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.
- Open the RAW files as smart objects in Photoshop.
- Stack the images into a single document with the dark exposure on top.
- Make the dark exposure layer active, but turn OFF its visibility.
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn the visibility of the dark exposure layer back ON to evaluate the blend.
- 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”).
- 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.