The image Ship Rock Fire Sunset, on the cover of my book Photoshop CS Artistry, is a composite of two bracketed photos created from one original 120 film 6×4.5 shot. In the first part of this two-part article, I’ll show you how to create and work with both digital- and film-bracketed images, and how to line up several images. In part two, I’ll cover how this image was created, how to create masks from channels, and how to separately adjust the colors from each image that went into Ship Rock Fire Sunset.
When you are shooting in a high-contrast situation where either your film or digital camera can’t capture the full brightness range of the scene, you can put the camera on a tripod and shoot two or three exposures of the image. One exposure should be underexposed to get the highlight detail, then a second normal exposure captures the rest of the mid- tone and shadow details. You can also shoot three expo- sures, one for highlights, one for midtones, and one for shadows. This is called bracketing your exposures. When you do this, you want the camera on a tripod so that all the exposures line up once you get them into a computer.
Sometimes you may have only one exposure to work with. When that is highly contrasty on film or in a digital Raw file, you might decide to open that one exposure two different ways from the Raw filter, scan it two different ways, or even process different parts of that same file in different ways within Photoshop. The procedure for doing this, and for working with the resulting layers, is very similar to the procedure for bracketing the original exposures and then working with them to get exactly what you want from each part of the image.
A third option, now available with Photoshop CS2 and later, is to take many exposures, five or more, over the full dynamic range of a very high-contrast scene, then combine those photos into one High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. This new format allows you to produce one image that can capture the full dynamic range in some of the most con- trasty scenes that occur in nature. (See PHOTO Techniques September/October 2007 for more on HDR).