How to blend exposures to make a high-contrast photography composite: steps 1-5
01 Open in Adobe Camera Raw
Download our start images and follow along! In Elements go to File > Open, select the three start images and click Open. The images are Raw files (DNG is Adobe’s standardised Raw format), so they’ll open in Adobe Camera Raw by default.
02 Warm up the tones
Click Select All so you can apply adjustments to all three images at once, and set the Temperature to 5000 and Tint to +25 to warm the images up. Now we’ll edit the images individually. Click masterclass_start.dng and set the Highlights slider to -43 to rescue some of the blown highlights in the sun.
03 Shadows and highlights
Next select masterclass_start_2.dng, and set Highlights to -77. Finally target masterclass_start_1.dng and set Highlights to -32, and Shadows to +26 to add some fill light to the shadows. Click Select All again, then click Open Images to open all three images in Elements’ Full Edit/Expert mode.
04 Combine images
We’re going to combine all three images in one document so that we can blend the exposures using masks, and we’ll use masterclass_start as the base image. Take the Move tool, click on the start_2 image and drag it onto the masterclass_start image’s tab, then hold down the Shift key so that the layers are aligned and release the mouse button to add the image as a new layer. Repeat for the start_1 image.
05 Reveal highlight detail
Target the top layer (‘Layer 2’), hold down Alt and click the Add Layer Mask button in the Layers palette: this adds an inverted, black mask that hides the layer and reveals the layer below. Select the Brush tool, and set the Size to 500 pixels and Opacity to 25%. Target the mask by clicking its thumbnail, and paint around the sun to reveal highlight detail on ‘Layer 2’.
PAGE 1 – How to set up your camera to shoot high-contrast photography
PAGE 2 – How to blend exposures to make a high-contrast photography composite: steps 1-5
PAGE 3 – How to blend exposures to make a high-contrast photography composite: steps 6-10
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