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Teach me how to merge photos

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I posted here previously, asking a similar question.  I need someone to show me how to merge these photos.  My workflow currently is:

1.  Use the selection brush tool and the flood select tool to select the area that I want to keep in the final image

2.  Mask that area

3.  Place the photo I want to merge with that masked area

My problem is selecting that area.  When I work with complex areas that have intricate details, my workflow produces lousy and frustrating results.  Can someone show me how to do steps 1 & 2? Or provide a different workflow entirely?  I'm not a power user or even a terribly competent one.  Please be detailed and patient.

Here are two files I would like to merge.

Thanks in advance.






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I'm always a fan of using an image as it's own Mask if possible.

Here's my rough take…
• Dupe the top layer and Rasterize
• Apply various filters to get a high contrast Black and White proto-mask (used Exposure and Black & White and merged as I went)
• Clean up
• Invert
• Clean up again (you could spend a lot of time cleaning and retouching depending on how precise you need the Mask to be)
• Rasterize to Mask and nest into top layer


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