Go softly into the night

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

Once you’ve shot your sun­set images, it’s time to start merg­ing...

01 One we pre­pared ear­lier

If you don’t have your own se­ries of shots, use the images in­cluded on the cover disc, or fol­low the link at the bot­tom of the page. Copy the images onto your hard drive. Open Pho­to­shop and se­lect File > Open, and choose the im­age DayToNight1.jpg from the down­loaded images.

03 Stack ’em high

Re­peat the process for all of the images, un­til DayToNight1 has them all lay­ered on top of it, mov­ing from the light­est shot at the bot­tom to the dark­est at the top. Click on the eye icon next to each layer to turn off visibility, leav­ing only DayToNight1 and DayToNight4 with the eye icon turned on.

05 Se­lect the mask

When you add the layer mask, a white square will ap­pear next to the DayToNight4 layer. Se­lect this, and a black frame will ap­pear around the out­side de­not­ing any changes will only af­fect that layer. The next stage is to add a gra­di­ent to fade each im­age into the back­ground.

02 Next!

Open DayToNight2.jpg, then go to Se­lect in the menu bar, and choose All (or press Ctrl/Cmd A). This will al­low you to copy the en­tire im­age us­ing Edit, and then Copy (Ctrl/Cmd C). Se­lect DayToNight1.jpg and se­lect Edit, then Paste (Ctrl/ Cmd V). This will cre­ate a sec­ond layer for DayToNight2.jpg.

04 Add a mask

A layer mask gives you the abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late the opac­ity of a par­tic­u­lar layer, which is es­sen­tial for this tech­nique. To add a layer mask, with the DayToNight4 layer se­lected, go to the bot­tom of the Lay­ers panel and click on the icon re­sem­bling a rec­tan­gle with a cir­cle in the cen­tre.

06 Set the gra­di­ent

Click on the Paint Bucket tool and hold un­til the al­ter­na­tive op­tions ap­pear. Se­lect the Gra­di­ent tool, then the lin­ear gra­di­ent op­tion from the top tool­bar. This will make the pro­gres­sion move in one di­rec­tion. Dou­ble-click on the gra­di­ent pat­tern to the left to open the Gra­di­ent Edi­tor.

07 What lies be­neath

In the Gra­di­ent Edi­tor, click on the bot­tom-right pre­set, which is called Neu­tral Den­sity. Next, se­lect the top-right marker, and change the opac­ity level to 0%. This will mean that one side of the gra­di­ent will make the layer be­low com­pletely vis­i­ble, while on the other side of the gra­di­ent the layer be­low will still be fully cov­ered.

09 The right stripes

Se­lect File, Open again, and open the Gra­di­ent-Tem­plate file from our start images. This will give you coloured points across the im­age to start and end at. (Don’t worry, the colours won’t ap­pear in your fi­nal pic­ture.) Copy and paste the tem­plate so it’s the top layer in your com­po­si­tion, as ex­plained in Step 2. It should be the only im­age vis­i­ble.

11 Pull it to­gether

Click on the gra­di­ent tool and drag from the left edge of the yel­low seg­ment to the right edge of the red seg­ment. This should make the im­age un­der­neath vis­i­ble, which is DayToNight1, but only at the very right-hand edge. Hide the tem­plate by click­ing on the eye sym­bol on the layer.

08 The gra­di­ent’s a drag

You don’t ac­tu­ally want a com­pletely opaque part in the gra­di­ent, so se­lect the top-left marker and set the opac­ity to 70%. Con­firm the changes by click­ing on OK. This will give you abil­ity to se­lect the start­ing and end­ing point of your gra­di­ent, man­ag­ing how much of the im­age be­low can be seen by drag­ging a line hor­i­zon­tally.

10 Lead­ing lines

Dou­ble-click in the space next to the ti­tle of this layer, open­ing up the Layer Style win­dow. Re­duce the opac­ity of the layer to 30% so the im­age un­der­neath is now clearly vis­i­ble, and click on OK. Se­lect the Layer Mask for the DayToNight4 layer – the white box will be sur­rounded by a black frame when you’ve done this.

12 Fade to black

Click on the layer mask for DayToNight3, then make the tem­plate layer vis­i­ble again. Start the gra­di­ent at the left edge of the yel­low sec­tion, end­ing at the right edge of the blue sec­tion. Re­peat the same ac­tion for DayToNight2, then turn off visibility on the tem­plate. Your im­age is done!

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