Digital Blending Series

2 Image Blends

Video 1 of 4

In this first video, we show two methods of blending:

Method 1: We place a white mask on the top layer, with the lighter image on top. This gives us the exposure for the shadows in the foreground and the sea. Then using a simple graduated filter, we apply a gradient to the sky to bring in the darker sky from the image below it on the layer stack.

This does a great job to complete digital blending the two exposures and giving you a look virtually identical to using a graduated filter in the field. We then make a  luminosity selection of the areas that have been darkened by the graduated filter and use that selection to paint out the darkening on the mask.

Method 2: in this example, we start with the darker exposure, or the exposure for the sky on the top layer, with the exposure for the shadows below it. We apply a white mask to the top layer. Now making a luminosity selection of the dark areas, we can use this to paint on the mask to reveal the lighter areas from the image below.

You will notice that in both methods we are painting with masks, rather than applying a luminosity mask to the entire image. When you have image where there is motion or movement between exposures, features that appear in one image, don’t appear in the other. In this case there are rocks exposed in one exposure, and in the longer exposure they are hidden. If we apply a mask to the entire image, we will get ghosting and artifacts as the features in both images are not the same.

As a general rule of thumb, you should consider the painting method when you have motion between your exposures. We do show the pitfalls of applying masks to the entire image in this video. There are circumstances where applying a mask to the entire image creates pleasing results, we’ll cover this in future videos.

Video 2 of 4

In the second video in the series, we have a slightly more difficult task. The image has multiple bright areas that require digital blending, that are separated by dark rocks. This doesn’t allow us to simply apply a gradient filter and then use luminosity masks to clean it up. There is really great separation between the shadow and highlight areas which gives us a few more blending options.

Method 1 – Apply-Adjust-Replace: Using the Apply-Adjust-Replace tool we apply a luminosity mask directly to the light layer on top. This reveals the darker, moodier sky in the image below. We then use the dodging and burning tools to clean the mask up for a more natural result.

Method 2 – Auto Blend (Semi-Auto): With the clear separation between the shadows and highlights and limited movement of objects between frames we can auto blend. With some minor adjustments using the levels adjustment supplied, we are able to get a clean result. Then we take the mask into Apply-Adjust-Replace for some final clean up.

Method 3 – Auto Blend (Blend If): The Blend If tool is fully automated and can be a hit and miss method for blending, but works really well for this image. We also show how the Blend If tool works, so you can adjust the blend for better results.

Method 4 – Gradient Filter & Painting: In this case the blending is more involved than a typical blend using the gradient filter method. By using the gradient filter method, we have much more control though and are able to take complete control over the final result. We also, have to apply some additional blending techniques to complete the blending, using several masks.

Video 3 of 4

In the third video in the series, we take a 2-exposure shot from Castle Mountain in the Canadian Rockies. This image is similar to the second in the series where we have light in the foreground requiring blending. This tutorial covers three different methods of digital blending, including using the Heat Map to make selections.

Method 1 – Gradient Filter: The first method uses the gradient filter to bring in the sky, and masks to paint out the darkening of the mountain. In this method, we use the luminosity with layers panel and use colour to adjust the mask. We also use a solid black brush to slightly darken the exposure on the mountain. Then using luminosity, we make a selection of the water to slightly darken it through blending.

Method 2 – Heat Map: The Heat Map is a fantastic method for making very accurate selections. Using the Heat Map we make separate selections of the sky and the water to blend the two image together. We also use the tools for adjusting the mask within the Heat Map panel to refine our mask.

Method 3 – Apply-Adjust-Replace: Using Apply-Adjust-Replace, we apply a luminosity mask to the top layer in the image stack to blend the exposures. After this simple step, we do some minor modification to the mask with the panel to achieve a cleaner blend.

Video 4 of 4

In the fourth and final video in the 2 image digital blending series, I blend two images from Moraine Lake. One of the draw cards to using luminosity masks is the ability to have the ultimate control in digital blending. This gives us the ability to stop using graduated filters in the field with the confidence we can replicate it in post. Well, we can do a lot better than replicate it, we can improve on it significantly.

Method 1 – Gradient Filter: Using my favourite method of image blending, I use the graduated filter to quickly blend the two images together. This gives virtually the exact same result you would have achieved with a filter in the field. But we take it one step further and paint away the darkening, using luminosity selections. Using the Luminosity with Layers panel, we use colour to help us make the selection to complete the blend.

Method 2 – Apply-Adjust-Replace: With the lighter image on top, we use a darks mask to reveal the darker sky from the image below. We then do something you haven’t seen us do before, and clean up the blend by simply painting with a solid brush.

Method 3 – Apply-Adjust-Replace: We repeat the same steps that we used in method 2, accept we start with the darker image on top. This shows that there are multiple ways of achieving the same results, giving us many options in our editing.

If you have enjoyed this tutorial leave a comment below. We’re always happy to take suggestions on other tutorials that you’d like to see.