Combining images for Dynamic Range (imgs)

Started May 9, 2004 | Discussions thread
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Combining images for Dynamic Range (imgs)
May 9, 2004

This gets brought up from time to time but it is well worth repeating since we get new folks in here all the time.

Sometimes the dynamic range in a scene is too much for a simple exposure. For example, here I exposed for the waterfall but the rest of the picture ends up too dark.

If you expose for the rest of the scene, the water is completely blown out. Here is the same shot with +2 exposure compensation (I did this with RAW but you can do it taking a separate shot. The convenience of doing this with RAW is yet another reason why some people including myself like using it).

Note that the boulders to both sides of the water are also overexposed. What we want to do is combine them. To do that we want to create a mask. Here is the dark layer combined with the mask that I created.

Finally here is the combined shot that is much better than either of the original exposures:

Instructions on creating the mask can be found at this URL. I used the 2nd method which has the merit of being free, simple, and fast. (See Layer Mask).

By the way, if you are wondering, I did NOT boost the saturation on these shots. The saturation is as it came out of the camera. Instead it comes from using a circular polarizer. I took this shot with both a circular polarizer and a ND 8 (3 stops) neutral density filter. That allowed me to slow down the shot to blur the water, to cut out some of the glare, and to get the saturated colors.

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