Digital Blending – Dynamic Range – GIMP

When wanting to combine two or more photographs for a higher dynamic range (HDR) or correcting an overexposed photograph, I mostly use programs like Photomatix, however it is sometimes too difficult or frustrating fiddling with the settings for minutes getting nowhere. So, there is an easier way and in certain cases much better than an HDR especially if you want to avoid those really surreal photographs – Digital Blending is the way to go, you can be much more selective with your increases/decreases in dynamic range and get more realistic results.

digital-blending-dynamic-range-gimpDigital Blending – Petronas Towers, Malaysia


  • Open your photos or photo up in GIMP
  • You can do this with a single photograph, but differently exposed photos are better, they will hold more detail dark!

1b. Levels (for a single exposure)

  • For a single photo, duplicate the Original layer
  • On the FIRST layer go, Colors –> Levels
  • Adjust as shown (darken or lighten):
digital-blending-dynamic-range-gimp002.jpgAdjust Levels (click to view larger)

  • If the original or one of the layers is properly exposed and fine, skip this stage!
  • If not, On the SECOND layer go, Colors –> Levels
  • Adjust Levels so it is darker (middle slider –> go right)

2. Layer Mask – Brush Tool (for finer adjustments)

  • On the FIRST layer, Right Click –> Add Layer Mask
  • Select: White Full Opacity
  • Grab the Brush Tool: FG Only Black, Circular Fuzzy Spot (or download my version), lower Opacity ~30%
  • Now stroke where you’d like to lighten things (I followed the steel curves and edges in this photo): Adjustments – Brush Tool (click to view larger)

2b. Layer Mask – Gradient Tool (for larger adjustments)

  • On the FIRST layer, Right Click –> Add Layer Mask
  • Select: White Full Opacity
  • Grab the Gradient Tool: FG Only Black, Square/Radial/Linear (depends on Photo for the shape)
  • Now apply stroke accordingly for your blown out/underexposed section (the skyline in this photo): Adjustments – Gradient Tool (click to view larger)

3. Apply Layer Mask and Finish Up!

  • When finished, right click on layer with Mask and select Apply Layer Mask
  • That’s It!
digital-blending-dynamic-range-gimp004.jpgApply Layer Mask! Skyline, but kept the rich coloured reflections and After – Digital Blending – Uncovered the KL Tower


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