Next Saturday I’m going to be doing about 30 group portraits with two to three poses each. And if you’ve ever taken a group photograph, you know how frustrating it can be trying to get everyone looking the same way at the same time, not blinking, or generally not looking goofy.
If the group is paying attention it might only take two or three shots to get everyone synchronized. Fortunately for me, this is a dance studio so I’m not going to be dealing with inebriated party-goers. On the other hand, many of them are children. So what happens after the shoot when I find one or two photos where I didn’t notice someone blinking?
Technology to the rescue! Microsoft Research has a nifty free tool called Group Shot that can fix the problem. Essentially, Group Shot is a panorama stitching tool but it has been optimized for use on group portraits. You load up several different shots of the same group, choose the bits from each that you want to keep, and the software seamlessly merges them into a new, perfect photo.
It’s pretty easy to use, too. First, you need several images that are all the same dimensions. Drag them onto Group Shot and it will load them up. Then choose your starting image. This will serve as the base for your new composite. Now simply drag a rectangle around a section you want to replace. Group Shot will show you that same region from your other photos in a filmstrip to the right of the image. Choose the one you want to add to the composite and the preview is instantly updated. When you’re all done, you can save a low- or full-resolution composite.
That’s all practical and nice but here’s another fun thing you can do with it. Set your camera on a tripod. Then take several photos of yourself or your friends in the scene at different locations and in different poses. Now, use Group Shot to combine them into a single, seamless composite. Clones!
You can do the same thing in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro or The GIMP with layers and masks, but if you don’t know what that means or you don’t have those programs, then Group Shot may be just the ticket.