Learn the basics of Photoshop with simple exposure blending - Part #1

Photoshop is synonymous with two things, unbridled and near-limitless pixel‑pushing power as well as a certain gratuitous complexity that often leaves aspirant novices staring at the user interface bewildered. Regrettably, in 28 years since Photoshop first shipped, Adobe's relentless quest for digital image-editing supremacy has not been matched, in any meaningful way, by efforts to make the controls more user-friendly. With more buttons and menu options than a Soyuz, the reluctance of some photography enthusiasts to engage with the suite is entirely understandable.

However, as the de facto standard in photo editing software, Photoshop honestly does afford those with the gumption to look past the convoluted menu bars and side panels, near-boundless creative opportunity. In fact, even a rudimentary knowledge of the program is likely to see one equipped with the skills necessary to complete editing tasks that might otherwise be impossible.

While it would be difficult for me to argue that learning to use Photoshop is an ‘easy' undertaking, I can assure you that getting to the point where you can complete useful landscape photography tasks is not difficult at all. Indeed, Photoshop is built upon one fundamental concept, the idea of layers and masks, and there is no better way to learn about this crucial concept than with a staple of landscape photography photo editing, a simple exposure blend.

An exaggerated example of two exposures ready for exposure blending.

An exaggerated example of two exposures ready for exposure blending.

As you might remember from previous articles, exposure blending requires taking the highlight detail from one photo and combining it with the shadow detail from another to create a final composite image that contains the best of both photos. Sunrises and sunsets are always prime candidates for this sort of approach, and in our example image (below), the underexposed photo is set to donate the highlights for the sky and the overexposed the foreground detail.