As a commercial advertising photographer that specializes in composites, I am continually developing my skill set to allow for easy unlimited tweaking of the images I create.When developing complex visual ideas with many layers, that most of the time, need to fit into a variety of formats, non-destructive techniques are essential. Composites offer a tremendous opportunity for collaboration with your clients. Because most important elements are created separately, your clients can take an active role in the final layout, mood and message of the image. I find this type of approach very empowering for myself and my clients.

One of the key elements I run into all the time is cloning or stamping pieces of the images. Rather it be to remove something or move something or add something. It is a huge part of what I do to realize the vision we all have for the piece. So whenever I am doing any major stamping (cloning) I always do that on a separate layer. I can’t tell you how many times clients will change their minds about these elements. It is simple to do. Heres how.

1. Highlight (activate) the layer you want to clone. Clicking on it will activate it.

2. Go to your Add a New Layer icon at the bottom of your layers palette and create a new layer ABOVE the layer you want to clone

.add new layer

3. Then activate your stamp tool (press s on your keyboard)

4. At the very top of your program you will see a dialog box with a dropdown menu wherein you can choose different options for cloning.

current and below

  • Current layer: will only allow you to clone information that is included in that layer.
  • Current and below: will allow you to clone information on the active layer and all the layers below it.
  • All layers: Will allow you to clone all the information of all the layers onto your new blank layer.

In the example I have here you can see that the original motocross starting line is a concrete pad. We wanted to show action and wanted dirt to be exploding off the back tire. Rather than clone out the concrete on the background layer, (destructive) I simply added a new layer above it. Changed the drop down dialog box to Current and below and was able to clone dirt over the concrete pad on a separate layer. So if the client wanted to go back to the original concrete all I would have to do is shut of the new layer.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.48.32 AM

This technique works fantastic for allowing you endless edits but leaving the original image in tact. Give it a try, you will love the flexibility.