Back when I shot Velvia I extended the very limited dynamic range of that beautiful but contrasty film by using graduated neutral density filters. The digital revolution has all but eliminated GND’s from the backpacks of many landscape photographers. I use to carry three of them. I now carry only one, a Singh-Ray 3 stop soft-sep GND. Why? Blending two or more digital exposures together to create a single image with an expanded dynamic range allows much more precision and control over the final image. If you’re like me, you’re a little bit intimidated at the thought of learning yet another Photoshop technique. Don’t be. I put it off for way too long and now that I’ve gotten more than a few blended exposures under my belt I almost never break out my GND in the field. The tutorials below will get you started.
Exposure Blending in Photoshop – Sean Duggan
This might be the best place to start. It’s an easy to follow tutorial and doesn’t delve into the more complicated aspects of blending exposures that might just confused a virgin blender.
The Basics of Exposure Blending – Sean Bagshaw
Here’s another excellent primer to get the virgin blender well on their way to exposure blending bliss. I found this one to be particularly helpful.
Blending Exposures in Photoshop – John Williams
This tutorial not only walks you through how to blend exposures for increased dynamic range but also how to blend images with different focal points for increased depth of field. A bit more advanced than the first two tutorials. Very useful for landscape photography.
How to Blend Multiple Images Together – Kevin McNeal
If you’d rather automate most of the image blending process, this tutorial shows you how to use the Exposure Fusion function in Photomatix HDR software.
Merging Images: Landscape Photo Tip from NANPA Summit Presenter Jay Goodrich
Jay puts a different twist on merging exposures with regard to balancing the transition zone, which for most photographers is the most challenging aspect of blending exposures.
Blending Exposures in Photoshop Elements – Richard Bernabe
Here’s a fantastic tutorial for those who are using Photoshop Elements instead of Photoshop CS5, or one of it’s earlier iterations. Very easy, very effective.
Guest Post: Exposure Blending – Younes Bounhar
This is the technique I use most often as it more or less automates the selection process. Anything that makes my life easier is good in my book.
Understanding Digital Blending: Three Approaches to Extended Dynamic Range – Michael Reichmann
Even more ways to blend images for increased dynamic range with a thorough explanation of each technique.
Digital Darkroom: Graduated Neutral Density Filter – Jesse Speer
In terms of digital wizardry this tutorial from 2004 is ancient. Nonetheless, the technique is still valid and is one of the simplest to master.
Hand Blending High Dynamic Range (HDR) Images Using Luminosity Masks – Tony Kuyper
I saved the best, and most complicated, for last. Tony is a master of Photoshop and this tutorial will deliver the very best results possible. If you expect perfection and you’ve got time and patience, Tony’s technique is the way to go.
Got a favorite exposure blending tutorial? Feel free to leave a comment and a link to the tutorial.