I came across a fun new challenge last night while offroading with my buddy Rick. We went on a night run, with some very high powered lights. Now how in the world do you get a decent exposure of all this… It depends! If your shooting into the lights, bracket it all the way out to 3ev. If you have the time, then do one with the lights off and one with the lights on. if your shooting not directly into the lights then just a RAW format works fine. Lets look at an example of shooting into the lights with the two shot process (lights on & lights off)
Heres the two shots right off the camera.
The next part is… how the heck to you blend two shots like this together to get a decent result? Fortunately photoshop has some fantastic blending modes! Step one, open your lights on file. Then in camera raw, bring the highlights all the way down, and the darks all the way up. Then adjust the exposure for some even-ish looking result and open it.
Now open your lights off file, and do the exact same thing.
Then select your move tool, (top left of the tool bar) and click and drage the lighter image into the darker image.
Now align them! If you used a tripod like you should have then this will be an easy task.
Now select the blending mode for the layer, and set it to screen. Adjust the opacity of the layer to again get an even result.
Now its going to be a smidge bright and thats fine! so make a brightness and contrast layer mask on top of all the layers. Adjust the brightness just a bit.
Now were getting some genuine flat results! time to add a little flare to it. Add a color lookup layer mask to it and select filmstock_50. You can use whatever you want. it just provides different results and I happen to like the filmstock_50 one.
Looks amazing right?! And it didnt even take that long. Now if your feeling extra fancy throw a curves layer mask on there and flatten the shadows to make it look a little less HDR like and viola!
Save it. post it everywhere. make your friends think your the greatest photographer of all time! Don’t feel like you have to use the same color lookup that I did, go nuts with it! Knowing how curves works will also help you do your own style. But the big thing is getting the image to a happy flat medium to start adding contrast and color the way you like it. Happy photoshopping!