Creating A Descriptive Timeline Action Shot

Hello and welcome to my first tutorial! I’m going to work you through one of my latest kayaking shots. This was my first attempt at this type of shot/Photoshopped image. I’ve gotten some good feedback about the image, which is always great. The shot is quite dark but in saying that, the location of the shoot is very tough for a photographer. Light is quite scarce and there are only so many places one would want to stand with a camera. I actually did a rescue course here three weeks back and was swimming through the play hole plenty of times over the weekend. It’s all very safe but I don’t think my poor camera would think the same.

Runin To Sluice, Lucan


One thing that I was unsure about in my photo is that, personally, it feels quite cluttered. Obliviously the shot is taken in quite a small space compared to other shots that encompass the same effect. I have two versions and personally I think the quieter image works better. (The final images are at the bottom of the page)


The following are the settings used to take the shots:

  • Canon 30D
  • Canon EFS 17-85mm
  • ISO 1600
  • F/Number F4
  • Exposure 1/6400
  • Program Aperture Priority


These are the eight images used in the sequence

Eight shots used to create the final shot


OK, lets get to work. I adjusted the levels and added a curves adjustment level to the first shot in the sequence, as this shall be the base/background file. The layering might change from photo to photo but for this one I had to do as follows.

  • Sixth last shot
  • Fifth last shot
  • Fourth last shot
  • Third last shot
  • Second last shot
  • Last shot
  • 1st shot/ background shot


You then need to bring all of the photos into this one file in Photoshop. Once that is done, label all your images accordingly and logically, as this will make it far easier later on.


Photoshop Layers Image


From the above you will notice a few things about how I work in photoshop (and how you should too). I have an originals folder, I will always duplicated(ctrl+j) a layer before I start to work on it. You should get into the habit of doing this as a precaution. It’s easy for a photo to get messed up, at least with this backup you can only go so far wrong. I also have a very ugly lime layer at the bottom – This shows very clearly the pixel I might have missed when working on the other layers.

Lime Background Showing pixels


So, you should have your file looking something similar to the layers image above, the first frame being on the bottom, last frame next as displayed here and so on. We will now make only the second layer visible by clicking the eye to the left of the layer + ALT

An Image of the \'Visible Icon\' in Photoshop


We select the lasso tool (L) and do a quick selection of what we want to keep.

Step 1/5


Once that is done we want to select the inverse. To do this press Ctrl + Shift + I OR go up to ‘Select’ in the toolbar and then choose ‘Inverse’. Now just hit the ‘delete’ key. You should have an image like the following:

Step 2/5


Press Ctrl + D to deselect you selection. Zoom into the photo so you can see everything in detail – I usually stay in and around 170-230%. Now that you’re in nice and close to the shot you can start to take out the bits you don’t want. Using your lasso tool with a 10/15px feather start to select – delete – deselect and repeat. Don’t go too close to the subject you want to keep just yet.

This is what we should have so far

Step 3/5


It looks quite messy still but now we start to zoom in a bit closer and cut out all those edges. Zoomed in at 200% you can see how the lime background starts to help, making it quite clear where there is still a few lingering pixels.

Step 4/5

Don’t be afraid to change the feather – Depending on where you’re deleting from the image it can look better with different feathers. (Experiment)

Step 5/5


As you can see in the image I don’t have to delete everything perfectly as this bit of water in the bottom left will blend in nicely with the background image.

Simply repeat what we have done to the second layer for all the remaining layers and you should have some thing similar to these.


Descriptive Timeline Action Photo


Descriptive Timeline Action Photo Full
Back to the top



This is a very time consuming process, if you want it to look well you have to be willing to put in hours. Personally I feel it is well worth the time if you have a good picture! The image above took me about three hours and this is quite a hurried job in my opinion. When I have a better image that isn’t as dark I shall take 5-10hours and post it up to compare.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to post below!!


P.s. A great example of this shot can be found here (22 frames of Eamon) – Shot by Treasa Lynch over at Dancing Shades.


  • bazza

    i found this article great, but i am quite worried about the lack of cheese content on this blog. keep up the good work

  • CialisSr

    Nice Article

  • Paul Maguire

    Great site Kyle. Could you photo shop me doing some of the playmoves like cartwheeling? Can’t do it but with the powers of computers is it possible?????


  • Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the comment. I know the feeling, I’ve been trying to cartwheel for a while now and I’m getting nowhere :(. I’m sure it will all just click someday and we’ll be amazing!!
    I’m sure we could just photoshop ourselves doing it though, but where’s the fun in that? Haha


  • Hi Kyle thanks for the flowers, i received many emails who said the same. Glad I am. Well and i just can give it back to you! A very clarifying tutorial. I planned to create an own one but yours is very good ( ;

    Cheers Madeleine

  • Andrew Bldman

    Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

  • Donnieboy

    Just wanted to drop you a line to say, I enjoy reading your site. I thought about starting a blog myself but don’t have the time.
    Oh well maybe one day!

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