This is an article I originally wrote for PhotographyBB magazine. Getting a good shot of fireworks can be tricky, and getting good fireworks with an interesting foreground is even trickier. So here’s a method for combining one or more fireworks photos with another night shot and have it blend beautifully in Photoshop.
As with many retouching jobs, we’ll use the layer mask to achieve the effect we want.
1. Open up the image that you want to add fireworks to. I’m using one of London Bridge at night.
2. Open the fireworks pictures you want to add. In this case I’m using three photos, but you might have one good shot that you can use.
3. Select the Move tool (V) and drag a fireworks image onto the London Bridge pic. As you can see, the fireworks image is swamping, so we need to reduce it in size.
4. Hit Ctrl+T (Win) or Cmd+T (Mac) to use the Free Transform tool. A bounding box appears around the fireworks image. Hold down the Shift key and click and drag one of the corner handles to reduce the scale down the image to an appropriate size. (Holding down Shift, constrains the proportions of the image.) Hit Enter / Return to commit the transformation.
You can see there are two problems here.
a) The fireworks image is covering part of the bridge
b) The sky is a different colour in each.
We’ll fix that now.
5. To get a nice blend of skies, make sure your Fireworks layer is selected in the Layers palette. Then on the bottom of the layers palette, click on the Layer Effect Button and choose Blending Options from the drop down menu.
6. The Blending Options dialog box opens. At the bottom of the box, hold down the Alt / Option key and click and drag the triangle to the left. It will look like the triangle is split in two.
As you drag, notice how the fireworks start to blend into your background image. Click OK to apply the blend.
By holding down the Alt / Option key you get a very nice blend here, otherwise it tends to look quite jaggy. Try it without holding down Alt to see the difference.
7. So we still have the problem that part of the firework is visible on top of the bridge. This is where a layer mask comes to the rescue.
On the Layers palette, make sure the Fireworks layer is still selected. Then click on the Add Layer Mask icon.
8. Lower the opacity of this layer to about 50% so that you can see the bridge behind the fireworks. Then click on the on the Layer Mask thumbnail on the Fireworks layer. Choose a small round, soft-tipped brush. Make sure that your foreground colour is set to black, then start painting. As you paint, you erase the fireworks from on top of the bridge, but importantly, you are not damaging either photograph. If you make a mistake, switch you foreground colour back to white and paint back over the error.
When you’re finished painting, push the Opacity of the Fireworks layer back up to 100%
To make the fireworks appear more colourful, duplicate the layer.
9. I repeated the process twice more with two different shots of fireworks to produce this image.
10. The only thing that’s missing here is a reflection.
Because I have my fireworks on three separate layers, I want to make one extra layer containing a duplicate of all three. Select the layers and hit Ctrl + Alt + E or Cmd + Option + E. This shortcut will retain your three layers and make one new layer containing the contents of all three.
11. Select the new duplicate layer and hit Ctrl + T or Cmd + T to bring up Free Transform. Right Click or Ctrl Click in the bounding box to bring up the Transform menu. Choose Flip Vertical.
12. Drag the duplicate (and now upside down) Fireworks layer down onto the water.
13. Choose Filter > Gaussian Blur. In this case I set the blur to be about 9 pixels. The final step is to set the blending mode of that layer to Colour. And this is how my final image looks. Voila!
Hot Black http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1176628