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Light Painting

Lesson 17 of 19

Photoshop: Selection and Masks

Tim Cooper

Light Painting

Tim Cooper

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Lesson Info

17. Photoshop: Selection and Masks

Lesson Info

Photoshop: Selection and Masks

This particular night, you can see, we had pretty heavy cloud cover. You guys probably saw, there was a ton of rain. I probably looked like a drowned rat. But we did get some rain and that could cover is not incredibly interesting in this photograph. I would like to see maybe some color added to it or maybe some texture added to it. But in order to do that, I have to work locally. And if I want to work locally, there's a couple of things I could do. I can either paint or I can make a selection. Let's start with painting, because that's going to be the easier way to understand for starters. Now, when we were back in, when we were back in Lightroom and we went to develop module, if I wanted to change this sky, what I could do is I could grab my local adjustment brush, change the color to say, blue, and then I could just start painting. And that would paint in the sky. Alright, so we've seen that. The only problem is it's gonna be a little bit tough to get right on that edge, it could be ...

done. And certainly this would be an easy enough image to do it with, but it's gonna be a little time consuming. Now, let's take what we understand here and move it over to Photoshop. What I could do is create a mask. So I could go Layer, whoops. First I, well let's see, what do I wanna do here. (clicks mouth) Alright, first I'm gonna choose my adjustment. So, if I chose, let's say we'll do color balance here. And I choose, yeah sorry guys, I just went through without telling you what I'm doing. Instead of going up to Layer, New Adjustment Layer, and over and down, that is just so much mousing. Nobody, who has time for that, that just takes too much time. So, the quicker way to go is just to go down to this little chocolate cookie dipped in white Belgian chocolate, you can see that right down here in the bottom of the screen. I'm gonna click on that and just get to that same list. And I'm gonna go to Color Balance. Alright, now, if I start adjusting my color balance right now, the very nature of this adjustment layer is that it's a global change. So if I add a bunch of magenta, my entire image gets magenta. Alright. If I add a bunch of blue, my entire image gets blue. That's because this adjustment layer is a global adjustment. It's because this, which is called a mask, is white. So now I want you guys to think about this for a second. If I grabbed a print and laid it down, and I had an adjusting piece of acetate and I laid it on top, this is the knob, and as I change it, my image gets more blue or it gets more magenta. Well if I just took a pair of scissors and cut some of this acetate away, that change wouldn't show through below. And that's exactly what we're gonna do here. Let's just make this crazy change, we'll change it to magenta. And now, wherever I cut through this mask with a paintbrush, it's gonna go away. So I'm gonna click on the mask, grab my paintbrush, ensure that I'm using black as a foreground color here, and now wherever I paint, I would basically be removing that magenta from the image. And you can see this being drawn on the mask to the right hand side as I'm going through here. Each stroke is making paint. Alright so now, what's happening in this image is that this particular adjustment is only coming through the white area of the mask. This black area of the mask is as if the acetate has been cutting away and there's no acetate there at all. We're just looking right to the bottom of the image. So this is what's akin to what we've done back here with the painting. But let's face it, if I wanted to paint, I could have just done it back here in Lightroom. The beauty about Photoshop is that you don't have to do as much manual work. So let's just throw that adjustment layer out. Alright, what we're gonna talk about now is something called selections. And a selection is a much easier way to create a localized area in which to adjust. The easiest selection tool is probably the Quick Selection Tool, aptly named. So I'm gonna click on that, now the only thing I have to do here is click and drag through the area I want selected. In this case I want the whole sky selected, so people, it's just this easy, I'm gonna make my mouse a little bit bigger by using my right bracket key. I'm gonna click, drag through, unclick. That is now selected. That is 10 times, 15 times faster than trying to paint that thing through in Lightroom. Alright now, if I want to include this little sky down here, I just click through there and that's selected. Now here's the beauty, people. When I go to my adjustment layer and I choose Color Balance, it's going to turn what was a selection into the mask. Look at that. That would take quite a bit of time to paint that kind of a mask. Right? But the Quick Selection Tool did it in a heartbeat. Now, I'll pull up my adjustment, which is our color balance, and the color balance is only gonna come through where the mask is white. So now I can take my yellow slider and push it a little bit more towards blue, start to add some more color into that sky up there. You can start playing with the cyan and red axis to subtly fine tune that blue. Let's push it maybe that direction. And that might be a bit ham-fisted, maybe that's too heavy, so I'll just back it off a little bit. But I want to push it just a touch so you guys get the idea of what's happening. So now, when I take the eyeball on and off, you can see that color overlay that I've given to that sky. And again, I think that's a little heavy, but I want to overdo it so you guys at home can see exactly what I'm doing. If I wanted to lessen it, I could go to my opacity and pull that back a little bit. But the idea here is I did it very very quickly by using a quick select tool rather than taking my time and painting every little corner and edge and getting in close back in Lightroom, which just takes forever. So, make a selection, turn it into a mask by creating an adjustment layer and it's going to be a lot easier. So let me close out of this image and let's do, let's see another example of this. Here was a series of photographs where I did different light painting in different areas. So you can see in this photograph, I light painted back in here a little bit more, I also got this window frame illuminated. I painted the front of the building. But in this photograph, I only time to stand in here and just paint the inside of that. So again, what I want to do is combine multiple, two different shots together in one image and I'm gonna use Lightened Blending mode. The problem is, is the cloud structure is different here than it is here. So, let's see what happens when we blend them together using our Lightened Blending mode. Select those two images and go to Photo, Edit In, Open as Layers in Photoshop. And voila, Photoshop has done our thing here for us. We now have the image of the white room on top and the other image below. Well, if you guys look, it looks to me that when