How To…Be Beside Yourself

processThe Island. Star Wars. Jurassic Park. Never Let Me Go. Dolly the Sheep.

All of the above are renowned for being seriously profound/wooly, and for dealing with the controversial-but-still-pretty-cool subject of cloning. My laboratory facilities are sadly lacking, and I only got a C in Biology, but where there’s a will there’s a creative loophole.

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4482221537_a5ab45b90d_oClone photography is a hugely popular form of photomanipulation, the results of which A) can look fantastic, but more importantly B) are ridiculously fun to arrange, if somewhat undignified. While perfectly capable of being done on the fly, it’s a good idea to plan ahead a bit before getting into the action, particularly if you’re planning on having your clones interacting with each other, eg. shaking hands/crossing over/fighting to the death.


The example I’ll be using here was the result of a free lesson in a large, empty classroom. With an hour to kill and several vacant seats available, I thought I’d stand/sit in for my students.4598967953_95375dfc6f_o (1)


When posing for each shot – especially if, like me, you’re too mortified to ask anyone to press the shutter on your behalf as you flail around a scene on your own – it’s a good idea to remember as acutely as possible what your previous ‘clone’ was doing. For example, if you’re shaking hands with yourself, focus specifically on where your hands are positioned in the air and aim to take both pictures in rapid successions before you forget where you were.

Make sure the camera is as still as possible, and – for extra ‘realism’ – pick a single focal point and switch off your AF (autofocus). This will mean that many of your shots are technically out of focus, but will ultimately create a shot which, despite all evidence to the contrary, looks realistic.

Secondly, embrace the fact that, the more advanced or populated your scene becomes, the more likely you’ll have to drop a few of your shots when the foreground clones’ shoulders get in the way. Remember the DOF (depth of field) of your lens and try not to have one twit (ie. me/you) standing exactly in the way of the whole scene in the background.

Once you have your shots, stick ’em on Photoshop and queue them as layers (on CS6, File>Scripts>Load Files Into Stack). My personal recommendation is that you arrange the clones at the back of the image first and work to the foreground, as it makes your life easier in the long run.

Each photo in the composition, with various bits erased to accommodate one another

Your first few clones will probably snap nicely into the shot, provided you’ve kept the camera stock-still for every photo. As you add more shots, you’ll have to erase the empty space around the clone; provided the focus and lighting levels have been constant for each shot, the figure should still fit into the scene without too much difficulty.

If you struggle to keep the shadows from layering over shots too much, you can use the ‘Burn’ (‘O’ hotkey) tool to darken the environment and cheat slightly.

cloneroomAfter what could be an extensive period of fiddling with lighting and forgetting which layer was which and swearing a lot at the computer, you should hopefully end up with a clone composition photo. I personally like using them to convince strangers I’m from a family of identical octuplets, but if you want to use them for less sociopathic purposes then that’s good too.