Add a Fake Magnifying Glass to a Photo

Enlarge a detail in your photo by peering through a fake magnifying glass Once you take a photo with a digital camera, you can do pretty much anything you want with it. You can tweak the exposure, colors, and cropping. If you're feeling more creative, you can insert a UFO or shake hands with Elvis. A few readers have asked me how to add a magnification effect, as if there's a magnifying glass lying on top of the photo. It's pretty easy to do.

The Photoshop Caveat

I'll show you how to add a basic magnifying glass effect to a photo. We'll lay an image of a magnifying glass on a photo, and then enlarge the image in the lens. Unfortunately, to do some of the fancier stuff, like adding lens distortion and reflections to truly make it look real, require tools that you won't typically find in a photo editor like Adobe Photoshop Elements--for that, you need to step up to the Photoshop CS series. But that's okay; we can get a good result with Photoshop Elements--here's how.

Find a Magnifying Glass

For starters, you'll want to have a graphic of a magnifying glass that we can add to your main photo. You can search online for this--I just typed "magnifying glass photo" into Bing, for example, and found many dozens of usable examples.

You can also look on a site like Flickr. If this is a photo you intend to publish somewhere, then be sure to use a royalty-free photo or something with a Creative Commons license. It's easy to search for photos like these on Flickr if you check the box at the bottom of the page for Creative Commons-licensed content.

Clone Your Photo

Now that you have a magnifying glass image saved and ready to go, let's take a look at the photo you want to magnify. We'll want two copies of the photo; a low resolution version and a high resolution one. The low res photo is the one that will form the basis of our picture, and we'll put a detail from the high resolution photo inside the magnifying glass lens.

Open your photo in Photoshop Elements (or your favorite photo editor). I'll assume this photo is a high resolution original, and therefore has a lot of pixels in it. Choose Image, Resize, Image Size and enter a smaller value in the Width. In this example, I'm resizing it down to 1000 pixels across. Click OK. Then save this smaller photo, so you have both handy.

Stack the Elements

Launch Photoshop Elements and open the smaller version of the photo. Next, open the magnifying glass image in Photoshop Elements as well. You should see them both in the Project Bin at the bottom of the screen. If it's not currently the selected photo, double-click the magnifying glass. Select it by pressing Ctrl-A and then Ctrl-C. Now double-click the other photo in the Project Bin and choose Edit, Paste. You should see the magnifying glass appear as a new layer in your photo.

Next, position the magnifying glass to suit your needs. Click the Move tool (the very first one in the toolbar at the top of the toolbar on the left side of the screen) and use it to position the magnifying glass over the part of the photo you plan to enlarge. You can also resize the magnifying glass so it's about the right scale for your photo.

It's time for the magnified photo. Open the original, full-size image and add it as a layer just like you did with the magnifying glass (press Ctrl-A and then Ctrl-C, then switch to the other photo and paste it into a new layer).

At this point, you'll want to finesse the enlarged photo so that the magnifying glass shows the desired part of the photo. Click the Move tool and use it to position and size the photo.

Select the Lens

We're in the home stretch now. For our next trick, we'll select the lens of the magnifying glass. Or, more specifically, the enlarged photo that's in the lens circle. Choose the Elliptical Marquee tool in the fifth cubby from the top of the toolbar, and then--making sure that the enlarged photo layer is selected in the Layer Palette on the right side of the screen--click and drag to create a round selection over the magnifying glass lens. You won't get it right the first time, so feel free to click and drag again until you get a selection that closely matches the lens.

Now choose Select, Inverse to select everything in the layer except the lignifying glass area, and press Delete. Check out the photo--you should now see a magnified image in the lens.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Alicia at Fantasmic" by Dwayne A. Taylor, Salem, Massachusetts

Dwayne writes: "I took this at Disney's Fantasmic. The little girl is my stepdaughter, holding a spinning light toy. I captured the scene with an Olympus C2100UZ "

This week's runner-up: "Geschnitztal Valley" by Alessandro Sacilotto, Oakton, Virginia

Alessandro says: "I took this photo in the Geschnitztal Valley, south of Innsbruck in Austria's Tyrol Province. I was struck by the fields of rapeseed and maneuvered myself so that I could use them as a strong foreground for the mountains and village in the background. I used an Olympus E-510."

To see the February winners, visit our Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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