I take this eyeball on and off, the images are shifted, and that's problematic. So this is gonna be a perfect time to use that Auto-Align. So, what I'm gonna do is select the top layer, shift click on the bottom layer, and choose Edit, Auto-Align Layers. And remember, when we get to here, we're just simply gonna click Auto, and click OK. Let Photoshop do its work, it's really good at aligning things. Alright, so now we'll zoom in again. And just take that eyeball on and off, and everything is nice and aligned perfectly. So I must have just bumped my tripod just a little bit in between exposures. Okay, so, now that they're both auto-aligned, what we'll do is we'll go up and choose our blending mode of Normal, and change it to Lighten, and voila, all the brightest parts of the image come out. Super simple you guys. But in this case we've got a problem because the sky is changed from image to image. So the first thing I'm gonna want to do is decide which sky I want. And I think I like this sky a little bit better because it's got some blue and I can see the star trails in it. So, what I need to do is I need to get rid of the sky on this layer. Alright now much like the mask, when it's black, inhibits the adjustment layer from coming through. And let me just show you this real quick again, you guys, just to give you a reminder. Let's say I make this really super quick selection here. Quick Select Tool, blah de blah, boop, and it's done. And I create a Color Balance layer, again this doesn't really need to be changed, but let's just do what we did last time and change it to blue. Alright. Realize that this is my knob, that's my acetate, and this is what my knob is doing. So I've got my print, my acetate, and my knob. I spun the knob, and it made this make the image look more blue. But, not on the entire image because this mask meant that I basically cut with a pair of scissors some of that acetate away. So it's only getting blue where it's white. So my point here is that white allows this change to come through, black does not allow this change to come through. Well, masking off an image works very much the same way. So if I was to click on this bottom layer, because remember, this is the, I basically want to cut that sky off. And quite frankly you could do that, I could click on this layer and go to the erase tool, I never recommend this. But I could click on my erase tool and I could quite simply just start deleting that. Check this out you guys. If I was on this layer, with my erase tool, I could just get rid of that and it'd be gone. But that is really scary. You don't wanna get rid of stuff like that. Just 'cause we were friends with it once, how could you discard it so quickly. Alright, so ultimately what we want is repeatability. So we're gonna do it with a mask instead. So I'm gonna click on this layer, and what I want to do, and let me just take this upper layer off for a second. What I want to do is I want to select the sky, just like I did here, but I want to select it on this layer. So I'm gonna once again grab my Quick Select Tool, drag it through, and that's gonna give me a pretty good look I'm just gonna zoom in close, and it's done a very good job. Oop, forgot the window. Lets go in and grab that. Boop. Alright now, this is a good selection of my sky here. Now I just need to turn that into a mask. You can do that by going down to the front loading washing machine right down here. Alright, so I'm gonna click on this button, and watch what happens up here. It's given me that same black and white mask. So, the only problem is this is exactly the opposite of what I want. I wanted to see the bottom and not see the sky. And so this mask is wrong. Now, for you power users out there, you could hit Command I, and that would certainly invert this mask. But for the rest of us, let's just edit undo by hitting Command Z. Alright, right now the selection, it was easy to select the sky. It would be much easier to select the sky than it would be selecting all of this intricate information down here, but now the selection is just the opposite of what I want. So if I go up to the Select menu, and go Select, Inverse, it just flip flops the selection. And now, when I go down to that front loading washing machine, it's going to get rid of the sky, but our sky is still up here in this layer. So now folks, what we've done, is as you can see, we've masked out the sky, you can't see it here, we get this guy, but this foreground and this foreground are blending together using Lightened Blending mode, which is how we'll pull all of that beautiful illumination out from where I want it. So a lot of times what we're doing is involve, or using many different techniques in one photograph. From selections, to masking, to Lightened Blending mode, to combining, to different adjustment layers. Alright? So Photoshop, really super powerful.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Shooting at night can create dynamic landscapes or portraits through long exposures. By using a wide range of tools, you can add light to your night photographs to create dynamic highlights or unique shapes. Painting with light opens a door into night photography that will keep you out until the wee hours of the morning. Tim Cooper is the author of The Magic of Painting with Light and in this course, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of light painting from accessories to camera considerations 
  • How to use test shots to capture your focus and exposure in the dark 
  • How to post-process your night images in Lightroom 
  • How to use layer stacking in Photoshop to build up light in your photographs  

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tim's Lightroom Presets

Tim's Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


DiDi Hendley

The BEST class ever! Learned so much--Tim is a great instructor. I highly recommend to the creative photog looking to expand his/her arsenal of tools, talents and products. Appreciated the patience and thoroughness that Tim offered students. Great pacing and information. I can see how I can very easily take his instruction out at night and produce something. I also appreciate that this session demonstrated images that weren't created in total darkness.

Gene Chamberlin

Tim is an outstanding teacher - I love his style, thorough and basic without being too elementary or condescending. I will be looking for other classes by Tim in the future. I'm am excited to apply the things I have learned from Tim and create my own style from the tools he has given. I never would have give much thought to light painting in the past. I have already notice a change in the way I scout my shots, now that I have added light painting into my tool box. Thanks for sharing your experience with the world Tim. Gene

Andrew Gow

Really enjoyable course. Clear instruction and surprisingly easy to put what I learnt into practice, which I did for the first time last night. This is also my first exposure to Photoshop, which initially put me off buying the course. However, Tim is a great instructor and explains his approach very clearly, so as well as an introduction to light painting it's a great introduction to what Photoshop can do.