area . This is harder to use with a busier background, but with the tree here, it works.  We will just have to clean up the branchy area behind his head.

I hit contol C to copy in the 1st image and control V to past it onto the second image. See the square on mom’s leg below?


I hit control T for the square to highlight and drag it over to the “other” head. See below.

After lining up the shoulders the best I can, I hit the rec. marq. tool and it takes out the outline.  I can tell if I need to re-shift it at that point.  I need to flatten the layers to clean up the edges, so I do that.  Layer, flatten.  You can see where the edges need to be cleaned.

I love the patch tool (great for blemishes as well).  You circle the area you want more even and drag it to the area you want it like. Just to a similar area next to it.

Notice below, its been cleaned up pretty well. Shirt and collar had to be “adjusted” as well.

The magnetic lasso you can get a lot closer edge.  You can do right next to the head/skin, but I only use it when the background is really cluttered.  Most people probably prefer this, so give it a try, too.

Here is our final image.  Turned out pretty well, huh?

Can you tell what item I omitted in the swap?  A little mystery find for ya.

Let me know if you have any questions!!!

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