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Luminosity Masks in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

Lesson 15 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

Luminosity Masks in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

Lesson 15 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

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Lesson Info

15. Luminosity Masks in Photoshop with the Print in Mind


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Advantages & Pitfalls of Printing


Demystifying Color Management


Understanding Bit Depth


Best Color Space to Work In


Importance of Image Capture


Live Shoot: Natural Light


Live Shoot: Studio Lights


Lesson Info

Luminosity Masks in Photoshop with the Print in Mind

Doing things with tones, and how we get the most out of our files. And I'm gonna do a thing called luminosity masking. All basically luminosity masking is-- It's a real mouthful. Luminosity masking is creating masks, if you like, based on luminance values of our image. So in other words we can create masks for shadows, we can create masks for midtones. we can create masks for highlights. and we can be very specific in how we target certain areas of an image should we want to, say, open up shadows, or suppress highlights, or even use these masks, perhaps, to tone an image. So let's go back to our cloud image that we saw in a previous session and let's do a couple of basic corrections here. I'm just gonna increase my saturation slightly. Change the color temperature a little bit. Bring some of the magentas of how I remember the sky and the way it was. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna click on my color management workflow options. I want to open this as an image, and not so much as...

a smart object for this particular exercise. So I'm gonna work in just Adobe RGB for this. 16 bit channel. I'm gonna hit OK. And we're going to open the image. Okay, off it goes. See what happens when color management policies are clashing. Embedded is Adobe RGB 1998, and the working is pro photo. Now what I can do is just convert-- I don't wanna do that. But I'm just gonna use the embedded profile instead of the working space for this particular one. So there it is. There we go. There's our image. Let me get rid of some of these other windows in the background, so we've got a nice clear space to work with. And here it is. What I'm gonna do now, I'm gonna launch my channels palette here. I'm gonna bring it to the side and I'm gonna make it nice and big, nice and big so you can see what's going on. At the moment, I mean, three channels exist. We've got a red channel, we've got a green channel, and we've got a blue channel to our RGB image. Before I go into luminosity masks, what I want to do is I want to extract just the luminance value from the image and basically separate the color information of the image from the luminance information of the image. And the way we do that is very, very simple. In Photoshop here in our layers what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna hit command-J on a Mac or control-J on a PC. And I'm gonna do that twice. And I'm gonna get two layers, one on top of each other. I'm gonna call the top layer, I'm gonna call that color. And I'm gonna call the middle layer here luminance. That's our luminance layer. So I'm gonna switch the color layer off. And I'm gonna work with the luminance layer. So I'm gonna extract, basically, the black and white information that is inherent in the file. Because we know that we have RGB, as in the color, and then we have luminance of each of those channels. So we just want to work with the luminance. The way we extract the luminance from the color is very simple. We're going to Edit. We're gonna go into Fill. And we're gonna fill that layer with 50% gray, and a blending mode of Color. In other words we're gonna ask Photoshop to do something that's pretty impossible. We're gonna tell it to fill, in a colorful mode, with gray, which has no color. But watch what happens when I do that. I'm gonna hit okay. And I will get a pretty beautiful black and white. So what this black and white represents is just the luminance value of the color information that's already there in the image. So now how do we extract that color information out? Well that's very simple. If I go in to color, and I click onto it to make it visible, I'm gonna follow the same process but change things around a little bit. So I'm gonna go in to Edit, Fill. Edit, Fill. 50% gray. But this time the mode, the blending mode, is going to be changed from color to luminosity. The luminosity layer, which we saw earlier, which had all the beautiful black and white that you saw, that is gonna be totally filled with gray, leaving the color information. And what we'll get is something that looks like this. What we have here is just the color information on top. And what we have underneath is the luminance information. So we've separated the two, and there's a reason why we do that. To get back to the original image, all I do is change the blending mode to Color. And there is our original image. But our original image now lives in two different worlds. There's a color world, and there's a monochromatic world. You'll note that, at times, when we do apply adjustments in curves or levels, and we apply some fairly heavy dodging and burning, what happens is, if I was to go in to curves, up the very top-- Let's switch these two layers off that we've just done our work to. And I come down and I want to heavily darken the image, what happens? I darken the image, but I also get a color shift. Can you all see that? I'm gonna just go in to Image. I'm gonna duplicate this so we can see what's happening. Image. Let's duplicate it. Let's zoom out so we make these side by side. I'm just gonna minimize that for a minute because we'll get to that-- whoops. There it is. Okay, let's go into our two files, there and there. There they are. There are the two files side by side. Let's leave this one, the copy, as is. And let's go to our other one. