How to Blend Exposures for Interiors using Luminosity Masks

07-01-18 Update: I’ve created a page about exposure blending with luminosity masks where you can find more tutorials.

 

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 much 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 each of 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 in order 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 each of the remaining exposures

 

 


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