Milad’s Sunset: Exposure Stacking

milad tower, tehran, iran

ISO 50 f/8 15s 70mm 3 Layers Overlay

As I watched the glorious album by Iranain Photographer, Morteza Safataj, I tried his technique to make this photo. It’s taken by Canon 6D: EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and processed in Adobe Photoshop CC. It is a composition of three photos that taken during the sunset from 19 to 20:30 yesterday evening in Tehran. In fact, I took several photos with different exposure and I just chose three of them to blend in Photoshop.

Here you can find how it happened:

milad tower, tehran, iran, buldings

ISO 50 f/11 10s 70mm ND64

This is the one I took just before the sun went down behind the mountain. I used the ND64 filter to increase the exposure time. you can see some narrow red light on the highway… This stack is processed in Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 (ACR) to increase the lights over the buildings in the final composition. So the buildings will get volume and bring out the picture.

milad tower, tehran, iran, sky

ISO 100 f/11 30s 70mm ND64

I Processed this one to enhance the colors of sunset in the sky. I used the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter in ACR to increase the color contrast. Finally, it’s is blended to the next stack using “Overlay” Blending Mode in Photoshop.

milad tower, tehran, iran, trails

ISO 50 f/8 15s 70mm

Here I wanted the light trails, and city lights. Also it has great graduated sky. It’s actually a great photo by itself. So I assumed it as a base and blended other stacks into this.

milad tower, tehran, iran, blended

ISO 50 f/8 15s 70mm 3 Layers Overlay

This is the blended composition after playing with blending mode and masking layers. It’s almost done. I’ve added ACR Filter again to emphasis on some parts. For example I wanted more orange and yellow colors in the right corner of the sky. You can see I did at the end:

milad tower, tehran, iran, comparison

ISO 50 f/8 15s 70mm 3 Layers Overlay

So if you want to practice this technique, here are my tips:

  • Find a subject/scene with elements that change over the time.
  • Check out the weather forecast and sunset/sunrise time… whatever affects your exposure.
  • Use external shutter and tripod.
  • Fix the parameters like White Balance, PL filter and aperture. They may affect the structure of your photo.
  • Take, choose and process the stacks based on the part that you want to use in the final composition.

I’m not professional in this, please leave me some advice. And I will be glad if you add your experience about “Exposure Stacking.” :)