In this tutorial I explain how to easily and quickly blend two or more exposures in Photoshop with Raya Pro. If you don’t know what Raya Pro is, here’s my review.
Taking two, or more, pictures with different exposures is a common method to capture images where the dynamic range is too wide for the camera. This is needed when a single picture is not enough to photograph and correctly expose both the lights and the shadows.
Dynamic range in photography describes the ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities (white and black, respectively). In the real world, one never encounters true white or black — only varying degrees of light source intensity and subject reflectivity.
When do you need two or more exposures?
In all those situations where the camera cannot correctly expose both lights and shadows. The most common cases are sunrises and sunsets, but this technique is also often used for interior photography, for example when you want to photograph a hotel room and at the same time correctly expose the light coming from the windows.
How can you take different exposures?
Most cameras have a setting called bracketing. Usually, you can choose how many photos to take and increments for the exposures. If for example, you find this setting: -1/0/+1 EV it means that you will take 3 photos: one with normal exposure, one underexposed by one stop, and one overexposed by one stop. Alternatively, you can change the exposure manually, but I don’t recommend this method because you risk moving the camera every time you touch it.
Before you shoot, remember:
- Shoot in RAW mode
- Set the focus to manual mode and focus on the subject
- If you have a stabilized lens remember that you have to deactivate the stabilization when using the tripod, otherwise the pictures will be blurred.
- If you want perfectly sharp pictures, activate the Timer setting and if you use a DSLR camera, activate the Mirror Lock-Up option.
- For this type of photography, the tripod is a must
How to blend exposures with Raya Pro using Quick Blending?
- First, you need to import the pictures in Adobe Camera Raw (if you shot in RAW).
- The dark exposure will help you recover the overexposed lights. This means that when editing the dark exposure you can adjust the settings in Camera Raw so that the lights are correctly exposed even if the rest of the picture will be underexposed.
- The bright exposure is often used as a starting point to start creating the final image. The overexposed areas will be recovered from the darker exposure).
- Once you’ve completed adjusting your exposures in ACR, import the pictures in Photoshop. You’ll then have two (or more) photos opened in different windows.
- To start merging your exposures open the main panel of Raya Pro called Hub (the one you see in the picture) and click on Stack. This command (very useful), will add the different exposures as separate layers and will also try to align the pictures (sometimes the images are misaligned even if you used a tripod). Usually, the brightest exposure goes in the lowest layer and the darker one above it.
- At this point you have to choose the method to blend the exposures.
With Raya Pro, you have several ways to blend exposures. Since version 5, there is a new panel called Quick Blending which, as its name suggests, is a very fast and intuitive way to blend exposures. This type of panel affects the channels (16bit) of the image. It is not as advanced as Luminosity Masks but allows, in most cases, to get very good results.
Quick Blend is activated by pressing the relative button on the top-right corner of the Hub.
Quick Blend is composed of 8 sliders: 4 to adjust the exposure of the Darker part of the image and 4 for Brighter parts.
The thing to remember is that when you adjust the sliders for the Darks, the more you move them to the right, the more accurate the changes will be. If you move all four sliders to the right, the image will be affected very slightly.
All you have to do is try to move the sliders until you get a result you are happy with. Once you have finished your adjustments, click on the Dodge Burn button (in the Raya Pro Hub), and in the new window click on Merge.
This command creates a new layer with all the changes saved. You can then start processing the rest of the photo working on this new layer.
Keep in mind that blending two exposures is only the starting point to post-process the image.
This is the result I got using Raya Pro to blend the two exposures (move the slider to see the difference):
Here you can buy Raya Pro. I also recommend the video course to learn how to use it. You’ll find much more advanced techniques that will allow you to get even better results.
If you want to try selling your pictures don’t miss my guide.