Quick and Simple Composite Trick for Interiors: Use ‘Lighten’ Mode for Dark Doorways

Quick and Simple Composite Trick for Interiors: Use ‘Lighten’ Mode for Dark Doorways

Compositing frames in your interior photographs can be extremely time-consuming. With this simple technique developed by Mike Kelley, you can quickly and easily lighten doorways in post-processing while freeing up your editing time.

While this technique can come in handy in a commercial space, it will be most useful for residential real estate interiors, especially in archways or when doors to adjoining rooms are left open to show the layout of a home.

As with all compositing, you must be working with at least two properly aligned images.

To make this example simple, we will use only the two following frames: a main one for the overall exposure, and another for the lit doorway and adjoining room. Kelley, whose tutorial this technique is based on, suggests using flash to fill the light in the back room, as well as for the main image. His video lessons delve into further detail.

1. With the main exposure as the top layer, create a layer mask and brush out the dark portion of the doorway in the image. The background room is now properly lit, however, you are left with a smudgy, dark halo around the doorway.

Photoshop selection for an interior image composite

Once you mask the brighter image in and flip the layer order, make a selection around the door with the Lasso tool at 20 px feathering.

2. Rearrange the layers so that the lighter doorway frame is on top.

3. Using the Lasso tool, set feathering to 20 px and draw a selection around the doorway. Your selection needn't exactly match the frame; loosely around the doorway is optimal.

4. Click the layer mask button in the layers panel. Turn your layer blending mode to Lighten and you're finished, with the only data showing around the doorway being the brighter pixels from the base layer. Most of the dark halo will be gone, but you may need to brush a little extra in or out with the layer masks.

the "before" of a before and after interior composite photo of a bathroomthe finished photo of a before and after interior photo of a bathroom

Note that I also masked in the mirror on the left to better match the new lighting in the composite.

This editing technique is described in Mike Kelley's “Where Art Meets Architecture” video course, which you can purchase from the Fstoppers store.

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