Composite images: why Elements won’t let you be defeated by contrast

Raw composite images: don't be defeated by contrast just because you have Elements

How to combine two versions of your raw file


How to make a raw composite image: step 1

01 Expose for the exterior
A better result will be achieved by combining two versions of the raw file – one with the exposure optimised for the interior of the kiosk and the other optimised for the exterior. We’ll start with the exterior, opening the image and increasing the Exposure to +0.40, then, to improve contrast, increasing Contrast to +50 and Blacks to +20. Any effects of these adjustments on the interior need to be ignored.


How to make a raw composite image: step 2

02 Expose for the interior
The edited image now needs to be opened in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements, or a copy of this version saved using the ‘Save Image’ option (the raw file will need to be reopened if you go for the former option). Next, to lighten the interior of the image, we select an Exposure level of +1.20 and Fill Light of 10, and set Contrast to +40 and Blacks to 2 or 3.


How to make a raw composite image: step 3

03 Combining the images
This version also needs to be opened (if we’d saved the edits out of Camera Raw, both images would need to be opened). Choosing the interior image and pressing [Ctrl]/[Command]+A (Select > All) to select the entire canvas, we press [Ctrl]/[Command]+C to Copy. Then, choosing the exterior image and pressing [Ctrl]/[Command]+V pastes the interior image over the exterior one.


How to make a raw composite image: step 4

04 Add a mask
Add a mask to the interior layer (see ‘How do I make a mask in Elements?’, left), then press [Ctrl]/[Command]+I to invert the mask to black, so the layer is hidden. The interior needs to be selected by drawing around the inside of the window frame with the Polygonal Lasso Tool. With this selection active, the mask thumbnail is clicked and the selection filled with white (Edit > Fill) to reveal the lightened interior.


How to make a raw composite image: step 5

05 Final touches
Neither of our exposures is quite right for the subject: she’s too light in the interior image and too dark in the exterior one, so the correct exposure is somewhere in-between. By opening the Swatches palette, clicking the 50% Gray swatch to make this grey the foreground colour, then carefully painting over the subject with a brush 100 pixels in diameter and set to around 90% hardness, the problem’s solved.


How to convert raw files
How far can editing raw files rescue exposures?