Exposure Blending with Luminosity Masks

I started blending exposures with luminosity masks years ago in trying to get the dynamic range that HDR promised, but without the compromises in quality. At first, my results were pretty embarrassing and I kept using HDR for a while. Then I started to get some better looking results, but was still frustrated with bad tree edges and other blending issues. And then finally everything started to click. It took me a long time because I was figuring most of the process out on my own. There’s no reason you should go through the same struggles.

 

Exposure Blending Master Course

To help you benefit from years of hard work in just a few hours, I’ve created a comprehensive course to help you tackle those challenges, the Exposure Blending Master Course. I also have some other short, free tutorials below.

How to blend exposures with luminosity masks in Photoshop

This comprehensive course includes:

  • Over 7 hours of training videos showing how to blend single or multiple RAW files to expand dynamic range and extract maximum detail from your RAW files.
  • Chapters focusing on blending technique, sky replacement, subject-specific considerations, fixing common issues. See the course page for a full outline.
  • The RAW files used in all the videos. This includes 9 different scenes to address many challenges in landscape, cityscape, and real estate interiors/windows.
  • Written course material designed to augment the videos, and link to many more free resources and videos.
  • Written summaries of all the videos with time-codes to make it easy to follow along, no matter what style of learning you prefer.
  • Quizzes to help ensure understanding and retention of key concepts.
  • Access to the course via iOS app, including offline viewing of the videos.
  • Lifetime access to the course.
  • Hosting on a professional learning management system to facilitate learning. This helps tie all the various aspects of the course noted above into a navigable interface.

And to help you make the most of the course, it comes with several great bonuses:

  • Bonus #1: Complete luminosity masking workflow video and written outline. This is designed to help show exposure blending in the context of a complete workflow, as well as provide a generalized approach you can use when working with luminosity masks. This addresses one of the most common requests I receive.
  • Bonus #2: Lightroom Develop presets to facilitate RAW processing for blending.
  • Bonus #3: Keyboard shortcuts reference for luminosity masking.

Please see the Exposure Blending Master Course web page for more details.

 

 

Blending Exposures for Landscapes

 

 

 

Blending Exposures for Interiors

Interiors, Real Estate, and other indoor architecture photographs typically run into the same problem: blown highlights in the windows and outside view. The dynamic range between the dark interior and bright, sunny exterior is just to great to capture in a single image.

Manual exposure blending is an excellent option for controlling these blown highlights during retouching. The results look better than HDR, free you from the constraints of using strobes or shooting only at the golden hour, and can be used in conjunction with those other techniques as well.

In this tutorial, I’ll demonstrate a few good methods to blend exposures for interiors. The first technique (using BlendIf masks) is simpler and allows for fast results that look very good. The second technique (painting through luminosity selections) requires a little more work or knowledge, but offers the best possible results.

Additionally, I’ll show you a couple of techniques to blend people into the photograph, to create an image that is more welcoming.

I’d like to thank Jeffrey Totaro for sharing his images to use in this demo (all images in this demo are his copyright).

 

 

Method 1: BlendIf

BlendIf is quick and simple way to get decent results. It also reduces file size. However, you have limited ability to fine-tune the blend, so method #2 is typically capable of producing higher-quality results.

Workflow:

  1. Use PreBlend to stack your exposures in the same document, with the darkest exposure on top
  2. Put Lumenzia into “If:under” mode
  3. Select the layer just above the bottom exposure, and try clicking L2-L5 to find the best blend
  4. Repeat the step #3 for the remaining exposures
  5. Select all the exposures with BlendIf, <alt/option>-click “Group” to put a black group mask on all the blended exposures, and then paint with a white mask to selectively reveal the blended highlights where desired.

 

Method 2: Paint through a luminosity selection

This method allows for the highest quality results. And after a little practice, it can be done rather quickly as well. The basic idea is that you paint with a white brush to selectively reveal the darker exposures in the over-exposed areas. A luminosity selection restricts your painting to the highlights. By using a brush, you can easily add more or less blending in very specific areas. You can also paint repeatedly in a partially selected area to build up to a fully white mask, which is very helpful for maintaining contrast in the blended area.

Workflow:

  1. Use PreBlend to stack your exposures in the same document, with the darkest exposure on top
  2. Put Lumenzia into “Normal” mode (this is the default)
  3. Select the layer just above the bottom exposure, and add a black mask
  4. Try clicking L2-L5 to find a mask preview that targets the highlights with white while protecting other adjacent areas with black.
  5. Click “Sel” to load the preview as a selection (hold while clicking “Sel” to load the selection with marching ants hidden)
  6. Paint on the black mask with a white brush. You may wish to click on “Split” to see the mask and blended image simultaneously
  7. Deselect
  8. Repeat steps #4-7 for the remaining exposures

 

 

 


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