man­ual blend­ing

Ex­pand the dy­namic range of your land­scape pho­tos

NPhoto - - Feature -

The ba­sic tech­niques for com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent ex­po­sures in Pho­to­shop are sim­i­lar to the dodg­ing and burn­ing meth­ods. Both in­volve painting on layer masks, but in­stead of se­lect­ing part of an ad­just­ment layer, you’re hid­ing or re­veal­ing por­tions of a pixel layer.

When­ever blend­ing ex­po­sures, make sure all the orig­i­nal images re­ceive iden­ti­cal pro­cess­ing – the same white bal­ance, con­trast, etc – be­fore blend­ing them.

This im­age of Three Brothers pro­vides an easy start­ing point. First I opened both of the orig­i­nal images in Pho­to­shop, then se­lected the Move tool and dragged one im­age on top of the other while hold­ing down the Shift key. Hold­ing the Shift key aligns the two images pre­cisely on top of each other.

If the images are not aligned (if the cam­era was moved be­tween ex­po­sures, for ex­am­ple), select both lay­ers and choose Edit > Auto-Align Lay­ers.

With the darker layer on top and se­lected (high­lighted), I clicked on the Add Layer Mask but­ton at the bot­tom of the Lay­ers Pal­ette. Next, as when dodg­ing and burn­ing, I in­verted the layer mask by press­ing Cmd-I (Mac) or Ctrl-I (Win­dows). This made the layer mask black, hid­ing the darker top layer and re­veal­ing all of the lighter bot­tom layer. Then I se­lected the Brush tool, chose a large, soft-edged brush, made the fore­ground colour white, and sim­ply painted over the sec­tions that were too bright and ap­peared over­ex­posed. Painting with white al­lowed parts of the darker layer to be­come vis­i­ble and over­ride the lighter layer. The end re­sult was a seam­less blend­ing of the two images.

This is the re­sult of blend­ing two ex­po­sures. Blend­ing three or more ex­po­sures gets more com­pli­cated, but the same fun­da­men­tal tech­niques ap­ply.

la yer ma sk

lig hte r orig­i­nal

da rker orig­i­nal

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