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A year or so ago I came across a video course, “The Art of Digital Blending”, by travel photographer Jimmy McIntyre. What I learned from the course changed the way I take and edit my photos. I later reviewed the course and the changes on my blog in the article, “The Art of Digital Blending” Video Course by Jimmy McIntyre.
The digital blending with luminosity masks quickly became one of my favorite techniques in my editing toolkit.
Digital blending is a great alternative to the standard HDR processing. Instead of relying on a program’s algorithm to merge multiple photos together, you can manually blend with the help of luminosity masks in Photoshop. This is an advanced technique and sometimes can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but it gives you an enormous amount control over the entire process of blending.
I do not use it on a daily basis but, in some extreme cases when everything else has failed, I know I can always rely on luminosity blending.
Recently, Jimmy McIntyre released a new plugin for Photoshop called Raya Pro, which allows photographers to take advantage of luminosity blending and eliminate the intimidation factor of Photoshop.
Raya Pro serves as a tool that helps photographers streamline the editing workflow in Photoshop.
Photoshop is an enormously powerful tool but, at the same time, it’s also a complex program. When I worked as a graphic designer, I used a certain set of Photoshop tools and techniques; and, when I switched to web design, the set of tools changed as well. Later, when I moved to broadcast design, the way I used Photoshop drastically changed again. Now, using Photoshop as a photographer, I face a variety of different and unique Photoshop challenges. My point is that sometimes it can be very difficult to choose and to find the right tools and techniques in the vastness of Photoshop.
Raya Pro addresses those challenges. The plugin creates a new panel in Photoshop that only displays tools and actions related to the photography workflow and specifically to digital blending. Now, I can complete 90% of my photo editing using only the Raya Pro panel.
The panel has three main modules or tabs. Let’s go through them.
Digital Blending Module (Tab)
The tools in this module lead you through the editing process.
For example, I have three images I want to blend together. I open them in Photoshop and hit button “3” under Layer Exposures. The plugin automatically creates a new document and places the three images on separate layers.
Next, I click Align and it triggers the Align Tool in Photoshop. In two clicks I have a new document with perfectly aligned layers. It is simple and fast.
The next step is to use Rapid Blending, which is a simplified version of digital blending.
By clicking the Dark and Bright buttons under Instant Digital Blending, I blend the darker and lighter layers with the base exposure.
If I am happy with the final result, I jump straight to the last section of the module to clean up my document (Group & Merge, Group) and perform color correction (Auto Correct, Manual Correct, Color Adjust, Black & White).
If I am not happy with the result of Rapid Blending, I have a choice to use the Apply Image technique which is a more advanced option.
Once again, if everything else has failed, I can always use the General Luminosity Masks section for luminosity blending.
It sounds complex, but in reality, it is not. Plus, Jimmy has extensive and detailed free video tutorials to jumpstart your editing with Raya Pro.
LMs (Luminosity Masks) Module (Tab)
This is where the real magic of Luminosity Blending happens. Here we have complete control over the creation and manipulation of luminosity masks.
I start by creating luminosity masks (Create All) and then I can load any individual masks by hitting the buttons from Brights, Darks, or Midtones rows.
Also, this module addresses the most challenging aspect of Luminosity Blending is masks subtraction. It can me a bit intimidating when you need to manually subtract one mask from another, now it is just click of the button.
Enhancements Module (Tab)
The Enhancements module is probably the most useful module because you can use it for any type of photo editing whether or not you use digital blending.
You can create a dreamy Orton Effect in one click. There are also options for Dodging and Burning, Shadows Recovery, Highlights Enhancement, and Contrast.
I like that I can boost the color saturation and vibrance not only in the entire image but also selectively by individual color.
My favorite option here is Warm Shadows, which I use with almost every image I edit.
There is also a set of Finishing options where you can reduce noise, reveal sensor dust, remove Chromatic Aberration and apply Vignetting.
You can also customize the Raya Panel by adding your own Custom Actions.
Another major time saver is the Resize section where you can simultaneously resize and sharpen the photo for various web destinations (G+, Facebook, Twitter).
I believe that the Raya Panel can simplify and streamline your Photoshop editing workflow.
If you are a beginner, you can start right away with the Enhancements module and over time learn how to take advantage of Digital Blending and Luminosity Masks.
And, if you are an experienced Photoshop user, the Raya Pro will be a major time saver from the very first time you use it.