How to Extract an Image From One Photo, Insert It Into Another Photo and Make It Look Realistic

Updated April 17, 2017

Modern photo editing tools allow users to create digital photographs that are vastly different from the original images. With the correct conditions, you can even extract an object or image from one image and insert it seamlessly into another. While the technical skills are simple to learn, making the final product look realistic requires extensive practice. Use this technique to place individuals in new environments or add objects to photographs. Many editing programs can perform this task, including the popular Adobe Photoshop, GIMP and Corel Paint Shop.

Choose two images of similar lighting and colouration. This is the most important step in making the final product look realistic. While some editing steps can make these elements appear more similar to each other, these techniques are very advanced, and often do not completely obscure obvious differences in lighting and colour.

Open both photos in the same image editing program and bring the photo with the image you wish to extract to the forefront.

Isolate the image you wish to extract from the rest of the photo. Use the software's Extraction tool or the Magnetic Selection tool to select the image. Different programs have slightly different names for these tools, such as Photoshop's Magnetic Lasso and GIMP's Magic Wand. Simpler shapes and images with consistent contrast backgrounds will result in a cleaner extraction.

Clean up the extracted selection. Even if extracted correctly, the borders of the selection probably have artefacts and leftovers from the rest of the image. Use the paintbrush and eraser tools, or more advanced options such as GIMP's Feathering tool or Photoshop's Background Eraser. Zoom in to work with small sections and take your time with this step, as even small imperfections will be very obvious when placed against a new background.

Drag the extracted image into the second photograph. Most editors will create a new layer containing the transferred content.

Resize and rotate the transferred image to fit in with the content of the second photograph. Note that any significant increase in the size of the image will cause the transferred content to appear blurry in comparison with the second image's existing content. If you need to greatly increase the size of the image, consider shrinking the second image prior to transfer instead.

Tweak the extraction's contrast, hue and colouration to specifically match its new background. If the image appears unrealistic, consider using a specialised filter or desaturating the entire image to make the two disparate parts appear more uniform.


Practice these techniques on images with single colour backgrounds or simple object shapes to refine the techniques before moving on to more complex images.

Things You'll Need

  • Photo editing software
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About the Author

Andrew Mikael began writing in 2010. His articles appear on various websites, where he specializes in media and related technology. Mikael has a Bachelor of Arts in film from Montana State University.