Photomerge Exposure in Photoshop Elements

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

Sometimes you need to capture a shot that poses an exposure challenge — your foreground and background require different exposure settings. This dilemma often occurs in shots that are backlit. With Photomerge Exposure, you can take shots with two different exposure settings and let the command blend them together for the perfect shot.

For example, suppose you have a person in front of an indoor window in the day or someone in front of a lit nighttime cityscape.

You can shoot your initial images using exposure bracketing (shooting at consecutive exposure camera settings) or with a flash and then without. Elements can detect all these camera settings. Use a tripod, if possible, to keep your shots aligned. The added stability helps the blending algorithm do its job. Also, if your camera supports a timer, use it. That way, you don’t accidentally bump the camera when pressing the shutter button.

Here’s how to use this great command:

  1. Select two or more photos from your Photo Bin.

  2. In any of the edit modes, choose Enhance→Photomerge→Photomerge Exposure.

  3. Choose either Automatic or Manual mode.

    If you’ve done a good job keeping your shots aligned, leave the mode on Automatic and go to Step 4.

    If you feel the need for even more control, click the Manual tab and go to Step 5.

  4. Select an option in Automatic mode and then skip to Step 11:

    • Simple Blending: Elements automatically blends the two images.

    • Smart Blending: Access sliders to adjust the Highlights, Shadows, and Saturation settings for finer tuning of the resulting images.

    If you muck things up, click the Reset button.

  5. In Manual mode, choose your first shot from the Photo Bin and drag it to the Final window.

    [Credit: ©Jake Starley]
    Credit: ©Jake Starley

    If your other image isn’t already the source image, drag it from the Photo Bin to the Source window.

  6. With the Pencil tool, draw over the well-exposed areas you want to retain in the source image.

    As you draw, your final image shows the incorporation of those drawn areas.

  7. If you mistakenly draw over something you don’t want, grab the Eraser tool and erase the Pencil tool marks.

    Choose the appropriate option to have your preview show strokes or regions.

  8. Control the blending by dragging the Transparency slider.

    Dragging to the right blends less of the source areas into the final image. Select the Edge Blending option to get an even better blend of the two images.

  9. If your photos aren’t aligning correctly, grab the Alignment tool under Advanced Options.

    With the Alignment tool, click your source image and position the three target markers on three key locations.

    Do the same on the final image, choosing similar locations.

  10. Click the Align Photos button.

    As with the other Photomerge commands, the more similar your starting source images are (framing, angle), the better the merged result.

    Again, if you make a mess of things, click the Reset button.

  11. When you’re satisfied with the result, click Done.

    The image opens as a new, layered file in Elements. The blended image appears on Layer 1. The background is your starting final image. You can either flatten the layered file, which keeps the appearance of Layer 1, or you can double-click your background to convert it to a layer and then delete it by dragging it to the trash icon in the Layers panel.