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Blend It Out!

7) Auto-Blend Layers progress bar

If you have two exposures, you’ll need to manually mask a layer. If you have three or more layers, Photoshop automatically will mask the layers. When you automatically blend layers, if there are any exposure or processing differences between the separate files/layers, Photoshop also will precisely match the colors between the layers so they blend perfectly.

So how do you do this with Photoshop? Take these steps.

1. Make multiple exposures.
2. In Bridge, go to Tools > Photoshop > Load Files Into Photoshop Layers.
3. Shift-click to select all the layers.
4. Optionally (necessary if it’s a handheld photograph), go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
5. Go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers.
8) Layer stack for the automatically blended layers

If you’re using only two layers, skip Step 5. Instead, highlight the top layer, click the layer mask icon in the Layers palette, and use a black brush to hide the unwanted element on that layer revealing the Background layer.

9) Layer stack for manually masking two layers

When necessary, retouch remaining artifacts.

Blending out elements with multiple exposures is, in many respects, similar to using an extremely long exposure to eliminate moving elements. Yet blends can be made with either long or short exposures.

This technique is simple. It boils down to taking two exposures and doing a little work in Photoshop or taking three exposures and letting Photoshop do most of the work for you. It’s really the new way of thinking that is, at first, so challenging. But, with a little practice, you can make it second nature. Learn to see in this new way, and you’ll find yourself making images that you once passed by. As a result, you’ll make many more successful images.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get over 100 Lessons with his free enews Insights at

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