Photography • How-To How to Reimagine Your Vacation Photos in Adobe Photoshop

Journey through past adventures and craft new stories.

Bring back memories and create dreamscapes by blending past vacation photos with new images. I’ll show you how I combined some of my travel pics with random inspiration to compose new scenes in Adobe Photoshop.

Headshot of Dean Dapkus

My name is Dean Dapkus and I’m a creative director at Adobe. I enjoy creating digital and traditional art and am happiest when I can combine the two in new ways.

Before You Start

Here is the Photoshop document with the images you’ll need to follow along. Of course, you’re welcome to use your own vacation photos. I can’t wait to see what you do with them.

Step 1: Journey Down Memory Lane

I had fun with my family as we searched through photos of our times at the lake and Bryce Canyon National Park. Then I saw this donut on Adobe Stock and I couldn’t resist adding it to the collection. Gather pictures from your own past trips and see how you can mix them with elements of whimsy.

1: Girl in inner tube decorated like a frosted donut on a lake; 2: 2 frosted donuts; 3: girl in inner tube; 4: rock columns

Step 2: Select Two

Start with at least two photos you can blend together in a new way. I saw this picture of my daughter tubing on the lake and thought that traveling by donut would be a fun way to go.

Larger picture of a girl in an inner tube on a lake with a mountain in the background, smaller picture of donuts lower left

Step 3: Rotate and Resize

Try this yourself. The donut is already the right shape; you just need to resize and position it. Reduce the Opacity of the donut so you can see through to the layer below. This helps you align the top donut with the tube. Finally, select Transform—Control+T (Windows) or Command+T (macOS)—and drag the donut into place. Hover just outside a corner handle and drag to rotate it. Finally, click the corner handles and drag to scale the image, and then drag the middle handles to stretch it.

Move tool is upper left; donut image rotated over inner tube on lake; Layers panel shows reduced opacity on donut layer

Step 4: Hide the Background

To isolate the donuts, drag across them with the Object Selection tool. Click the mask icon to hide the blue background. After you apply the mask, change Opacity back to 100%.

Left: Object selection tool over donut image, marching ants around donuts; Right: 2 layers with mask on donut layer

Step 5: Wrap It Around

Masking is a key technique for blending photos. You can spend a lot of time on this step to get your new reality looking just right. Click the mask thumbnail on the layer and paint with a black brush to hide the bottom donut. Keep painting to reveal the bottom of the tube and the thin line of the rope. The great thing with layer masks is that the image is always there. So if you hide something by mistake, you can paint with white to show it again. Use the shortcut keys ([ ]) on your keyboard to adjust the brush size as you work.

Brush tool set to black and size is 80, mask thumbnail highlighted on Layers panel, donut is wrapped around the inner tube

Step 6: Get Ready to Switch

Ultimately, I wanted to switch the background of the trees with the photo of Bryce Canyon and isolate my daughter from the lake background. I selected the lake layer, grabbed the Object Selection tool, and dragged to select my daughter. I clicked Select and Mask so I could do some fine-tuning. Photoshop applied a red overlay to show the areas that would be hidden. I changed this to green because, for this image, it allowed me to see the selection more easily.

Object Selection tool and Select and Mask highlighted, green overlay appears over image of girl in tube

Step 7: Focus on the Details

Hair can be tricky. In this shot, parts of the background appear in the spaces between the hair. The Refine Edge brush in the Select and Mask workspace works great to select the finer details. Brush along the edges until it’s all selected. Output the selection to a New Layer with Layer Mask.

Refine Edge brush is highlighted, green overlay over girl, callout around her ponytail, output to New Layer with Layer Mask

Step 8: Change Landscapes

To keep the lake and replace the mountains, make sure the original lake layer is visible by clicking the eye icon. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to drag a selection from above the sliver of shoreline to the bottom of the photo. Set the feathering to soften the edges so there’s no sharp edge between photos when you blend them later. Click the mask icon to hide the area not included in the selection.

Rectangular Marquee tool with Feather = 5 pixels, top half of lake image is transparent, new layer with layer mask

Step 9: Show the New Background

Finally, show the Bryce Canyon layer so it appears in the area hidden by the mask. Photoshop has a variety of filters you can use to apply effects to your photos. I used the Gaussian Blur on the canyon layer to make it appear slightly blurry as if it were far in the distance.

Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur menu over image of girl in inner tube, Bryce Canyon is the new background above the lake

Trek Through Your Albums

I hope you feel inspired to reinvent your adventures through imagery. Be sure to tag @AdobeCreate so we can share in your journey.

Man ziplines through a raspberry bush

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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