The struggle is real! Capturing an overall-well-exposed image in Landscape Photography is not the easiest thing to achieve. We more often than not end up with the sky being overexposed or not having enough detail in the foreground. For this reason, I shoot multiple exposures of my landscape scenes. This ensures that I end up with all the info I need to create the image I had in mind. This is referred to as the full dynamic range.
Yes using a graduated filter will help you to solve the issue, but you have much more control when shooting multiple exposures. Since the graduated part of the filter is a straight line, anything above the distinction will be affected. By using multiple exposures, you’ll eliminate this problem but it will require a bit more time and effort.
To achieve the desired result I would normally shoot three shots at different shutter speeds. The base image which would be your ‘correctly exposed’ shot. Then I get one underexposed and one overexposed. That leaves you with multiple images where different parts of the image are correctly exposed. These will then be blended together using Photoshop.
Note that Lightroom also has an HDR function, but this is not what we are looking for. We want to control how much light we paint into the image. For this reason, I set up my images in Lightroom, but the actual editing gets done in Photoshop.
Most SLR cameras can be set to shoot multiple exposures for you automatically or you can choose to do it manually. The first option is probably the best one. Your camera should have a BKT button. From here it can be set to take three images at different exposures and it will do all the shutter speed changes for you. From here we will import the images into Lightroom and set them up for the final blending in Photoshop.
I first make adjustments to my basic panel and then sync all three images so they all have the same values. I do this for everything except the whites and blacks that get set for each individual shot. From here you can select all three you images, right click and go Edit > Open as layers in Photoshop.
Photoshop will now open your layers. Place the base layer at the bottom and then create a black layer mask on the top two. Using a soft white brush you can start to bring back the information from the ‘hidden’ layers. Start by setting your brush to 20% opacity or even lower so you have more control.
Yes, this can all be a bit tricky, but I promise you that practice makes perfect and pretty soon this will be second nature. Please feel free to share your multi-exposed photos in the comments below. Also feel free to ask questions if you feel you don’t understand something.