Exposure stacking is the process of taking multiple photos with different types of lighting and exposure settings, then blending them together into one photograph. This technique is used frequently in night photography, when a photographer wants to capture an object in the foreground while also capturing the night sky. Because the lighting of the foreground object obscures visibility of the sky, many different photos must be taken with various lighting and exposure settings to achieve this effect. In the following video, Russell Brown explains the process of exposure stacking in Adobe Photoshop CS6:
Russell captured each photo using a Canon 5D Mark II, an interval exposure unit, a strobe light and a tripod. Each photograph was taken in the exact same position. He first took three photographs of the foreground, lighting it in different areas each time. Next, he took four photos of the night sky with four minute exposures each. Once blended in post production, these photos show the movement of the stars over a span of sixteen minutes.
After importing each photo into a single Photoshop document as layers, you can then select all layers and change the blend mode to “Lighten.” This blend mode takes the lighting of each photo and merges it together. You can then change the visibility of each layer to experiment with how the photograph changes, or you can use a layer mask and hide parts of each layer until you have the desired effect. This technique isn’t for night photography alone; it can also be used to introduce multiple forms of lighting into any type of photograph.
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