How to Create a Multiplicity Image in Photoshop

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How to Create a Multiplicity Image in Photoshop

By Craig Boehman

Published 8 hours ago

A multiplicity image contains clones of a person or object to tell a story within a single frame. Here's how to make one in Photoshop.

It's easy to create multiplicity images in Photoshop if you follow a few simple guidelines. It's even easier to do so now more than ever when making use of Photoshop's advanced selection tools. Let's take a look at a couple of ways to do this.

What Is a Multiplicity Image?

A multiplicity image is simply one image with multiple copies of the same person or object. It can also be anything as far as subjects go, like multiple copies of a fire hydrant, for example. But usually, there's a purpose for the copies, to convey a concept or a story.

Another aspect of a multiplicity image is that they share a common background and typically make use of the space in a way that logically connects all the copies in a meaningful way.

multiplicity image of woman in library

Like in the above image, the image of the woman in the background is selecting a book from the shelf, and in the mid-ground and foreground, she's reading the book in different poses.

Whether a multiplicity image is a sequence or an idea may determine how to best approach creating one in Photoshop.

Create a Multiplicity Image Using the Main Image of the Subject

Male and female dancers in a pose.

A good place to start is to use an existing image that already has one copy of the subject (above).

This works best when the original intent may not have been to create a multiplicity image. In this case, you only have to select and organize the copies of the subject to your liking. We'll discuss a planned multiplicity shoot that you can do yourself later.

If you'd like to follow along in this tutorial, you may download the images from Unsplash for free here, here, and here.

  1. Import all three images into Photoshop.
  2. For your first image, go to Select > Subject.

    Male dancer holding onto female dancer.
  3. You should see “marching ants” around your subject now. Click on the Layer Mask icon (the white rectangle with black circle) at the bottom of the Layers panel—usually located at the bottom-right of Photoshop.

    Background removed from Photoshop image of dancers.
  4. Repeat Steps 2-3 for the second image.
  5. Select Layer 0 on each copy and drag the image onto the main image, where you can place them on either side of the figures in that shot. Here are several different ways to move layers to a different Photoshop document.

    Moving a file to another Photoshop document.
  6. Select the Move tool (the four arrows icon) and arrange each copy using your mouse to move them around freely and position them where you want. To select another copy for moving, make sure Layers 1 or 2 are highlighted.

    Multiplicity image of dancers.

You may arrange the images as you wish. The thought process behind our arrangement was simply to have the main image in the middle where the two subjects are making eye contact while the flanking images lacked any.

It's best to start with images that were shot in or around the same scene so that the lighting conditions are the same. Also, making sure the perspectives of each subject are the same is crucial for a natural look.

For more control, you can convert the copies to Smart Objects after importing them into the main image. This way, if any of your subjects are different sizes, they can be easily re-sized non-destructively.

Spice Up a Boring Background Using Photoshop Plugins

Multiplicity image of dancers.

Photoshop plugins from third parties are a great way to enhance boring backgrounds and to help blend your multiplicity images into one cohesive look. One such plugin for applying effects in Photoshop is the Smart Photo Editor by Anthropics.

It's a paid plugin, but there is a free trial you can test out if you want to follow along once more. It's available for both Windows and Mac.

Download: Smart Photo Editor (Free trial, $29.95)

Using the piece we just finished editing, let's take a look at a quick way to enhance our image further without doing a lot of extra work.

  1. Create a Stamp Visible Layer by pressing and holding Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E on a Windows machine.
  2. Go to Filter > Anthropics > Smart Photo Editor.
  3. Select Effects Gallery in the upper-right corner in Smart Photo Editor.

    Select Effects Gallery.
  4. Click the Right Arrow icon to browse through the effects.

    Use the Right Arrow to navigate through effects.
  5. Click on the effect you like and use the sliders to make any adjustments. Select OK when you're happy.

    New effect selected.
  6. Go to File > Save and Return to save your changes. Once the photo is imported back into Photoshop, you can carry on editing it as normal.
Edited image using effects.

Plan a Photoshoot to Create a Multiplicity Image

For a successful photoshoot, there are a few things to keep in mind. Ideally, you'll want to shoot a template, or a blank scene, where all of your subjects will be placed onto from scratch in Photoshop. As demonstrated in the below video, you can shoot separate images of the subjects already placed where they should be.

Here are a few best practices to ensure you have a successful multiplicity photo shoot.

  • Make sure the lighting is consistent, especially if you're using strobe lights or other forms of artificial light when photographing. This will save time in post-processing as you won't have as much corrective editing to do.
  • Whenever possible, use a tripod to maintain perspective. If you're hand-holding your camera, make sure you photograph your subject at the same angle and height. If the angles between images are off by a few degrees, the images may look strange and out-of-place when viewed together.
  • Avoid "busy" and cluttered scenes when choosing a location to shoot. The fewer distractions you have in the shot, the better. If you're doing shots that require your subjects to be removed from their backgrounds later in post, make sure the background itself is simple (like one color) and that there is some distance between the subject and any objects. This will make it easier for Photoshop's auto-selection tools.
  • If you can't avoid busy and cluttered scenes, use a lens with a very wide aperture like f1.8 or f1.4. This will help create a shallow depth of field that will make it easier to process in Photoshop.
  • Consider having your subjects doing something or moving to create more dynamic and interesting images. Pictures of people standing and simply facing the camera, shoulders squared-up, make for uninteresting and two-dimensional images.

Are You Ready to Create a Multiplicity Image?

Creating a multiplicity image is one of the many amazing things you can accomplish in Photoshop. With selection tools always improving, simple and complex image compositing is getting easier as Adobe continues to improve its features through software updates.

And as Adobe Sensei, Photoshop's AI engine, continues to advance, so will the speed at which we're able to perform traditionally complex tasks in a matter of moments.

About The Author


Craig Boehman (43 Articles Published)

Craig Boehman is a Mumbai-based American photographer. He writes articles about Photoshop and photo editing for MakeUseOf.com.

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