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In Photoshop CS5: Creative Compositing, Chris Orwig demonstrates how to take photographs to the next creative level by combining images in Photoshop. This course covers multiple compositing scenarios, including portraits and architecture photos, from selecting the images, to blending photos with layer masks and blend modes, and resizing and sharpening the results. Chris also covers tips and tricks design to inspire and increase the drama and interest of photographs. Exercise files are included with this course.
With this photograph, we are going to explore how we can combine multiple exposures together. This initial exposure was captured for the interior of this beautiful cabin. Here we have a lot of really nice detail. Yet one of the problems of course is that we don't have any detail in the windows. So with the tripod in the exact same position, another exposure was captured, this time an exposure where we have great detail in the windows. Well, how then can we bring that detail in the windows together with the exposure for the interior? Well, here's what we can do.
We're going to go ahead and click in this outside layer and then duplicate it by pressing Command+J or Ctrl+J. Next, turn off the visibility of all of the underlying layers. Next, what we want to do is darken this up. So let's go ahead and name this darken. Now we're going to darken this up in order to build a mask. Let me show you what I mean. Well, first on a Mac press Command, on Windows press Ctrl, and then the L key for levels. Here we can darken up a lot of these mid-tones. All I want to do is just darken those up quite a bit.
Then I don't want to modify the brighter tones that much here except perhaps to bring a little bit more light into those areas. All right, next click OK. Now from here we're going to grab our brush. We're going to paint with black. Make my brush a little bit bigger. I'm going to paint with black just to actually conceal any of these areas, any of the areas that I don't want to have turn into a selection. What this can do for us is it can help us build up a really nice selection. In this case, I'm just going to go ahead and paint away some of this area up here and for the most part, you can see we have this bright area and what's dark is pretty dark.
All right, well, the next step of course is going to be to try to create a mask or selection based on this. So in order to do that, let's simply click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Well, currently this mask is white, revealing everything. So let's go to our Mask panel and click on Color Range. Here you can see we have this mask where nothing is currently selected. I'll turn on Image, so I can see the content. I'm going to change my matte color. I want to use a white matte there, so I can see that white background.
Then I'm simply going to click on an area of the photograph. As I do that, we start to see that show up here. Well, if we hold down the Shift key and we click and drag across this, what you can see is slowly I'm building up a selection of these areas of the photograph. I'm just going to go ahead and Shift+ click and drag through these areas. I just want to build up a nice selection here which has all of this content. All right, well if I go too far like I've done here, I want to undo that. I don't want to select the background at all. I just want to select the windows. So again, just Shift+clicking, I'll go ahead and drag through this area of the photograph.
Now this isn't a perfection selection, but it might be a good starting point for us. Okay well, let's modify that Fuzziness slider. You can see we can control that, so we just have the window detail coming in there. I think that looks good. Let's click OK. Well, now here we have a pretty decent selection, except we have a few problems. You can see some of the darker area of the trees. It didn't quite work very well for us. Well, here's how we can fix this. If we zoom in a little bit, we can grab our Brush tool and then I'll go ahead and paint with white over these areas, just so I can bring in all of this darker tree detail here and also over here on this side.
We lost some of the tree detail there as we were darkening up this layer in order to begin to build this mask. So we just want to bring some of that back, so that we can have a nice little selection there. All right, go through. Just make sure I have all of the clouds. Okay, well, so far so good except of course this looks kind of strange, but let's see how it will work. If we turn on the visibility of our interior layer, what we're going to see is that we have this darkened exterior now coming in. Yet it doesn't look very good. That's because this layer was just created really to build the mask.
So let's turn off the visibility of this layer and then turn on the outside layer. Next, let's click in our mask and then drag that to the outside layer in order to apply that there. All right, well already from the get-go, this is looking pretty good. Take a look. Here is before and then after. Now the problem of course is with all of the edges. They're just too jagged. If we zoom in, you're really going to see that in a few different areas. The edges just look awkward, strange, too dark. We can fix that up by clicking in the mask and going to Mask Edge.
Now with Mask Edge, we can use something called Smart Radius. When we increase our Smart Radius, what that does is it helps Photoshop figure out how to work with those edges. We can also add a little bit of contrast or smooth out some of the edges, although we're going to have to be careful that we don't smooth them out too far. In this case, I think even just one there might be nice. We can also diffuse this just a touch as well and then again build up the edge nicely. Take a look. Here's before and now here's after. All right, well so far, so good.
Let's click OK to apply this and evaluate how we've done. Here we have it, before without any detail on the windows and then after with some great detail there. Okay, well let's zoom out. Now one of the things that I want to do next is I want to control the overall ambient light. It's a little bit too bright here inside of the cabin. So in order to correct that, I'll click in my interior layer. I'll click on the Adjustment Layer icon and then choose Curves. In Curves, I'm simply going to darken this up a bit. Again, I want a little bit more warmth and also just a little bit more darkness there in the cabin.
So I'm going to deepen those tones up just to touch and also brighten up my highlights just a bit. Now this adjustment is completely subjective just because I kind of want to add a little bit more density there. Now here we have the overall image, before and then after. We are able to accomplish that image without a lot of effort. The great thing about this is that by using this masking technique, we're able to make that selection and then bring the detail back in the windows in order to improve the overall photograph. Now the last thing that's worth noting here is sometimes it's helpful to lower the opacity on this layer.
Sometimes you want to just scale this back a bit, so it's a little bit more believable, so it's not too over the top. Other times, it's nice to go the Mask panel, click in the mask, and then actually lower the Density here. Sometimes as you lower the Density, what you're going to do is bring the two exposures a little bit closer together. Now in doing that of course we wouldn't need this Curves adjustment, right, because this is then controlling that ambient light here. I can darken that up a bit in order to bring those closer together. In this case, I'll just reduce that a bit and I'll also increase the feather just a touch as well, just to add one pixel of diffusion there along that edge.
Again that can help out in certain situations. Actually though, as I look at that, it feels a little bit too soft in some area. So, I'm going to remove the feather. All right, well here we have it, overall before and then after.
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