Photoshop Friday: Merging two Exposures from Lightroom into Photoshop Layers

There’s been a big buzz lately on photography forums about this new OnOne software called “Perfect Layers.”  Right now it’s in Free public Beta, but they plan on releasing it with a $160 price tag.  From the marketing materials: ” If you use Lightroom or Aperture and you’ve ever wanted to or wished you had the ability to create a layered file, then this is definitely for you.”

I really don’t understand why you would need an application like this when you already have the ability to do this exact thing in Photoshop! (Unless of course you don’t have photoshop, in which case I believe you could do the same thing in elements which costs $99 and has a lot more functionality. Unfortunately, I don’t have elements so I can’t verify that this can be done in Elements, but perhaps one of you elements users can leave a comment letting us know?)

In any event, I created a tutorial on how to achieve this exact same thing in Photoshop because I used this method on all of the beach pictures I like this one I  took on our Florida trip:

it’s almost impossible to expose properly for both skin and sky in camera (if you aren’t using fill flash that is!) and so this method is the best way to compensate.


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Wow! Really neat tutorial. Never thought of doing it that way. Loving these!

Karen H says:

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

ariana says:

Karen, when you save, it will be saved as a PSD that is saved into LR automatically (in the same location as your RAW files!). If you switch back over to LR, you will see the PSD file selected, you can export to jpg or do whatever you would normally do with it!

Karen H says:

Awesome tutorial, thank you so much! Question: How do you get back into lightroom? Do you just flatten the file and save it as a jpg somewhere? Can you make the adjusted file go back into lightroom?

Severine says:

Excellent tutorial, thank you so much for sharing this (and everything else you’ve taught me before, this is my first comment!).

Eric says:

Just so you know, you can do layers in ps elements.

ariana says:

Shanon, you can definitely achieve the same thing by simply selecting your subject and then doing a levels or curves adjustment layer on that selection. The benefit to doing it first in RAW is that exposure adjustments to the RAW file do less “damage” to the image in the form of compression and noise if you are doing large adjustments.. but it’s definitely possible! I do that all the time :)

Shannon says:

Thank you for sharing this- loved it! Is lightroom needed- or is there a way this can be accomplished in photoshop CS4?

Heidi says:

I love you for sharing this!!!! You’ve made editing so much easier!!!! LOVE THIS!

Amy says:

Yes! My main shoots are on the beach and this is awesome! Thank you!

Marisa says:

Excellent tutorial! I’ve done layer masking a million times, but Lightroom is new to me, and I never thought about transferring images from LR to PS. Thank you!

Nicole says:

This is great. Thanks for sharing. I do have one question, however. Would I achieve the same result by just editing the background exposure in lightroom and then painting on my subject with exposure in lightroom? Thanks so much!!

ariana says:

Nicole, you could definitely achieve a similar effect! But you don’t have all the controls with the adjustment brush that you do when you use two different virtual copies, for example saturation.. If I want to saturate the background, I would have to use negative saturation in the adjustment brush when I went over the subject (which I guess isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I just would be afraid I was desaturating TOO much!) Plus, if you JUST increase the exposure or brightness via adjustment brush, you are limited to bringing contrast in via the contrast slider, which I prefer not to use.

In some situations, it would definitely suffice to use the adjustment brush! In others, if you want more fine tuned control you might want to use this method. If you watch my next tutorial where I will talk about how I used the targeted adjustment tool to selectively saturate, that is an example where if you saturated for the reds in the sunset, you would over satruate the reds in the skins and it would be hard to get rid of it with the adjustment brush. . hope that makes sense!

Nekane owens says:

Awesome tutorial! Very clear and detailed, thank you!

GiGi says:

THANKS for another awesome tutorial!

Nice tutorial! Your beach pictures looks awesome!

Jennifer says:

Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing Ariana!

anne laney says:

thanks so much! this is awesome!

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