Photoshop Tutorial: Tips for creating HDR layer masks using threshold

We have seen yesterday a step by step adobe photoshop Tutorial on how to achieve HDR images using layer masks. The most challenging part of that tutorial was step 5 where we should go and craft that rapidly created ND filter.
It takes both talent and time to successfully paint those transition regions that should be neither completely black nor white.
If you are of those who struggle to know the correct shade of gray to use on the edges, here is an easy way to get you started.

All images in this tutorial are copyrighted to Daniella

To follow this tutorial, I’ll assume you have already completed steps 1 and 2 of how to achieve HDR images using layer masks in adobe photoshop.

this method can replace steps 3 and 4 to give you a better start

As a reminder you should now have two pictures of different exposures each on one layer as shown in this picture

Photoshop HDR tutorial 1

1. Creating a better mask using threshold
a. Start by creating a copy of your background layer, select this layer and make sure to turn off the visibility of “layer 1” the other exposure of the same shot by clearing the eye as shown below

Photoshop HDR tutorial 2

b. Now in your photoshop menu, go to image -> adjustment -> threshold
and play with the slider until you have the bright areas white and the dark areas black
N.B. You don’t have to get it 100% right at this point, remember we are still going to refine our mask later on

Photoshop HDR tutorial 3

c. In your photoshop menu, go to filter -> blur -> Gaussian blur, and set a small in the pixel box, just enough to see the edges of your black and white picture starting to be blurry.

d. Next with the layer we’ve been working on still selected SELECT ALL (CTRL+A) and CUT (CTRL + X)

e. Re-enable the visibility of “layer 1” and add a layer mask to it

Photoshop HDR tutorial 4

f. While holding the ALT key, click on the mask you’ve just created. You should have a blank screen now since you are actually seeing your mask and not the picture anymore.

g. Paste the previously copied layer (CTRL + V)

h. Hold the ALT key and press on the mask again to switch to seeing the picture again.

Photoshop HDR tutorial 5

and that’s it all you still have to do is to refine your mask, but you are way ahead than with just a gradient mask.

Tomorrow I will post another way to do it so stay tuned.

This post is part of a series of posts, please also check HDR layer using layer masks and Tips for creating HDR layer masks using levels and Tip for refining the HDR mask