Use Your Photo Editor to Add Water Reflections

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Most of us use a photo editor for touch-up work--fixing red eye, straightening a crooked photo, perhaps even some color correction. Last week, for example, I explained some simple ways to clean up a portrait by removing red eye, whitening teeth, and erasing skin blemishes. But programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, and GIMP can do so much more. What if you wanted to add a reflection to a photo, for example, as if your scene were surrounded by water? Today I'll show you how to do it using Photoshop Elements, and it'll take about five minutes.

Expand Your Canvas

Suppose you have a photo like this one: A shot of the New York skyline that I recently took from atop Rockefeller Center.

I would like to add a reflection of the skyline to the bottom of the photo, as if all of Manhattan is sitting at the edge of a river. (Manhattan does sit at the edge of a river--two of them, in fact--but not from this particular vantage point.)

Our first step is to expand the canvas in which the photo is sitting, is to give us some more room to work. Choose Image, Resize, Canvas Size, and then set the new height to 150 percent. In the Anchor section, click the Up arrow, which tells Photoshop to put the existing part of the photo at the top of the canvas and add the new part to the bottom (after you do that, the Up arrow will disappear, as you can see here). Click OK.

Copy and Paste

We now have a larger canvas--the bottom of the photo is a blank white background--but you probably can't see it yet. To get a better view, zoom out by pressing the Alt key and scrolling the mouse wheel until you can see the entire canvas. Alternately, you can zoom using the Magnifying Glass tool, second from the top of the toolbar.

Next, we need to copy the part of the photo that will be reflected in the water at the bottom of the photo. To do that, click the Rectangular Marquee tool (fifth cubby from the top of the toolbar) and use it to select the bottom half of the original photo. Copy this to the clipboard (Edit, Copy).

Before we can put this "reflection" in the bottom of the photo, we need to flip it. Choose File, New, Image from Clipboard and it'll appear in a new window. Choose Image, Rotate, Flip Vertical, and you'll have a copy of Manhattan that is properly reflected.

Select the entire image (press Ctrl-A) and then copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl-C). Switch back to the original photo and press Ctrl-V to paste it into the photo as a new layer. Click the Move tool (in the top cubby in the toolbar), then select the image and drag it to the bottom of the photo, so it snaps in place. It should now look something like the image to the right.

Creative Erasing

We're almost done. All that's left is to apply some creative erasing so that the bottom of the photo looks like a reflection that naturally fades into the water. Click the Eraser tool (16th from the top of the toolbar) and set the size in the Tool Options palette atop the screen. Set the size to be roughly the same as the reflected section of the photo. Then put the mouse pointer at the bottom of the photo (so the eraser will affect the lower half of the reflection). Click and drag it to erase the bottom of the scene, being careful to draw the eraser in a straight line.

Finally, visit the Layer palette on the right side of the screen and reduce the opacity of the reflection layer until you like the look of the photo. That's it--save your work. Your final photo should look something like mine, on the left.

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 800 by 600 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: "Old Merc" by Rick Leikam, Topeka, Kansas

Rick captured this photo using a Sony SLT-A33.

This week's runner-up: "Wedding Rice" by Carlos Rex Aponte Cronenbold, Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Carlos writes: "The newlyweds were running, so to capture the action I had to shoot quickly, without really focusing. I just pointed the camera and shot. I thought it came out looking very spontaneous."

To see last month's winners, visit our December 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.

This story, "Use Your Photo Editor to Add Water Reflections" was originally published by PCWorld.

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