Well, the easy answer is as many as you want. Today’s image involves several techniques, getting five balloons into the shot. Three actually come from one snap of the shutter. The other two are placed to ad interest to the image. The three in one snap are the small, blue balloon, the balloon in the lower right and the balloon in the upper, almost center. The balloon with the glow of the fire in the lower left was added, as was the one in the upper right. Just because the three were in one shot, doesn’t mean their positions were as shown. Some “trickery” was done to position them. Before finding out about what was done (in the “read more” section), see if you can come up with a logical explanation of how they were move around. The glow is the foreground balloon is definitely a glow, but, perhaps, not the glow you might thing. One of the most important things to keep in mind if you’d like to try to do a composite image like today’s is to be aware of where the light comes from. If the balloon in the upper right had the sun shining on it from the opposite side it would be glaringly obvious. By matching the direction of light it fits in quite naturally. The sky was actually that blue through a circular polarizer. It was also that cloudless. That made for some pretty boring images if you only had one balloon in the shot. So, let’s get on with what was done to each piece of the images to create the final composition. Check out the notes in the “read more”.
The primary image was of the three balloons, but it was one balloon over there and one way over in this direction and another in the top, almost going out of frame. The big news, when Adobe Photoshop CS5 was first released was “Content Aware Fill”. A new and magical advancement that allowed fences or wires to be removed from a scene with the click of a button. Before that, in CS4, “Content Aware Scaling” was introduced and is still available in CS5. The three balloons in the primary shot had way too much room between them, so CAS was the ideal tool to bring them together. It’s not as easy to use as CAF, but much easier than doing things by hand. First thing to do is decide what needs to be preserved. In this can it was the balloons. Take a selection tool (I used a simple Lasso Tool [L]) and make a selection of the object to be protected. Right click in the selection and click on Save Selection. This produces an Alpha Channel with the selection masked. Then pick Edit/Content Aware Scale. It’s, basically, a version of Free Transform with Scale already chosen. In the Context Aware bar there will be a dropdown titled Protect. This gives you the selections that you’ve denoted as being areas that are important. Selection the most important and grab the handles at the sides of the image and drag whichever way is needed. You’ll see everything except the protected area redrawing to conform to the new dimensions. Restep to do the same to each object to be saved.
The glow in the closest balloon comes from the Inner Glow Style found by double clicking in the Layer box. Selecting the Size, Choke and Opacity fills in the glow, giving the appearance of light from inside the balloon. Using the Quick Selection Tool (W) makes masking the regular shape of the balloon very easy. The Move Tool (V) is then used to position the balloon in a natural looking spot.
Everything is done to make the shot look like something the comic Judy Tenuta could say “it could happen” to.