Rio De Ca’Tron in Venice (Italy)

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This is one of my older photos, the one I took 4 years ago while traveling to Italy. I tried to process it before on a couple of occasions, but I never was happy with the final results. Years later, I decided to give it another try using my new and improved processing techniques.


It was the middle of September, and Venice was packed with the tourists. Because I did not see any opportunities to use my tripod I left it in the hotel. The entire day I was shooting hand-held, taking 3 bracketed exposures for each composition.

Italy. Venice
Loc: 45.440278, 12.328056


First, I used the HDR Pro module of Photoshop to merge 3 bracketed shots to HDR (check my free guide “Natural Looking HDR Workflow“).

When a new HDR image was saved to the Lightroom catalog, I applied the Tropical Morning presets from my Landscape Preset Collection and adjusted Exposure using ToolKit adjustments.

I was happy with the look of the photo in general, but I did not like the way the water in the canal appeared. Plus, the sun’s reflections in the water looked to strong and unnatural.

This is when I decided to use a different processing technique only for the area of water. I described this technique in detail in one of my tutorials Long Exposure Photography Without a Tripod.

Before I could start, I had to equalize the exposures in all three bracketed shots. I used Lightroom feature Settings > Match Total Exposures (Develop mode) to achieve it.

Step 2. I applied the Easy Cross Lightroom preset from my Landscape Preset Collection to all 3 images. The preset emphasized the gold color in the highlights and added green hues to the dark areas of the image, including water.

Step 3. I selected 3 images in Lightroom and used command Edit In > Open As Layers In Photoshop

Step 4. In Photoshop, I selected all 3 layers and auto aligned them using Edit > Auto-Align Layers… with Photojection set to AUTO

Step 5. I selected all 3 layers and converted them to a Smart Object

Step 6. I used the following command to blend the 3 original layers inside of the Smart Object. Layer > Smart Object > Stack Mode > Median.

This technique produced a long exposure effect on the water.

The finals step was to blend together two images in Photoshop with the help of transparency masks. I used the area of the water from the “long exposure effect” image and the rest of the scene from the HDR image I created at the beginning of the editing.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

  • Camera: Canon 60D
  • Lens: Sigma 17-70mm
  • Focal Length: 40mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: F8
  • Tripod: hand-held

Processing: Lightroom Preset Based Workflow

Lightroom: import, tagging, export to Photoshop HDR Pro
Photoshop: 3 exposures ( -1, 0, +1) used to tone map image, 32-bit tiff image was saved to Lightroom (see my free guide “Natural Looking HDR Workflow”)
Lightroom: straightening, cropping, preset based processing (Tropical Morning preset from Landscape Collection),  export as PSD image
Photoshop: cleaning, contrast, transparency masking.

Photoshop Plugins: 

  • Peter Scrimshaw says:

    Hello Viktor, I like this image, very natural looking! 🙂 But I am puzzled by one step in your process:

    “Before I could start, I had to equalize the exposures in all three bracketed shots. I used Lightroom feature Settings > Match Total Exposures (Develop mode) to achieve it.”

    Maybe I have misunderstood what you mean, but doesn’t this go against the idea of having bracketed shots? Could you explain this step some more, as your images are quite close in exposure to start with, maybe -1, 0, +1

    Many thanks,


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