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna bring that curves layer and I'm gonna drop it between the color and luminance. So now that curves layer, when I switch everything back on, will only affect the luminance section of our image. In other words, the black and white information, leaving the color untouched. So I turn on the luminance, and I turn on the color. You see the one on the left-- And it's pretty hard to see on this monitor here. The one on the left has the color shift. In other words, it's more saturated. And the one on the right is just a darker version of what we already had. I know that we can apply a curves layer on top and we can just change that blending mode to luminance, and you get a very similar result. Except by doing things like this, what happens is we can add color as we wish. Should we want to slightly have a desaturated look to our image. Let's bring some sense into this and change that curve. If we wanted to, say, bring a little bit of color into it, then what I need to do is fade that top layer to bring in saturation exactly to where I want to fit it in. The other benefit of doing things like this, that if I duplicate the color layer, and I change the blending mode of that to Soft Light, I get this beautiful saturation effect. I'm just gonna close that because I don't need it. I'm gonna get this nice, beautiful saturation effect without actually going in and altering hue and saturation, and those colors are being saturated, or enhanced, if you like, through a Soft Light blending mode. And then of course that can be adjusted further by adjusting the opacity as such. But the real advantage of doing this is when we start to work with luminosity masks. If I now switch off the color information totally and just look at our black and white, and I go in to my channels, then the red, the green, and the blue channels are all gonna be the same, and we're gonna create masks on the average, rather than just create a mask that's gonna be channel specific, or color channel specific. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna hit command on the keyboard or control on a PC, and I'm gonna click command and click on the RGB channel. And the minute I do that, I get a selection. That selection is a selection that is based on pixel values that are brighter than 50% gray. So what Photoshop is doing is the minute I hit that it's selecting everything that's brighter than 50% gray right through what is pure white. So what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna go in to Select. And I'm gonna go in to Save Selection. And really, at the end of the day, if we talk about zones, and we talk about the zone systems, and I like to look at luminosity masks as a means of, you know, the Ansel Adam way of thinking with zones. This would represent anything that's a zone six to a zone 10. So it's just a bit brighter than a midtone because it's brighter than 50%. But it will go straight through to our highlight. So I'm gonna call this zone 6-10. And there it is. And I can deselect it. So zone 6-10 is basically everything that we've selected. If I was to load this as a mask, we know that the darker areas will hide sections of an image and the bright areas will reveal sections of an image. So in other words I could apply an adjustment here that will deal with just that tonality and leave these clouds alone. How do we alter this, and how do we change it? Well let's duplicate this zone 6-10. And let's call this now zone 7-10. And this technique is beneficial not only at the image editing stage, but later on when we print, when we have our master file, and then we're trying to expand or contract tonal range based on what the paper can print. And we're gonna be running tests with paper in sessions to come, where you will see that this technique really, really takes off. So zone 7-10 I duplicated. I'm gonna modify this selection here. I'm gonna do command-L or control-L on a PC. And it's basically gonna launch my levels command. With the levels command I take the mid point and I move it 50 across. So I darken it by a value of 50. And I hit OK. So now what I've got is zone 6-10, zone 7-10. I'll duplicate that again. Change that to zone 8-10. And launch our levels. And we're gonna come in at .5. Come on. And there it is. And I'm gonna hit OK. So you notice that now we're starting to narrow down our selections. And the next selection that I do, I duplicate it. If that's 8-10, 9-10 is actually really zone 10, basically, if you like. Okay. Command-L. I'm gonna type it in so it's a lot quicker. .5, and there it is. Okay. Extreme highlights. Zone 8-10, bright highlights. Brighter midtones. Even brighter midtones. If I go back into, say, a curves adjustment layer and I load in, say, zone 8-10. Here we go. Command click will load in that particular selection, and there it is. And I bring in a curves adjustment layer. Okay, let's do that again. Okay. Let me just turn that off. So we'll go back in to there and turn that off. And I start to darken things, what am I darkening? I'm just darkening those tones. See just those tones are changing? Or I could brighten those tones. Or I could just put contrast in those tones. The same things goes if I was to select, perhaps, zone 6-10, where-- let's load that up. And we go here in to our curves. If I was to darken that, or bring contrast to it, I'm not really touching the darker regions. So I can confidently apply contrast without applying contrast straight across and crunching my blacks even more with the fear that there's gonna be loss of detail. So that's takes care of everything that's from 50% gray or brighter. Actually brighter than 50% gray, right up through our highlights. Shadows? It's pretty simple. We load the zone 6-10. We're going to Select, and we want to be able to select the inverse. Where are we? I've lost it here. There it is. Inverse. Select, Save Selection. This one is gonna be everything from zone zero to zone four. And I hit OK. And when I look at it... That is the opposite now. It's selected all of the dark areas. So the sky is a midtone. It's not touched. Pretty cool. Everything that's white is selected. Everything that's darker isn't selected. So how do I create the other zones? It's pretty much the same way. Command-L. Control-L. .5. Command-L. And so on, and