Adams once said, "You don't take a photograph, you make
it". Perhaps he was right. There are so many factors
involved in getting the perfect shot. The lighting, the timing,
and the subject can vary. Fortunately, when limitations arise,
you can sometimes salvage a decent shot by utilizing Photoshop
techniques. As a photographer I am intrigued by how much I
am still learning about the art of photography. Part of the
learning process for me in the digital format, is learning
how to effectively use Photoshop to help bring my images to
are several techniques that I have developed to aid in capturing
a high contrast scene with extended dynamic range. In this
article, I wish to share one of my favorite. We all know that
there are dynamic range limitations when measuring exposure
based on the lighting and subject contrast. To combat these
limitations, most landscape photographers carry an invaluable
tool called a gradual filter. This filter is nothing more
than Split Neutral density filter with transitioning shades
from dark to light. Some filters have a dark shade of 1, 2
or 3 stops which can also be combined if the situation requires.
following technique mimics the use of split neutral density
filters. All you need is a tripod and a still subject. It's
especially useful for landscape images with an apparent horizontal
or vertical division between the areas of contrast.
will need two exposures for each image. However, if you are
lucky enough to own a digital camera that offers a linear
mode, you only have to shoot one image. (Ex: Canon D30*)
are the steps:
Take two pictures. One picture should be well exposed to the
foreground, with the background overexposed. For example,
if your background is a bright sky, the sky will appear overexposed
since you've exposed for the foreground. Let's call this first
for the second shot, do the exact opposite. This time your
foreground will appear "underexposed", and your
background well exposed.
Bring both images into Photoshop. Make sure you convert them
to 8-bit mode.
Drag the overexposed picture on top of the underexposed one,
while holding the SHIFT key. This will place them into 2 perfectly
Make a layer mask for the "overexposed" image by
clicking on the layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers
Click on the layer mask to make it active, and then select
the linear gradient tool.
Drag a line from the top of the image toward the bottom until
you reach the part of the image that it's not overexposed
gradient you just created on the layer mask is the "digital
split density filter". Now you can control the intensity
of the effect by using the "Opacity" slider.
D30 users only need 1 RAW file converted to 2 images. First
convert your RAW file into a non-linear image (overexposed).
Next, convert the same file to a linear image (underexposed).
Then, follow the same steps. Place the underexposed image
on the bottom layer and the overexposed image on the top layer.
For the non-linear file, use "High" contrast when
converting the RAW file.
is the underexposed, overexposed and final image:
extra history brush retouch done to the final image)