Change Backgrounds

You can change backgrounds with Photoshop Elements.

This is Part 2-of-2 in the "Adventures of Piper." In Part-1 it was revealed how our heroine was snatched from her own back yard swimming pool.

This was not the work of an amateur. It's suspected that it was someone who followed the detailed steps presented by!

Even the fine hairs around the edges were captured! Revisit Part-1 to discover how anyone can achieve the same results once they know the secrets of the sophisticated tools offered in Photoshop Elements.

Shockingly this information has been freely distributed on the internet.

Anyone with an inexpensive software program called Adobe Photoshop Elements and access to the internet can easily do it!

Part Two - The Final Steps . . .
Where ALL Is Revealed

In this episode we will break down the steps of how anyone can change backgrounds with Photoshop Elements.

Now that we know how to grab a subject from their natural surroundings, let's see what steps can be taken to seamlessly fit that subject into a new setting.

This is the best explanation we have of how Piper ended up half way around the world chasing ducks in a fountain in New Zealand!


Here's a summary of the steps to use in Photoshop Elements when you want to change backgrounds.

Make sure to grab a free Cheat Sheet of the steps at the end to print out and use as a handy reference when using this technique in Photoshop Elements!

STEP ONE- Open Both Photos.

Open both the photo of your Subject and your Destination (new background) photo in Elements.

Click on the Title Bar tab of your destination photo to make it visible in the Live Work Area.

STEP TWO- Drag Your Subject To Your Destination Photo.

Make the Photo Bin visible by going down to the lower/left of your Photoshop Elements window and clicking on "Photo Bin".

Now you can see the thumbnails of your open photos.

Click-and-drag the thumbnail of your Subject photo into the Live Work Area.

Your Subject is now part of the Destination photo. Look at the Layers Panel and notice that the Subject has been added as a new layer.

If you want to reposition your Subject use the Move Tool from the Toolbox to click-and-drag it to where you want.

STEP THREE- Use Free Transform.

If you need to resize or rotate your Subject, go up to the Image Menu and choose Transform>Free Transform....

A bounding box will appear around your subject with 8 squares (known as "handles") on it.

Make sure that the Constrain Proportions box is checked down in the Tool Options. If it's not, click on it to check it.

To resize, click-and-drag diagonally on any of the 4 corner handles.

To make your subject larger, drag outwards, away from the center . To make it smaller, drag in towards the center .

To rotate your subject, place your cursor outside the bounding box near one of the four corner handles. When it changes to a curved, double-headed arrow you can click-and-drag up or down to rotate it.

When in Free Transform mode you can also move your subject around in the photo by placing your cursor anywhere inside of the bounding box and clicking-and-dragging.

Once you're satisfied, click the green check mark to accept your changes.

STEP FOUR- Adjust The Brightness Of Your Subject To Matchee                      Its New Surroundings.

You can skip this step if you happen to be lucky enough that your Subject matches the brightness of the destination photo. But often times when you change backgrounds they don't match, so read on....

Let's use an Adjustment Layer to change the Brightness of the Subject. Go to the top of the Layers Panel and click on the half light/half dark circle. That's the "Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer" icon.

A pop-up menu will appear. Click on "Brightness/Contrast" from the menu to choose it.

The Brightness/Contrast panel will appear.

And the new Adjustment Layer appears in the Layers Panel.

Before you change the Brightness of your Subject, click on the little icon in the lower/left of the Brightness/Contrast panel. It looks like a square with a downward facing arrow next to it.

That will create a Clipping Mask so that whatever adjustments you make in the Brightness/Contrast panel will only be applied to the Layer BELOW the Adjustment Layer in the Layers Panel.

Without applying a Clipping Mask the adjustment will be made to the whole photo, including the Background.

After clicking on that Clipping Mask icon in the Brightness/Contrast panel you'll see it reflected in the Layers Panel. The Adjustment Layer is shifted over towards the right and the little icon is added to the left of it.

Now you can click-and-drag the Brightness Slider towards the left to make your Subject darker. Or drag it towards the right to make your Subject lighter.

If you ever want to change the Brightness to something else you can double-click on the Adjustment Layer. The Brightness/Contrast panel will appear with your original setting intact on the slider.

To change it just move the Brightness slider and the brightness of your Subject will change accordingly. That's one of the benefits of using an Adjustment Layer.

STEP FIVE- Add A Shadow Below Your Subject.

One of the most important things you can do when you change backgrounds is to add a shadow to your Subject.

A shadow will make the composite photo look more believable. It will really help to anchor the Subject to its new surroundings.

Let's start by adding a new Layer in the Layers Panel to put the shadow on.

Go to the Layers Panel and click on the icon that looks like a piece of paper with a folded over corner. That's the "Add a New Layer" icon.

A new Blank Layer is added to the Layers Panel.

Of course you want the shadow to be UNDER your Subject. So click-and-drag the new Layer down until it's below the Layer with your Subject on it.

Once you see the double horizontal lines appear under the Layer with your Subject on it you can release the mouse button and the new Layer will be moved to that spot in the Layers Panel.

Now the new Layer is right under the Layer with the Subject on it.

