Expand the dynamic range of your landscape photos
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.
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