Luminosity Blending – in Context

The past few posts looked at luminosity blending as a post-processing step to enhance color & detail. That step usually is not done in isolation. Most often it’s just one step in a workflow. This post illustrates such a workflow beginning at image-capture where the most critical decisions are made – post-processing can only help so much.

Capturing a Snow Image



The Basin

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Start & Finish


RAW is essential because of the several stops of extra dynamic range it provides

This means more shadow & highlight detail is possible than with JPEG or TIFF & once that detail is gone because you failed to shoot RAW, it’s gone forever

RAW also allows easy “tuning” of the White Balance – difficult in JPEG

This image’s exposure, as measured by the histogram’s size & location, was nearly perfect (see screen shots below)

Even though the exposure is good – per the histogram – the upper left area’s shadows are too dark. We’ll fix that using the approach described in this post.

The captured image’s color has a blue cast which some viewers like with snow, but I’ll remove it in this image

Exposure notes for snow –

A positive exposure compensation (maybe over 1 full stop) is often needed

This is because the camera meter attempts to make the overall image tonality middle gray

If the scene is mostly white and you leave EV set to zero, your snow will be gray

Not a problem in this image since the snow was a small part of the overall image


Not many options, especially given the icy conditions which required me to slide on my butt on several stretches just to reach this spot in one piece. Not as agile as I used to be.


1. RAW conversion in Capture NX2; the critical 1st step is WB correction and then shadow recovery

1a. The first step was to remove the blue cast as shown in the following screen captures; click to enlarge & see details



1b. Followed by shadow recovery using NX2’s D-Lighting

The above NX2 WB & shadow recover steps provide the input to the next step.

2. Tonal & color contrast adjustments in Color Efex Pro 4 using my custom designed recipe for basic image post processing

  Step-by-step detailed illustration in this post

3. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro 2

3a. This step was solely to get a B&W version for use in step 4

3b. SEP2’s default conversion does not change the image’s luminosity. If you use this as your B&W conversion you will see NO difference in the final result after doing step 4. You must change luminosity.

4. Blended #2 & #3 in Photoshop using Luminosity Blend at 33%

4a. I try this with most images because, used judiciously, it often brings out beneficial details & colors that I can’t achieve otherwise

4b. Here’s what PSE’s layers look like after changing the SEP2 layer’s blending mode from normal to luminosity

Here’s the beginning to end –

Capture…………After WB……….After Shadow Recovery

After Step 2………………B&W Conversion……………Final

Click to enlarge

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