Exposure blending enables you to mix images to get perfectly exposed skies, not always from the same scene. It’s not only a simple way of making HDR images, but it’s also a way of making more realistic-looking HDR images.
The process when shooting is simple and most cameras have a built-in Bracketing feature to aid you further. It’s crucial that one image captures the detail of the sky and the other that of the foreground – then you use Layers and Masks to blend the two.
We’ll help you tackle alignment problems with Auto-Align and use Masks for the perfect blend.
HDR Tutorial: make HDR images from 2 exposures
Step 1: Prepare in raw
Open the shots in Adobe Camera Raw, set the White Balance and adjust the exposure for each so the sky is perfect in one and the foreground in the other. Save both as TIFFs using the Save As button.
Step 2: Align images
Ensure the images are perfectly aligned, then go to File>Scripts> LoadFilesIntoStack. Select the two images and tick the Auto-Align option. Once you click OK, both pictures will load into one document.
Step 3: Create a mask
Click the top layer to make sure it’s selected. From the Layer Options, create a new Layer Mask and Fill with Black. Switch off the visibility of the top layer and use the Magic Wand tool to select the sky.
Step 4: Reveal the sky
Refine the selection. Switch the visibility of the top layer on and click into the Mask. Hide the selection and use a large White Brush at 30% Opacity to paint back in the sky.
Step 5: Finish off
Remove the selection and use the Brush along the horizon to blend in. Create a Curve Layer, make an S Curve to increase contrast, and then boost Vibrancy and Sharpen.
HDR Images: Pros & Cons
• Cameras have a Bracketing tool to quickly fire off multiple exposures.
• Photoshop’s Alignment tools make lining up horizons extremely easy.
• Masks and Adjustment Layers enable complete flexibility.
• Not true HDR, so some detail may still suffer from exposure issues.
• Big differences between shots can give horizons a haloing effect.
• Best for basic shots; complex images will take hours to edit.