Recently, I wanted to photograph our dining room with a homemade chandelier turned on and a bright, snowy scene showing through a set of windows. I wanted detail in the room, in the light fixture, and in the outdoor snowy scene.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to have it all in a single shot, no matter how much special lighting you have. As you can see in photos 2, 3, 4, and 5, you will lose detail somewhere in the photo no matter what exposure you choose.
The solution to indoor/lighting photography?
1. Set the camera on a tripod.
2. Take three or four exactly placed photos at different exposures: one to capture the detail outside the window, one to capture detail in the light fixture, and one or two to capture detail in the rest of the room.
3. Mash all four photos in Photoshop.
Step 1: How to Mash Different Exposures
Before you "mash," or combine, photos, be sure to make COPIES of the photos you wish to mash. DO NOT work with originals.
Next, layer the photos as follows from darkest to lightest.
1. Open the second darkest photo, select the entire photo with the selection tool and copy.
2. Open the darkest photo and paste the second darkest on top. The second darkest photo will appear above the darkest photo in the layers sidebar.
3. Repeat with second lightest and the lightest photos, pasting them on top of the darker photos. All photos will now appear in the layers sidebar stacked from darkest to lightest.