• If alignment is an issue, go to the top of the Layers palette window and select Difference from the drop-down window. You’ll get a negative and positive on top of each other. Any white outlines will be the amount the images are out of register. If you just see a very dark and muddy image, you’re in alignment; if you see white outlines, you’re out of alignment. Click on the Move tool and use the arrow keys to align your images.
• Go to the Add Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. It’s the circle with the small letter “f” in the center. Click on the icon and select “Blending Options.” Split the arrows at the bottom of the window to create a range of darks to be blended into the brighter layer below. Do this by clicking on the Alt key while the pointer is on the slider. Select a range of dark values to blend.
This technique will take some practice, but once you’ve mastered it, you can create image blends of the same shot and expand your dynamic range from two to five stops.
You can always add a mask to the dark layer (the one on top) and paint in the correction you want. The HDR tool (high dynamic range) is CS2’s new solution to the dynamic range problem, but it has very limited capabilities compared to Blending Options.
Always flatten the image you send to your client or service bureau and keep the layered one on your hard drive for inevitable corrections. Unless your client is a sophisticated PS user, you may be inviting trouble if you send an image in layers. Layers can be read differently by different printers, causing unintended effects. (They also eat memory.)
Once you start using adjustment layers and masks, you will completely rethink how you shoot and how you work in Photoshop—and you’ll find new life in images you had may have considered discarding.