so on. Now the wonderful thing-- Let me just delete these. There's an action which I've created, and it's part of the course download, and it's really, really cool. And it goes something like this. So you come down to my zone separation action, which you all have, full tonal scale, and we play it. There it is. So zone 6-10, 7-10, 8-10, 9-10, 0-5, 0-4, 0-9, 0-2, 0-1, which is really, you know... And then what I've done is by loading two selections and subtracting them, zone zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. Incredible amount of control of what we can achieve with this. Like I said, if we wanted to, for argument's sake, go from zone zero to three and we load this particular mask, we can come back in to here with a curves adjustment, again, and make the darker areas even darker if we wanted to, giving the image a lot more drama. The ability to be able to isolate tonal ranges, this is a really cool technique. I mean, this is a sky image. And once again we'll bring the color information up the very top. Let's slide that up to the very top. I'll click on the color. And bring it back up. Let's put that on Normal. Sorry, Color. Okay, and we've made those adjustments without affecting color. There it is. There it is. So being able to mask an image out based on a tonal range. Let's get rid of this. We don't need it. And let's look at a real world example. Let me just open up another image. Recent image from a trip to Japan. So let's have a look at this. Let's go back in to camera raw defaults, and what we actually captured. You see my histogram is pretty much to the right. I've got a lot of information everywhere. Let's do it first by adjusting the chromatic aberrations of the lens of any profile distortions. That's a good starting point. Now I'm gonna play around with some sliders here because I need contrast in the mountains. So I need basically the mountain, for me, to be something like that. But I also need information down here. So I'm gonna have to sort of do a couple of things to the file to get it to where I want to be. Let's do one adjustment, just as far as brightness, and contrast. Bringing the lights up a little bit. Blacks down. A little bit more. And I'm gonna open this as a smart object. So Adobe RGB, what we're working in. And we're gonna click in to open a smart object. Gonna hit OK. Make that a bit darker. And just increase our whites a little bit more for the top section. And I'm gonna open that object. That's pretty good. And there it is. What I'm gonna do now with this image here, I'm gonna duplicate it. Because it's a smart object, I'll just rasterize that layer. I'm gonna go in to Edit, Fill. 50% gray with a blend mode of Color. In other words, all I want to do is just take the luminance information out of it. And I'm gonna play my zone and separation full tonal scale action, which is gonna totally separate the image with all the beautiful masks that I'll need to make this image into something else. Let's go back in to RGB. I'm gonna turn that off. I'm actually gonna dump that layer because I don't need it, because I only needed that layer to create this. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna hit the control key and I'm gonna hit on the layer itself. And I'm gonna create a new smart object via copy. Now I've got not so much two copies of the same thing, although they are two copies of the same thing, they're actually two different files that are very, very independent. In other words, if I click on one and bring it back in to camera raw, as I do, and make changes, it will only affect that layer and not the bottom layer. Okay. We good with that? Here what we're gonna do is we're gonna look at our foreground. We're gonna deal with our exposure of the foreground, and our saturation of the foreground, and our vibrance of the foreground. Because this is how I want my foreground to look. And I'm gonna hit OK. Then what I do to blend the two exposures together, we're gonna use, basically, one of these masks. When we come back and analyze the darker areas of the image, so zones 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, probably 0-2, would you agree, would be that foreground. That would best fit that foreground. And I'm gonna click the command key and click on to the selection itself. Go back to the RGB. Then I'm gonna click on the create mask icon. So now you see that foreground area has changed. Now I'm getting that beautiful color that I want, and that beautiful tonal range that wasn't there before. So I'm shaping the image to expand that tonality. I can go back in to that now and I could tweak contrast. I would increase the contrast. Increase the brightness ever so slightly. Hit OK. And that would change that foreground again. We're gonna get a change to that foreground, and we're gonna make it a little bit nicer. What I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna delete that layer mask. And I'm gonna choose, instead of zone 0-3, we'll load up the 0-4, just to see the difference. Sometimes there's different ways to skin a cat, as they say. Cool, that's pretty. Not. Okay, let me do that again. Keyboard's got a mind of its own. There. We just need to reverse that. There it is. Okay, see that foreground coming in? From what we had before, to what we had later. You could sit here with a brush and try to do that, but it wouldn't look as seamless as having the ability to blend all the different zones. And then of course, you know, I can start coming in to the bottom layer, and with a curves adjustment, increase contrast so we're getting a little bit more punch to that middle area. You see how it's all starting to come into play? It's really crucial to understand luminosity masks, and how they help you to actually shape an image, but more importantly later on when we print, when we play with a section on an image, we're able to open up shadow areas to give us more detail, we're able to control color in a very different way. And it's a really, really awesome way to work. So that's one method of doing luminosity masks.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Rocco's Photoshop Actions
Rocco's Printer Evaluation Files
Color & Luminosity Seperation Action

