Control Exposure With The Screen Blend Mode

There are numerous ways to control local exposure in Photoshop

There are numerous ways to control local exposure in Photoshop, especially when it comes to lightening parts of an image. The beauty of this alternative one is specific areas of the photo can be individually controlled and then revisited nondestructively. If you want to go back and tweak the photo, simply access the brush tool and make the modification.

The first step is to make a duplicate of the background layer. This is essential to apply a Blending Mode. To accomplish this, drag the Background Layer to the Create A New Layer icon. The copy will appear above the Background Layer.

Go to the Layers Blending Mode pull down menu button and drag the cursor to the Multiply mode. Most likely the word NORMAL will appear in the window – this is where you'll change it to MULTIPLY.

You'll notice a significant global lightening to the original photo. The background now looks great but the waterfall is washed out and void of detail.

Modifications to darken the water will be made via the use of a layer mask. To add the layer mask, click on the ADD LAYER MASK icon at the bottom of the layers palette. A white window will appear next to the Background copy.

The magic begins via the use of the paintbrush. Click on the paintbrush tool to access it. In the OPTIONS BAR at the top of the Photoshop screen, set the hardness to 0% and the OPACITY to 40%. Make sure the foreground color on the tool bar is set to black and begin to paint away the local areas that were rendered too light as a result of applying the SCREEN Blend mode.

Build up the effect in increments as every pass of the brush changes the exposure. Vary the strength of the OPACITY to work more or less aggressively. If you go too far, switch the foreground color to white and paint over the area where you need to reverse the effect. Given the look I wanted, note the density changes of the blend mode as they appear on the layer mask. The shaded gray areas illustrate the sections of the photo I painted.




    Wow, that’s a hell of a lot of work for one photo. Was that ‘Before’ image processed in camera raw? Doesn’t look like it. I think you could do all that in ACR.

    There is a small typo in the first instruction. It says change blend mode to “multiply.” I think you meant “screen.”
    There are many ways to tweak photos, and this is an easy way to fix the exposure on select areas.

    Thanks for the above comments – it is not a time consuming process and the finesse with which it’s used, the process can’t be done in ACR.
    Jean – you are absolutely correct. It should say SCREEN in paragraph 3 thanks!

    That “multiply” mode will darken in the same way that “screen” will lighten.
    You do not have to duplicate the background layer and add a mask: you can use an adjustment layer (which comes with a mask) and just change the blending mode.

    Russ – great article and technique. I notice lots of comments about ACR – this cannot be done in ACR but the same “after” result can be created in LightRoom…as always, there are many ways to manage exposure range in an image – this is a great one if you like working with layers and and others exist in LR. It all comes down to what method you are most comfortable with

    You don’t really have to duplicate the layer (which just adds to the file size), just create a levels adj. layer w/o any modifications and use screen mode on it as you wish.

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