Digital blending is a technique used by many photographers, especially in the landscape field, to blend into one final image, one or more exposure using Photoshop
Basically, to correctly blend images, we need at least two shots. For this reason, the best choice to take the shots is the exposure bracketing mode that allows you to capture, for the same scene, 2 or more shots with different exposures
Digital blending, also called exposure blending, mainly takes advantage of the layer masks that allow the best areas from all layers to be revealed in the final image on multiple levels. These are then blended together and layer masks used to reveal correctly exposed areas from each layer
Exactly as the HDR techniques, digital blending combine the exposures into one, the main difference is that HDR technique uses tone mapping which is messy and the result obtained is often noisy, surreal or oversaturated while digital blending, allows you to combine multiple images using the best points of each exposure with a clean and precise result
There are many digital blend techniques that can be used depending on the situation. In this tutorial we will see 3 easy digital blending techniques that will transform your photos
Digital Blend using Apply Image
The first method uses apply image to a layer mask created on the image you want to blend, is a very fast and useful method do exposure blend 2 images, let’s see all the passages:
1. Open Photoshop and stack the images into layers.
2. Create a layer mask into the layer you want to blend.
3. Then navigate to Image>Apply Image.
4. If you need to blend a darker exposure into a brighter exposure put the settings as follow
5. Instead, if you need to blend a brighter exposure into a darker exposure put the same settings but check invert
Below the final image after digital blending
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Digital Blend using Gradient Mask
The second method uses the Photoshop gradient tool, personally I use this method for all those images that have a strong contrast between highlights and shadows exactly like the images below
The blend can be done simply with the aid of the gradient tool applied to the layer mask, but to have a more accurate work it is necessary to apply also luminosity masks to the layer in order to select only the areas we need to blend precisely. So let’s see how to do it:
1. Stack the images into layers.
2. Create the layer mask into the layer you want to blend.
4. Once you applied the luminosity mask to the layer we can use the gradient tool along the picture to blend the exposure without any risk to go out of the selection and blend unwanted areas.
Digital Blending using Blend If
1. Stack the images into layers and put the darker exposure on top.
2. Double click on the darker exposure on the right of the layer thumbnail. A layer style box will appear.
3. Navigate down to the underlying layer. Hold down Ctrl+Alt, (or CMD+Opt on a Mac), left-click on the arrow to the left, and slide it to the right until you’ll see that the arrow splitting to half and press OK.
The exposures are now blended. If the image is too dark, decrease the opacity of the top layer to brighten the image.
If the image is lacking in contrast just add a curves layer to add some local contrast to fix it.
If you want to blend brighter exposures into a darker exposure you can use the same slider of the underlying layer, but this time move the right-hand arrow to the left.
Blend image easily
To easily blend images and create luminosity masks just with few clicks it’s available for free a free photoshop extension to fasten your workflow.
By following this link you can download a that will allow you to easily create and delete all the luminosity masks set (with the possibility to generate only lights, darks and mid-tones stand-alone).
For all those want to go further in digital blending technique I recommend downloading the TTS Pro Panel, the complete digital blending tool for Photoshop that will smarter the generation on luminosity mask and digital blending.