How to create a multiplicity image in Photoshop


It’s easy to create multiplicity images in Photoshop if you follow a few simple guidelines. It’s even easier to do now than ever before using Photoshop’s advanced selection tools. Let’s take a look at a few ways to do this.

What is an image of multiplicity?

A multiplicity image is simply an image with multiple copies of the same person or the same object. It can also be anything with regards to subjects, like multiple copies of a fire hydrant, for example. But usually there is a purpose for the copies, to convey a concept or a story.

Another aspect of a multiplicity image is that they share a common background and generally use the space in a way that logically connects all of the copies in a meaningful way.

picture of multiplicity of woman in the library

As in the image above, the image of the woman in the background selects a book on the shelf, and in the middle and foreground she is reading the book in different poses.

Whether a multiplicity image is a sequence or an idea can determine the best approach to creating one in Photoshop.

Create an image of multiplicity using the subject’s main image

Male and female dancers in a pose.

A good place to start is to use an existing image that already has a copy of the topic (above).

It works best when the original intention may not have been to create an image of multiplicity. In this case, all you have to do is select and organize the copies of the topic to your liking. We’ll discuss a planned multiplicity shoot that you can do yourself later.

If you want to follow this tutorial, you can download the Unsplash images for free here, here, and here.

  1. Import the three images into Photoshop.

  2. For your first image, go to Select> Subject.

    Dancer holding a dancer.

  3. You should see “ants marching” around your subject now. Click on the Layer mask (the white rectangle with a black circle) at the bottom of the Layers panel, usually located at the bottom right of Photoshop.

    Background removed from Photoshop image of dancers.

  4. Repeat Steps 2-3 for the second image.

  5. To select Layer 0 onto each copy and drag the image onto the main image, where you can place them on either side of the characters in that shot. Here are several ways to move layers to another Photoshop document.

    Move a file to another Photoshop document.

  6. Select the Move (the four arrows icon) and organize each copy using your mouse to move them freely and position them where you want. To select another copy to move, make sure layers 1 or 2 are highlighted.

    Image of multiplicity of dancers.

You can arrange the pictures as you want. The thought process behind our arrangement was simply to have the main image in the middle where the two subjects make eye contact while the accompanying images did not.

It is best to start with images taken in or around the same scene so that the lighting conditions are the same. Plus, making sure each subject’s perspectives are the same is crucial for a natural look.

For more control, you can convert the copies to Smart Objects after importing them into the main image. This way, if any of your topics are different sizes, it can be easily resized in a non-destructive way.

Spice up a boring background using Photoshop plugins

Image of multiplicity of dancers.

Third-party Photoshop plugins are a great way to enhance boring backgrounds and help blend your multiple images into one cohesive look. One of those plugins for applying effects in Photoshop is Anthropics’ Smart Photo Editor.

It’s a paid plugin, but there is a free trial that you can try out if you want to take it again. It is available for Windows and Mac.

To download: Smart Photo Editor (Free Trial, $ 29.95)

Using the part we just finished editing, let’s take a look at a quick way to further improve our image without doing a lot of extra work.

  1. Create a visible stamp layer by long pressing Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E on a Windows machine.

  2. Go to Filter> Anthropics> Smart photo editor.

  3. To select Effects gallery in the upper right corner of Smart Photo Editor.

    Select Effects Gallery.

  4. Click it Right arrow icon to browse effects.

    Use the right arrow to navigate through the effects.

  5. Click on the effect you like and use the sliders to make adjustments. To select Okay when you are happy.

    New effect selected.

  6. Go to File> Save and Return to save your changes. Once the photo is imported back into Photoshop, you can continue to edit it as normal.

Image modified using effects.

Schedule a photoshoot to create an image of multiplicity

For a successful photoshoot, there are a few things to keep in mind. Ideally, you’ll want to take a template or a blank scene that all of your subjects will be placed on from scratch in Photoshop. As shown in the video below, you can take separate images of the subjects already placed where they should be.

Here are some best practices to make sure you have a successful multiplicity photoshoot.

  • Make sure the lighting is consistent, especially if you are using strobe lights or other forms of artificial light when photographing. This will save you time in post-processing as you won’t have as many corrective edits to do.

  • If possible, use a tripod to maintain perspective. If you hold your camera in your hand, be sure to photograph your subject from the same angle and height. If the angles between the images are shifted by a few degrees, the images may look strange and out of place when viewed together.

  • Avoid “busy” and cluttered scenes when choosing a location. The fewer distractions you have in the shot, the better. If you’re taking photos that require your subjects to be removed from their background later in the post, make sure the background itself is simple (like a single color) and that there is a certain distance between the subject and the objects. This will make it easier for Photoshop’s automatic selection tools to work.

  • If you can’t avoid busy and cluttered scenes, use a super wide aperture lens like f1.8 or f1.4. This will help create a shallow depth of field which will make it easier to process in Photoshop.

  • Consider asking your subjects to do something or move around to create more vibrant and interesting images. Images of people standing and simply facing the camera, shoulders squared, yield uninteresting, two-dimensional images.

Are you ready to create an image of multiplicity?

Creating an image of multiplicity is one of the many amazing things you can do in Photoshop. With ever-improving selection tools, composing simple and complex images becomes easier as Adobe continues to improve its functionality through software updates.

And as Adobe Sensei, Photoshop’s AI engine, continues to advance, so will the speed at which we are able to complete traditionally complex tasks in a matter of moments.


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