Composite Selection


Today’s Question: I’m trying to create a selection of the sky in a composite panorama [in Photoshop], so that I can apply an adjustment to only the sky. I’m using the Quick Selection tool, but only the sky from one of the photos that was used to assemble the panorama is getting selected. How can I select the entire sky across all images in the composite panorama?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to creating a selection that includes pixels from all layers is to enable the “Sample All Layers” checkbox found on the Options bar.

More Detail: The tools in Photoshop that create selections based on sampling the image generally provide a “Sample All Layers” option so your selection can be based on all layers in the image rather than only the layer that is currently active on the Layers panel.

In most cases I find that I prefer having the “Sample All Layers” checkbox turned on when using any selection tool in Photoshop that includes this setting. For one thing, doing so enables me to create a selection based on all layers in a composite image such as a composite panorama.

In addition, turning on “Sample All Layers” will cause the selection to take any adjustments into account. This can be helpful for situations where there isn’t very strong tonal or color contrast to define the area you want to select. You can add a “temporary” adjustment layer to exaggerate the differences between the area you want to select versus not select, and then with the “Sample All Layers” checkbox turned on the adjustment will be taken into account for defining the selection. You can then discard the “temporary” adjustment layer.

Of course, you’ll also want to be aware of the “Sample All Layers” checkbox so you can remember to turn it off for situations where you want to create a selection based exclusively on a single image layer. But in general I find most photographers will tend to want the “Sample All Layers” setting turned on rather than off.

To learn more about selections in Photoshop, check out my “Mastering Selections in Photoshop” course, which is included in the “Photoshop for Photographers” bundle of courses available on the GreyLearning website here: