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Robert D Feinman

Phtotographing "Impossible" Lighting Conditions

Frequently panoramic pictures cover a lighting range which is too great for film to record. By combining two exposures it is possible to create an acceptable picture.

Here is an example of a waterfall in full sun spilling into a ravine in deep shade.

This photograph shows an image exposed for full sun. Notice that the waterfall is nicely exposed but the lower part of the image has almost no detail.

Sunlight Exposure
Sunlight Exposure

Now we take a second picture exposed for the shadows.

Note that these pictures were hand held and thus don't show exactly the same image. It is important to change the shutter speed rather than the aperture for the second picture so that the depth of field for the two picture will match.

Scan both pictures into your computer as a single file, if possible. This way the image settings will match for both images. After scanning open in your image editing software. I used Photoshop 6 for this example.

Make color corrections and sharpening to the combined image,then split into two layers. Just adjust for color balance and perhaps overall contrast. Brightness should be saved until the final editing steps.

light.jpg (21439 bytes)
Shadow Exposure

Select the area from the image you wish to replace and create a mask. This is the shadow area in the top picture. I used the lasso tool to create a rough outline then smoothed it and blurred slightly.

Final adjustments can be made by painting on the mask with the airbrush tool later.

Move the image and the linked mask over the second image and set the opacity to about 50%. Move and rotate the image as needed so that they line up properly. If there are discrepancies use the area where the seam will be as the place to have the closest alignment.

Notice in this case that the first picture has more sky and the second one has more stream. SInce these areas occur in only one image there won't be any problems in the final composite.

After the images are properly aligned set the opacity back to 100%. Select the airbrush tool and paint with black or white on the mask to adjust the overlap region. Set the pressure to a low value such as 10% so that the changes can be easily controlled.

mask.jpg (4458 bytes)
Shadow Mask

After editing to your satisfaction, crop the image and flatten to make a standard file. Save as jpeg for web use or keep in Photoshop format for printing.

You can apply any standard techniques to the combined image. Here we altered the color balance.

Click here to see this image full size.

combined.jpg (21952 bytes)
Final Composite
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© 2001 Robert D Feinman