TKActions Quick Tip: Exposure blending

Sean Bagshaw is heading out into the field soon, but he managed to squeeze in one more video Quick Tip before leaving. This one covers the popular subject of exposure blending. Because luminosity masks target specific tones in an image, they’re a natural for making masks that blend multiple exposures where the dynamic range of the scene exceeds that of the camera sensor. Sean’s approach to exposure blending has been to focus on the transition zone between light and dark areas of the image to make the blend look natural. Luminosity masks can help significantly with this process since they create natural transitions based on pixel brightness. The steps Sean uses are listed below.

  1. Open the RAW files as smart objects in Photoshop.
  2. Stack the images into a single document with the dark exposure on top.
  3. Make the dark exposure layer active, but turn OFF its visibility.
  4. Click the “Layer Mask” checkbox on the RapidMask2 module to enter Layer Mask Mode. This mode automatically applies the mask generated as a layer mask on the active layer.
  5. Click the “Composite” source button to apply a “Lights-1” mask as a layer mask to the active layer (the dark exposure). This starts the blending process.
  6. Turn the visibility of the dark exposure layer back ON to evaluate the blend.
  7. Modify the layer mask to create the proper transition zone. This might involve trying a different mask, using the MODIFY buttons to modify the current mask, or painting on the layer mask with black or white paint (try setting the blend mode of the paintbrush to “Overlay”).
  8. If needed, double-click the smart objects to reopen them in Adobe Camera Raw to make additional adjustments to brightness, contrast, white balance, etc.

It’s actually pretty easy watching Sean do it. In the 15 minute video he demonstrates the process, with small variations, using three different images.

Quick Tip: Exposure blending
Quick Tip: Favorite new V6 features
Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel for more tips on photography and post-processing.

4 thoughts on “TKActions Quick Tip: Exposure blending

  1. Thank you for this. I was going to ask for a way to do this without having to use Raya Pro or the others.

    It’s taken me more than a year to get through to understanding more and more about luminosity masks and color range masks.



    1. Yes, I’m very happy Sean did this. Many people have been asking about this technique.

      While Sean demonstrates using the “Composite” mask as the starting point for blending, you can, of course, experiment with any mask you’d like. Once you’re in Layer Mask Mode, you can just click a button to try a new luminosity/channel/color mask as the blending layer mask to find the best mask for your image. You don’t even need to look at the mask to decide which one to use. You can actually just look at the image as the different masks are applied as layer masks to decide what’s working. Same goes for modification. In Layer Mask Mode the modifications are real-time, so you can watch the image as you adjust the mask to find the best setting. Once you find the best mask, a little painting with either black or white paint with an “Overlay” paintbrush can help touch things up as Sean shows in the video.


  2. Hi Tony,

    Happened to come by this post once again when looking for some information.

    I like this technique a lot and I found the videos on the subject very helpful as usual.

    But the technique did arise a question or suggestion I have for a future update to the panel.

    I know there is a button for combining the information below and including the active layer to either a new merged layer or to a smart layer.

    But in relation to the technique of exposure blending in this post it would be nice to also include a button for the command “new smart object via copy”. That way it would be possible to use exposure blending starting from only one exposure when bracketed images are not available. This is a very good technique to use, far better so with luminosity masks than with the auto-hdr procedures in Lightroom or Photoshop.

    I know where to find the command when I need it. It just seems to make sense it would be available directly from the panel too. So I wonder what you think of this suggestion.

    Kind regards,

    Wouter J. van Duin

    Leeuwstraat 126d 3318 VG Dordrecht

    * +31(0)786300147 * +31(0)653911933 *




    1. This is already available, Wouter. Just click the “Duplicate Layer” button. The panel is smart enough to know when you are duplicating a smart object layer, and when it detects this, it defaults to “New Smart Object Via Copy” when completing the process. The “Duplicate Layer” layer button is an icon on the Combo/Cx module. If you’re not sure where to locate it, check out the diagram on Page 9 of the instructions PDF:


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