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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

Raw Process, Twice,

To Reduce Contrast >

1 - Preliminaries

A Problem & Solutions

Let's say you're photographing a barn.

You can see the outside.

You can see the horsed inside the barn.

Unfortunately, when you photograph the barn, you have to choose between setting the exposure for:

• The outside.

• For the horses.

Without interventions, you can't photograph both the outside and the inside.

When photographing a scene with bright areas and dark areas, go to Photography's Problem: Representing What We See.

Here, we'll use a post-production method.

We'll process a raw file twice—once for the highlights—a second time for the shadows.

Then, we'll combine the best parts of the two exposure variations.

Do the following.


You can optimize the exposure for raw files.

Go to Raw Files: Expose to the Right.

Develop Twice

1st Develop - Shadows

1) Open the raw file in the Adobe Raw Converter in Photoshop Elements.

Let's call it DSC_1234.dng.

2) Edit DSC_1234.dng to optimize the shadow areas.

If you adjust the color settings, write down their values.

3) Click Open Image.

DSC_1234.dng will open in Photoshop Elements.

4) Go to File > Duplicate.

By default, Photoshop Elements will append copy to SC1234.dng.

DSC_1234 copy.dng

Change copy to shadows.

DSC_1234 shadows.dng

5) Click OK.

6) Close DSC_1234.dng without saving it.

You now have only one file open, DSC_1234 shadows.dng.

2nd Develop - Highlights

7) Open the raw file again and:

• Change the white balance back to As Shot, if it was changed.

• Click Default to return to the default exposure and contrast settings.

8) This time, edit DSC_1234.dng to optimize the highlight areas.

9) If you adjusted the color settings during the first develop, enter the values that you wrote down.

10) Click Open Image.

DSC_1234.dng will open in Photoshop Elements.

So Far

You now have two files open.


Optimized for the highlights

DSC_1234 shadows.dng

Optimized for the shadows

New Fangled Method

You can merge the two versions of your photograph automatically.

Go to File > New > Photomerge Exposure.

Follow the directions in the window.

If the result is not good, click the Manual tab for more options.

Proceed below if you want to do the merging yourself.

Drag DSC_1234 shadows.dng

11) Double click the thumbnail for DSC_1234 shadows.dng in the project bin/photo bin at the bottom of your screen.

12) Select the Move tool.

13) Click and hold on the image of DSC_1234 shadows.dng in the middle of your screen.

14) Drag the image down to the thumbnail of DSC_1234.dng in the project bin/photo bin.

The layers will look like this.

Layer 1

(DSC_1234 shadows.dng)



If Layer 1 isn't centered, use the Move tool to position it in register with the Background layer.

To facilitate the positioning, change the blending mode of the Layer 1 to Difference.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.


If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

When the layers are in register, change the blending mode of Layer 1 back to Normal.

If you haven't already done so, go to Move a Layer.

15) Change the name of Layer 1 to Shadows.



16) Change the name of the Background layer to Highlights.



17) Drag the Highlights layer to the top of the layers stack.



Two Methods for Merging

There are two methods for merging the two exposures.

The first method does the blending automatically.

The photograph is used as a mask.

The second method is manual.

You control the blending by erasing one of the layers.

Go to:

Method #1: Mask & Gaussian Blur

Method #2: Erase Tool