Shape the light in your photos with Photoshop and Camera Raw


In this excerpt of a CreativeLive class, Jack Davis shows you that the lighting that you captured in your images is not carved in stone. He shows you an interesting HDR workflow where he blends three exposures from an interior scene. Instead of simply merging them and letting the tone mapping decide what the final look will be, he takes control by blending them manually. By doing so, you can create light where you want it and give a scene a whole new mood.

Working completely non-destructive

The first thing that Jack does is to load all the files into a single Photoshop document and use layer masks to hide and reveal the parts that he wants in the final image.


Manual layer blending with layer masks

Then he uses the Blend If Layer Style (one of the little secrets in Photoshop that not many people know) to automatically hide the dark parts of an underexposed exposure and blend the lighter parts very smoothly with the remaining exposures.


Use the Blend If feature to hide parts based on the tones in the image.

The final trick that Jack uses in this class and that you will learn from this video is that you can merge the exposures that you are blending via a Smart Object and work on this object (effectively the merged image) as it if was a single layer.


Convert all layers to a single smart object to be able to apply a filter to the merged object but still be able to open the contained layers and change them individually.

Jack exploits this feature to use Adobe Camera Raw filter and take advantage of its unique features.


Apply Adobe Camera Raw filter to the smart object to refine the lighting in the image further.

By creating a single smart object from a whole set of layers, you can work entirely non-destructive all the way through in your manual blending workflow. That is, you can revert any changes that you do in ACR to the Smart Object, but you can also open the Smart Object at any time and access all the layers again to change the way they are blended.


Inside Adobe Camera Raw: You can work on the Smart Object as if it was a single Raw image.

I am always looking for new ways to keep things non-destructive, and that is the ultimate trick to me. Check out the video and try it yourself.

Watch the full video


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1 reply
  1. Jennie McGregor
    Jennie McGregor says:

    Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great class. I went up to the Creative Live site and saw that Jack Davis has 19 classes up there. Which class was the excerpt taken from? Sorry if I miss that somewhere.


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