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One of the areas where human vision is far superior to photographic capture has to do with overall brightness value. Now what we can see here in this photograph of the sequoias is that we have one exposure where we are able to see the foreground but the background is just completely blown out. We don't have any detail. Whereas a human eye can see the foreground and the background together, but in this case this variance in exposure kind of overwhelms the camera. It doesn't know what to do. So what we can do is we can create one exposure for one area of a scene and then we can create another exposure, in this case the background or the sky for another area, then we can bring these two exposures together in Photoshop.
Now I am excited to share this particular technique with you because previously in order to do this it took a lot of work. But here now in Photoshop CS5 it's much easier. Let me explain. Let's go ahead and put the foreground layer on top of the background, because here we have a nice brightness value in the sky. Next we will click on the Add Layer Mask icon, and then what we want to do is modify this mask. We want to create a mask which is just the sky. To do that we will go ahead and click on Color Range.
Now what's interesting about Color Range is we can then click in an area of our photograph in order to see where we are building this mask. Now if you don't see it this way you may want to change your selection preview. If you look at it in white, you can't really see or define the area you are working on. So in this case I will go to this Black Matte. I also want to view the selection over here as well. Next, hold down the Shift key and click- and-drag across the sky that will build up the selection, adding more to this. I want to click in the trees and also click down here all along these areas.
Well, so far this is a pretty good mask with just a few problem areas down below. Let's click OK in order to create this. Well now that we have done this we can see that what's happening here is that this is allowing the sky to come through. If we turn off our background layer we can see that we just have the sky in this layer. That's the exact opposite of what we want. So we need to invert this mask. To do that click on the Invert button. Now the great thing about the Invert button is it gives us so much flexibility. Therefore we don't really have to be concerned with what we are selecting or not.
If we have the opposite, we just flip it and we are good to go. Next, let's Option or Alt+Click on the mask. What we want to do is cleanup this area here and when you Option+Click or Alt+Click on your mask you see it in this black-and-white view. So next we will grab our Brush tool, we will go ahead and choose the color white, make our brush nice and big and also our opacity, we will take that all the way up to 100, and we will just paint away this down here and also a little bit over here as well, just so this area isn't affected.
All right, great, so far so good. Option or Alt+Click the mask one more time. So in this case what we have done is we have removed the sky area. Let's see how we have done. Let's turn on the background visibility here. Now when I do that all of a sudden I say, oh man! big problems. I have troubles in River City. Yet we think again, we realize that you know what we can do is we can target the mask and go to Mask Edge, and what Mask Edge allows us to do is to use this brush to paint over areas where Photoshop will evaluate them in order to make this particular mask even better.
It's going to pay attention to transparency. I am going to paint over the tree and paint over the background and Photoshop is going to slowly build this up. Now so far it's done a pretty good job. Click on this icon. There is before and now here is after. Well, if I need an even better job what I can do is smooth things out just a couple of points, add a little bit of contrast or perhaps just a little bit of feather as well. Let's look at our before and after. Here is before where it was. Now here is after. That looks like a really nice mask, bringing in detail in the sky.
All right, well click OK in order to apply that. What you will notice that this is currently black, and black is concealing the sky here, which in turn punches a hole in the photograph so we can see that underlying layer. Now if ever we feel like this is too dense, in my case the edges are just a bit too dark, well, just go ahead and lower your Density, and as you do that sometimes that will just soften up that adjustment perfectly so that it looks really good. All right, well there we have it, combining two exposures and doing that by using masking, and the Mask Edge in order really sweeten up that edge in order to get the best of both worlds.
In order to see the before and after, we can Shift+Click the mask. Here it is, before and then after.
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