Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The Rembrandt Solution
What painting’s Grand Masters can teach today’s digital photographers
Physical split-ND filters are certainly not obsolete and have the advantage that you can record everything in one capture, eliminating problems with subject movement in between two or more captures that are later merged.
The advantage of the Graduated Filter tool is that you’re working with a single capture, just like you do with a physical split ND.
Start by stacking the two images in Photoshop by choosing File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack, which will put the two files on top of each other, perfectly aligned if they’re of exactly the same pixel dimensions. (Be sure to check the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images checkbox.) Drag the highlight layer to the top of the layer stack, if it isn’t there already. Now add a layer mask to the highlight layer. (Target the highlight layer and click the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel). Make sure white is your foreground color and black your background color. Now press G for the Gradient tool, and draw a white-to-black gradient on the layer mask so that only the properly exposed section of each capture is revealed. Start your drag above the highlight/shadow line and continue it down into the shadows. The longer the drag, the wider the transition zone between white and black on the mask and the softer the transition from the top image to the bottom one. If you don’t like your first try, choose Edit > Undo and try again. You can further refine the mask, of course, by painting on it.
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