You can create a Selection from the pixels on a Layer. To make our shadow we need a Selection of our Subject (Piper).

Since the only pixels on our Subject's Layer are the pixels that make up her image, we can make a Selection of her with those pixels. Here's how:

Hold down the Command key on a Mac or the Control key on a PC as you click on the Layer that contains your subject.

We now have a Selection of our Subject as indicated by the marching ants.

Now we want to move the Selection down. To move just the Selection and not the pixels inside of the Selection you need to use one of the Selection Tools from the Toolbox.

Click on any of the three Selection Tools to make it active.

Now place your cursor anywhere inside of your Selection and click-and-drag to move the Selection. Lets move it straight down.

Make sure that the new blank Layer that you created-and-moved-down in the Layers Panel is active by clicking on it.

You can tell that it's active because it's highlighted in blue. In some versions of Photoshop Elements it might be highlighted in gray.

Now lets fill the Selection with black. Go up to the Edit Menu and choose "Fill Selection..." by clicking on it.

The "Fill Selection" dialog box appears. Click on the "Use" field by clicking on it and a pop-up menu appears. Choose "Black" from the menu by clicking on it.

Deselect by pressing Command-D on a Mac or Control-D on a PC.

Next we need to make the shadow look like it's laying flat. To do that press Command-T on a Mac or Control-T on a PC for "Free Transform".

A bounding box appears around the shadow. There are 8 adjustment handles around the box.

Click-and-drag down on the top/center handle to make the shadow look flat.

Move the shadow up, closer to your Subject by placing your cursor anywhere inside the bounding box and click-and-drag up.

Once you like the position, click on the green check mark to remove the bounding box and commit to the changes.

Next we'll blur the edges of the shadow. Go up to the Filter Menu and choose Blur>Gaussian Blur...

The Gaussian Blur dialog box appears.

I start by dragging the Radius slider all the way over to the left so there's no blur applied.

Then I slowly move it towards the right as I watch the shadow and how it's being affected.

When I have a nice visible blur around the shadow, I click "OK" to close the dialog box and accept the change.

At this point the shadow is way too dark. We can make it lighter by adjusting the Opacity in the Layers Panel.

Go up to the top of the Layers Panel and hover your cursor over the word "Opacity" and it changes to a pointing finger with an arrow on either side of it.

Click-and-drag towards the left to lower the opacity. I'm going to bring it down to about 25%. That makes it barely visible, but I think our subconscious can detect whether or not it's there, so it helps with the believability factor.

Here's a look at the final result:

That's the end of Part-2 of this tutorial, but there's more...

I made a printable "Cheat Sheet" of these steps so you can use it as a quick reference when using Photoshop Elements.

Download it now for free by clicking the button below:

Here's some other tutorials you might be interested in:

Go from Change Backgrounds to the Home page.


I value your input! Please leave me a comment in the box below.

Search This Site:

Sign up for my newsletter
BECAUSE… You get

  • 4 Step-By-Step Videos showing Tips being used
  • One-Page Printable Cheat Sheets of Tips

Get My Photoshop Elements Books for just $3.99 from Amazon

More Content… follow me:

"Just a note to say I LOVE your site! There seem to be a few PS Elements tutorials sites, but yours is by far the clearest and easiest to understand. Thanks!" - Ellie

"Watching your tutorials even about things that I think I know I ALWAYS learn something new. A big thank you!" - Douglas

"I am thrilled to find such useful and easy-to-understand information for using Photoshop Elements. I can't wait to use your tutorials (especially with my scrapbooking obsession)" - Judy in MS

Good day Rick, "I very appreciate ALL, ALL of your tutos. Very very clear and useful tips, tricks and techniques of how-to in PSE9. A great great work!" - Hoan

"Love your tutorials on YouTube. Very clear and helpful. Thanks a bunch." -

"I love your videos! They have been such a BIG help. I bought the Dummies book, and it's OK, but I do better by watching instead of reading. Kudos to you!" - Cheers, Kathy

"Thank you for this site! I found it through one of your videos on YouTube.
Again, thank you so much!" - Vanessa

"This is really a truly generous and very admirable website!" - Cheers, Jonas

"Hi Rick! First I've got to say thank you for all the information you share. I can't wait to see the "tips and tricks" you are working on because it sounds like those will help things all come together.
I've gone thru several of your tutorials and learn so much. I can't praise you enough for your time and patience." - Vicki.

"Your website is a great service and I thank you!"
 - Kind Regards, April

"A big thanks to you and your website, and the
 information and help I get from it, its much appreciated." - Rob

Rick - "Many thanks for your advice, that I will take. A big thank you as well for you outstandingly good tutorials. You do seem to have an amazing knack of making quite complicated tasks seem easy and straightforward. I am a fan!" - With Best Wishes, Tony

"Much more helpful than PS Elements 9 for Dummies book.... Thanks so much for your site..truly easy to follow." - Karin

Hi Rick. Just wanted to say a big thank you for all of the great information contained in your tutorials. I've stumbled around PS9 for quite a few weeks now and can't believe quite how easily you explain the different aspects. It's way, way more powerful than I imagined and now, for me, usable too. A big, big thank you from the UK. - Guy