Photoshop Image Blending Tips
Learn how to use blending in Photoshop. Just below the photo are the steps used to achieve the final result.
Two Blended TIFF images from a single RAW exposure, Gradient Tool used to bring up detail in the foreground. "Levels" adjustment. Taken at 5:10 am, 5 sec at f20. A couple of people have asked for more detail in blending images, so I'll do it here. This assumes that you shoot in RAW and have a RAW converter. I also recommend that you use a tripod (get the best one that you can afford).
I start with a RAW image... typically there is a lot of exposure difference between the bright (usually the sky) part of the image and the dark (usually the foreground) part of the image. So if you were to simply convert one image, you would either have blown highlights or completely dark areas. (Some photographers use Graduated ND filters on their lenses to compensate for this, but the Photoshop method is much more versatile.)
In your RAW converter you make and save multiple .PSD or .TIFF copies of your image. 1 copy for the bright area, 1 for the dark, maybe also 1 for the mid-tones. There are a bunch of ways to blend the images.
One technique that I use involves the Grad filter tool. I open all the .PSD copies that I have made, select the one that is exposed for the dark areas. Set the Grad tool to "dark to transparent", blend mode to "multiply", opacity to 25-50%. The image that is exposed for the dark area should have blown highlights... the idea here is to use the grad tool (repeatedly) to black out the blown highlights while leaving the foreground detail.
Once you're happy with it, copy it and paste it on top of the image that is exposed for highlights. Set blend mode to "screen". You might also adjust the opacity. These layers will need to be flattened when you save the JPEG. Another Blending method is to make multiple images and just use the erase tool to remove the blown highlights.
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