Ratings and Reviews

Roberto Valenzuela

I honestly consider many courses to be great, but optional. However, this course by Rocco Ancora is a MUST! It helps the photographer complete the circle of being a photographic artist. Our job doesn't end at the edit, it ends with the print. When your clients can hold and enjoy your creative vision physically, that is when the magic of being a photographer happens. I have been so fortunate to travel the world teaching and meeting some of the best photographers in the world. That being said, I can say with confidence that nobody can teach this combination of Photoshop retouching / fine-art printing better than Rocco Ancora. I believe in this class so much, I traveled to Seattle to attend this course to be part of the live studio audience. I have never done that before. But that's how important I consider this material to be. I am so happy I took the time to go and learn from the man himself. Now, I will get this course to watch it, dissect it, study it, and practice it. Very excited to see how the knowledge in this course will propel my career further. --Roberto Valenzuela

a Creativelive Student

I was fortunate enough to attend this class in person and got to experience Rocco's prints in person. The quality is absolutely breathtaking and a game changer, Learning these skills will really help my business in a number of ways. In the past, I have had a difficult time convincing clients to purchase typical lab prints through my studio, as opposed to buying them through Walmart or Costco where the quality was "close enough." Rocco's method that he shared in this class creates three dimensional images of unmatched quality and images that just jump off the page. The knowledge from this course will empower me to help run a sustainable business and thrive as a photographer. You would be foolish to not learn these methods and incorporate them into your business. Highly Recommend!!

April S.

I have invested time into learning Lightroom and Photoshop, my own gear, and my particular photographic style, but the one thing I am really lacking is a solid understanding about preparing an image for print, and the various print options (e.g., paper types). When I saw this course come up on the CL schedule it caught my eye immediately so I RSVP'd for the live broadcast. I was at work when it started and couldn't watch at that time. I do listen in from work sometimes, but after 2 minutes of listening to this course I realized it was one I really needed to watch closely and focus on. So, I stopped the stream after a couple minutes and bought the course. I have never done that before. I always wait and watch as much as I can in the initial broadcast (or rebroadcast) to decide if a course is one that I really should spend for. I knew right away though that Rocco was presenting the very information I was lacking and needed, and I wanted it! In addition, it was clear to me after looking him up online that he's a consummate professional with lots of experience and his delivery style even in just the couple of minutes that I listened reflected that. I already have X-rite ColorMunki Display and Colorchecker, a good monitor, and I have a photo printer (Canon Pixma Pro-100) but I'm lacking that technical understanding of color and know I'm not using my resources to their fullest. I use my Canon Pixma to test-print images before uploading to the print service I use. My method isn't ideal since the service uses different printers and ink, and paper depending on what I choose, but at least I have a much better idea of what my image file will give me in print form. After Rocco's course I believe I will be much better equipped to prepare my images and choose the options best suited to each image. I'll still test print if only because it's fun to see something on paper, but I expect the results I get from the print service to be much better once I really know how to put this knowledge to work for me.

Student Work