Photographer Elise Swopes created this dreamy photo composite using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for mobile and Adobe Photoshop Mix.


By Terri Stone

We all take pictures with our phones, but Elise Swopes makes art—and a living—with her mobile photography. She is known for her surreal, dreamlike work. In this tutorial, she demonstrates how she used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for mobile and Adobe Photoshop Mix to combine two photos into an image that both reflects her inner strength and renews it.

“You’re always going to have your phone on you,” Swopes says. “That’s the coolest part about editing with these apps. You can be anywhere, see something inspiring, and edit it on the spot. It affects the way I create and see the world.”

Swopes’s composition was inspired by the The Bully Project Mural, a digital destination where people can share art, stories, and perspectives about bullying, its impact, and how we can help stop it. Adobe partnered with The Bully Project to launch the mural in 2014. October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States.

“I’ve dealt with bullying myself,” Swopes says. “When I create these images, a piece of me feels powerful. It's important to stand tall through all the things that come your way, like a powerful storm over an oddly shaped world. There’s a lot of negativity and crazy stuff going on. I hope I can bring people to something more positive and interesting.”


Much of Swopes’s art is rooted in Chicago, so it was natural for her to begin with one of her Chicago cityscapes.


Swopes opened the cityscape in Photoshop Mix and resized it to provide more room at the top of the canvas. She then made a new layer and added a photo of clouds that she shot from a plane.


After rotating the cloud layer, Swopes prepared to erase the bottom part by tapping Cut Out. She chose Smart Selection, changed Add to Subtract, and increased Feather to 80. Then she simply swiped with her finger to remove part of the cloud image. “I’m always surprised by how good Smart Selection is,” she says.


As a first step in making the two photos look more cohesive, Swopes tapped Looks and chose Instant for each layer. She then saved the composition to Lightroom. “The connections between the apps makes everything easy and smooth,” she notes.


In the Lightroom mobile app, Swopes opened the cityscape/clouds image. To heighten the drama, she tapped Edit, then Tone Curve, and dragged down the curve, darkening the entire composition. She then tapped Presets, chose Color, and applied a Cool tone. And because she likes a bit of grit in her art, she tapped Effect and applied Grain (Medium). Still in Effect, she added a Vignette (Medium).


As a final flourish, Swopes changed the hue by tapping Edit and using the Color/B&W option. She tapped on the blue dot and experimented by dragging it back and forth until she was happy with the new color.

In this video, Elise Swopes demos how she uses Adobe Photoshop Mix and Adobe Lightroom for mobile to make a composite image.

Click to watch a five-minute video that details Elise Swopes’s work in Photoshop Mix and Lightroom for mobile. Bonus if you spot the feline walk-on.

If you're interested in learning some Mix basics for your own explorations, this tutorial is helpful. And here’s a good introduction to Lightroom for mobile


We invited Create readers to follow part of this tutorial and make their own Bully Project–inspired creation—with the winner receiving an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. And that winner, chosen by Swopes, was Joel Gonzalez! Visit the Make It on Mobile landing page to learn more, and to stay up-to-date on the new contests we will be hosting throughout 2016.

September 19, 2016