3 Image Exposure Blend

One of the powerful uses for luminosity masks is to exposure blend to create natural looking beautifully balanced images. In this tutorial I complete a 3 image exposure blend from Antelope Canyon.

This tutorial uses a previous version of our luminosity panel, the techniques are still relevant with our current panel.

Digital blending or exposure blending is one of the key uses for luminosity masks as a landscape photographer. Masks are used to take multiple exposures and combine them into one image. The reason they are so popular is you can create natural looking high dynamic range images. This is because you have complete control over the blending process. With HDR software, you don’t have any control over the blending process, everything is blended. This creates hyper detail throughout your image. By manually blending your exposures you can paint the detail in the areas you want it. This allows you to leave shadows and highlights as shadows and highlights.

In this tutorial I show you how to blend three images together from Antelope Canyon. Jonathan provided me with 3 exposures, shooting up towards the light. The shadows are heavy and the highlights are very bright. Because of this we need to blend the exposures to create a well balanced image.

Steps to Complete Exposure Blend

There is not a pre-determined order to blend our images. This means that you don’t have to blend lights areas or dark areas first. As you become more confident in digital blending you will develop your own style and process. When I am working with more than 2 exposures, I always use the middle exposure as my base. I then blend my highlights and shadows into the middle exposure. The reason I prefer the middle is exposure as my base, is because it holds the most rich detail. Below are the steps I used to blend this set of images.

  1. Select your middle exposure and put a white mask on the layer.
  2. Decide whether you want to blend your highlight or shadows, and put that layer below your middle exposure.
  3. Using the luminosity masks selection tools, select the tonal range you want to blend in. Modify your selection to restrict it to the tones that you want to blend, and load it as a selection.
  4. Using a black brush, at a low opacity and soft edge, slowly start to paint on the white mask in the areas you want to blend. Repeat these steps until you have blended the image to your liking.
  5. Take you last exposure and move it to the top of the layer stack. Put a black layer mask on it, or invert a white layer mask.
  6. Repeat steps 3 & 4, this time using a white brush to paint in the details.

Using this method to complete your blending you’ll have complete control over your final image. Giving you a much more natural image with defined highlights and shadows.