Clearly, some HDR image edits don’t require blending when you edit them in Photoshop Elements. Say the image looks great. A little sharpening across the image is fine. There is no need for noise reduction. You don’t see any reason (creative or otherwise) to blend different changes together. Cool. When that happens, don’t mess it up by overworking the image.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s not so simple. You might want to sharpen one part of the image more than the rest, or add a touch of realism to the entire image. You can do these things, and more, if you blend results from different adjustments on different layers.

Blending enables you to think and edit in three dimensions.

Blending with opacity

One of the simplest ways to blend two or more layers is to lower the opacity of the upper layers. You can use opacity blending to add a touch of realism back into a tone mapped image, especially with people.

Say you want to make a contrast adjustment but decide to tone it down some — just follow these steps:

  1. Duplicate the layer on which you want to make the adjustment.

    This is another reason to work with different layers: It opens up a number of blending opportunities.

  2. Make the adjustment.

    The contrast adjustment is good, but a little too strong. (See the left side of the figure.) Rather than continually undoing and redoing, it’s simpler to blend the right strength by altering opacity on the contrast layer. See the right side of the figure.


    Create a merged layer, as described in the earlier section, “Editing with layers.” (See Figure 10-16.)

  3. Continue working.

Photoshop has an Edit→Fade command that essentially works the same way as opacity blending. Make the adjustment you wish, and then immediately fade it by a certain percentage. You might prefer to use layers because you can fiddle with it later, but you might find Fade worth your time.

You can stack a number of layers on top of each other, each having their own opacity, to create a very complex blend. This is an effective way of colorizing or tinting an image.