Home / Articles / Adobe Photoshop / Merging Image Exposures in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Merging Image Exposures in Adobe Photoshop CS5

  • Date: May 9, 2011.


  1. Cameras and Compromises
  2. Using Camera Raw to Adjust Images
  3. Taking the Technique Further

Article Description

Want to give your photos more "oomph"? Adobe Certified Instructor Rafael Concepcion demonstrates a speedy technique for adjusting the exposure of certain parts of an image, making it more powerful.
Using Camera Raw to Adjust Images

Using Camera Raw to Adjust Images

When you open a RAW file in Photoshop, a Camera Raw window appears. This window allows you to change a variety of settings in the image, as shown in Figure 1. Usually, you'll modify the temperature and tint of an image—the two components that make up the image's overall white balance. If you shot in RAW format, you'll be able to choose from a series of presets in a drop-down list. These presets are similar to the white balance presets in the camera's menu. The great thing about this feature is that if you neglect to use the correct setting in your camera, adjusting the image is as simple as selecting the right setting in Photoshop.

Figure 1 A RAW image as it appears in Adobe Camera Raw.

The easiest way to "deepen" colors in an image is to play with the exposure of the image. Drag the Exposure slider to the left to decrease the exposure; drag it to the right to increase the exposure. Decreasing the exposure of the image affects the saturation of its colors. With the shot in Figure 1 onscreen, I dragged the Exposure slider to the left to get a sky that looks a lot more interesting (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Underexposing the image by 2.55 stops.

At this point, if I clicked the Open Image button in the dialog box, Adobe Camera Raw would make my changes to the image, convert it to pixels, and open it in Photoshop. However, I don't necessarily want the picture to look like it does in Figure 2. I've lost quite a bit of detail in the trees, and the building doesn't seem to have the same "pop" that it had in the original shot. Ideally, I'd like to have complete control over the exposure of both of these areas.

Saving the Image as a Smart Object

Notice the text area at the bottom of the image in Figure 2. It indicates the color space, bit depth, and dimensions for the image. If you click in that text area, you get a dialog box that lets you change those settings, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 Workflow options in Adobe Camera Raw.

At the bottom of the dialog box in Figure 3 is a checkbox labeled "Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects." If you select that option, the Open Image button changes in the Camera Raw window to open the image as a Smart Object (see Figure 4), letting you make any changes to the RAW file at a later point. In either case, click that Open button and you're back in Photoshop.

Figure 4 Default options for opening raw files—notice the Open Object button.

Creating New Smart Objects via Copy

In this example, I want the sky from the original image, but the tonality from another copy of it. If I simply create a copy of this layer by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J), Photoshop would make a duplicate of the layer, but I'd still have a problem. When you duplicate Smart Object layers in Photoshop, all of the layer duplicates use the same Smart Object as the original. This is actually a feature, as it lets you speed up a lot of production scenarios; however, in this instance that behavior gets in the way, because I need the two Smart Objects to be copies of each another.

By right-clicking the Smart Object layer instead, I get a new option: New Smart Object via Copy (see Figure 5). This feature gives me a new copy of the Smart Object to use.

Figure 5 Creating a new a via copy.

With the new layer created, I double-click it and go back into Adobe Camera Raw. Dragging the Exposure slider to the right, I bring back the exposure of the buildings. Notice at the bottom of Figure 6 that I now have an OK button instead of an Open button.

Figure 6 Editing the RAW image inside the Smart Object.

With the image adjusted in the new layer, we can see both of the layers in the Photoshop document. Now we need to hide some of the overexposed areas, using a mask. I think the best way to do this is to hide all of the layer, and then bringing back the portion of the image that I want. At the bottom of the Layers panel is a Mask option (see Figure 7). If I hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key, the mask will be created and filled with black, hiding the layer (see Figure 8).

Figure 7 Two different exposures in two different Smart Object layers.

Figure 8 Creating a layer mask that hides the image.

Now that the layer is hidden, I can "paint" the exposure back into view by using the paintbrush and a white color, revealing that individual layer (see Figure 9). A great part about this technique is that if I "paint in" too much of a specific area, I can switch back to the black background and hide that exposure again.

Figure 9 Painting in the layer by using white on the mask.

Now there's a separation between the building and the sky, and we have the option to change how saturated the individual layers are. For example, suppose the background is a little too saturated and underexposed. To change that look, I double-click the undersaturated layer, opening Adobe Camera Raw, and drag the Exposure slider to the right to increase the exposure—making yet another image (see Figure 10).

Figure 10 Fine-tuning the RAW files in the Smart Objects.

3. Taking the Technique Further | Next Section Previous Section

Adobe Press Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Adobe Press and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Adobe Press products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.adobepress.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020