Quick Photoshop Secrets 11: (Luminosity Masks) Smoothly Blend Sunsets & Blue Hour Scenes

Quick Photoshop Secrets 11: (Luminosity Masks) Smoothly Blend Sunsets & Blue Hour Scenes

Quick Photoshop Secrets 11: (Luminosity Masks) Smoothly Blend Sunsets & Blue Hour Scenes

One very impacting way of deepening the mood of our blue hour images is blending in a sunrise/sunset from the same scene, at preferably the same focal length. There are many ways to blend these two exposures naturally, but luminosity masks are possibly the cleanest method, as you will see in today’s tutorial.


This tutorial uses a lot of function from Raya Pro such as Quick Blend and Luminosity Masks. Quick blending is a function in Photoshop known more commonly as ‘Blend If’. We have recently written Quick Photoshop Secrets 8: How To Digitally Blend a Single RAW file which shows the Blend If function. So, to avoid the risk of repeating ourselves please check out our previous article. Creating Luminosity masks can be tricky business. So if you don’t have Raya Pro we would definitely recommend you download our FREE Easy Panel which can create 16-bit Luminosity masks for you. Click here to learn more about our FREE Easy Panel For Photoshop.


Why do we need to take our time?

The shoot for this tutorial took over an hour to gather the exposures needed. The powerful blue hour shot was taken before sunrise when the sky was washed with vibrant colours. The image that we took the Sunrise from was taken over an hour later. Be patient, try to have as much foresight as possible and anticipate how the scene before you might unfold over time.

I was recently chasing an amazing sky, quickly grabbed my camera bag and headed to the car. I had a location in mind and with the sky glowing powerfully, there was a deep desire to capture it. Knowing I didn’t have long before the colour would darken and fade to nothing. I got behind the wheel and put my foot down. This was summertime on a Friday night with a late sunset at around 9:30pm. I got as close as I could to location after a quick 10 minute drive, followed by a 10 minute run over some hills.

The colours were fading fast so I had to act quickly. I set my tripod and camera up in record-breaking speed. I started furiously taking pictures, already knowing but not accepting that the moment had passed. Determined to get something rather than noting, I battle through. After 20 minutes or so, with the sky becoming less exciting by each passing minute. I decided to cut my losses and accepted that on this occasion nature had won. My trek back to the car was a slow miserable one, with me verbally chastising myself. I’m glad nobody else was around to see this angry photograph wondering in the darkness giving himself a stern talking to, next time I think I’ll pretend to be on my phone. 

I got to my car and packed away my camera and other equipment. Sat in the driver’s seat, got out my notebook and jotted down what had gone wrong. It was an impromptu shoot, and living in a suburban area quite lacking in natural beauty. It was never going to work, the odds were stacked against me from the off. This put my mind at rest and the disappointment was replaced by a sense that at least I had learned something (and achievement that I had broken the world record for the time required to set up a camera, lens and tripod – not officially verified). I was content… until I looked up. To add insult to injury, the clouds had parted ever so slightly and the sky was flooded with another wash of colour.

“You’re kidding me!” I had to smile and I give a nod of appreciation to the spectacle that is nature.

On reflection, if I had have waited 15-20 minutes longer I would have got the sky that I wanted. Maybe not the best composition or scene, but the sky alone was a sight to behold. Patience is a virtue and good things DO come to those who wait.


Here is my best image from the above experience, I was determined to have something to show. It could have been far greater if I had have waited just a little longer. I’ve also included some photos taken by friends that were uploaded on to social media that night to show you what I missed.

Smoothly Blend Sunsets
My Failed Sky
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Quick Photoshop Secrets 11: (Luminosity Masks) Smoothly Blend Sunsets & Blue Hour Scenes
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