Skip to main content

photo & video

Luminosity Masking in Photoshop

Lesson 9 of 9

Luminosity Masks in Adobe Camera Raw

Blake Rudis

Luminosity Masking in Photoshop

Blake Rudis

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

9. Luminosity Masks in Adobe Camera Raw

Lesson Info

Luminosity Masks in Adobe Camera Raw

Transitioning into another topic though that we definitely have to talk about when it comes to luminosity masking is luminosity masking in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Its there. We just need to know where to find it. And maybe you're not using it now because you're afraid of it because it was a word you didn't understand. Well now that you know what luminosity masking is, you've learned it the hard way. You've learned all the hard things. Now when you come back to Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom I guarantee you you're gonna start using their luminosity masking tools a little bit more. Because of the concepts and the principles are exactly the same. So I like to just start all my images off by pressing auto. I'm not gonna lie. I'm really not gonna lie, I do. And I did a whole Youtube tutorial on the new auto button. One thing that Adobe did right is the new auto button. It actually works out really well. Gives you a good starting point, gives you a good base, but from there I move on.

So I might make my highlights a little bit deeper. I might make my shadows a little bit brighter. I might even boost the contrast a little bit, but here because this was sunset, and things are coming across blue, I wanna add some more yellow to that and maybe a little bit more magenta to that. Look at that. Already a better sunset image, okay. This is Olympic National Park, Rialto Beach. It's a really awesome place if, I mean you're so close to it if you live in Seattle. If you're not going there at least once a year I want to talk to you after this. (laughing) Now we're gonna go over here to the adjustment brush. Because where you're gonna find luminosity masking is gonna be in your adjustment brush, your graduated filter, and your radial filter, okay. So if I go into the graduated filter here, you know why they call it the graduated filter? 'Cause it's smarter than all the other ones. I'm just joking. That was a really really bad Photoshop joke. (laughing) You gotta do it, lighten the mood, right? So again, if I come down here before I even start this. You see where my mask right here is set to magenta by default. I believe masks and Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom look white, I think as a default color that Adobe specifies. So what I do is I come down here first thing every time I reinstall it on my computers, come down, make my masks and all my adjustment brushes to show up as a magenta. The bright is set to the highest it can go and the opacity is set to the highest it can go. Again, because it allows me to see things better when I start doing my masking. So if I press okay on this, the graduated mask, or the graduated filter I should say, is going to grab whatever preset we had in there from before. So whatever I used before is automatically gonna be in here. So let's just do this, let's just press this minus button just to get a mask on there. So we'll press and hold shift as I bring this down. The reason why I press and hold shift as I move this down is by pressing and holding shift, it's making sure that I can only move at 45 degree angles I believe, or 15 degree angles, or something like, maybe it's, maybe 15 degree angles I think it is or something like that. It allows me to only move it 15 degree angles instead of me like doing the whole rock the boat thing trying to get this even. If I press and hold shift, it's gonna lock me in straight, okay. So I've got locked in straight. If I turn this mask icon on, that's what the graduated adjustments doing. Its washing in from here, down through my canvas, or through my image, and everything that is in that magenta is just washing over the entire photograph. Okay, because that's how I have my mask set up. If we scroll down here, you see this thing called range mask. That's where luminosity masking is in Adobe Camera Raw and lightroom and it's a crazy powerful feature that they've just added, I believe it was in October of last year. Which is just... What they've done to this program from where we were eight months ago to where we are now is just unbelievable. So if we add the range mask in here and we press luminance, we see exactly what I showed you before, right? Zero, zero to 255 on a range slider and a smoothness. See that's where they got smart. They didn't call it fuzziness in here, they called it smoothness. So, well we can just scratch that out because we know what fuzziness is. Fuzziness and smoothness are essentially the same thing. So now with this luminance range mask, as I start pulling this over to the right, that's basically saying, hey that sea stack back there is no longer is gonna be affected by that negative exposure adjustment. If I pull it all the way over it's not gonna be affected at all. I don't suggest you do that though. I suggest, especially in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom to have a more smooth transition because the way the algorithm works on this as apposed to how it does in Photoshop is that you will see a very hard edge around your objects if you just were to go with something like this. And it doesn't look good, it looks like bad HDR halos that happen around your photos. So we'll drop that down to get a little bit of that included. When I'm saying a little bit, looking at this image you saw it go from, you probably couldn't see it from back there, a little bit of a white edge to just a nice feather, a nice feathering transition into there. So now if I turn that mask off, I can do whatever I want to do to that sky. Maybe it's make that a little bit darker. Maybe it's to you know, drop the highlights and I get more of those clouds to come out. Maybe it's to boost the shadows. This is like that Spiderman line, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should do it. You have to keep that in mind sometimes because if you try to push this too far in here, it's gonna show you with that haloing edge that's gonna happen along there and you're not gonna be able to get rid of it. The biggest thing I get when it comes to emails about this stuff is, hey I've got this hard edge around this thing, how do I get rid of it. Well just don't go that far to begin with and you don't have to worry about it, right? So let the image tell you how far you're taking it. If when you're doing this, you zoom in back here and you see that unnatural things are happening along that rock, you probably shouldn't take it that far. And what I mean by that is if you do something like this and you start to see like that kind of thing happening where, you know, obviously I wouldn't wanna do this to begin with but now you see those halos even more. Because it's showing you that this just doesn't match. The lighting is just not matching here. So just don't take it that far if you don't have to. That's my best piece of advise for you. Drop that down a little bit, that looks pretty good. Okay. So that would be if we use something like the range mask. But there is even a color range mask in here as well. Just like we talked about with the sampled colors in Photoshop where you could go to select color range, and do sampled colors, you can do the same thing here. Its just not quite as intuitive. So let's go to the brush tool, and let's say we want to make these foamy, sea foamy highlight areas a little bit more bright, okay. So I'm just gonna take my brush and I'm just gonna make a big swatch, I'm gonna turn my mask on so I can see it, and I'm gonna bump up my exposure a little bit and just brush like this. And you're like, yeah, you did a great job getting those highlights Blake. You're right, I know I did. So I'm gonna turn that mask off just 'cause I wanted to see what I was brushing on. And then if I go down here to this color, it's gonna have a little eye dropper here, if I click on that color, then turn that mask back on to see this, look at this. See, gotcha. I did do a good painting job. (laughing) Its kinda like when you're painting a house and you put your blue tape up on first so that when your painting you don't, you know, paint that stuff. When I was painting in the past I would do a lot of these really abstract paintings, where I would take tape and just tape all over my canvas and then paint, and then I'd pull the tape off and then more tape, and then paint, and then pull the tape off, and what I didn't realize I was doing is I was actually doing masking. It wasn't luminosity masking but you know, same concept. So we'll turn that mask off and now I can make those highlight areas brighter. I can add more color to those highlight areas if I want them to match that sunset a little bit better. I can add more contrast in between those highlight areas that are happening there. Let me make those highlights a little bit brighter. And then here's the before and here's the after. So we went from like a muddy type of cyan-y type look to something that will probably, well a little bit more usable within that sunset. And that is, there's two different range tools in here just so we're aware of that. If we click on the... That color range is different than the luminance range. So with this one I specifically used the color range to say this color I want you to select and not this range of luminance values. The one thing I want you to gather from all this luminosity masking stuff is if we go all the way back to the beginning, okay. Luminosity masking is nothing more than making a very precise surgical mask for a tonal value or what you know now, a color value in the image. Don't think of it anywhere outside of that. Don't try to get into that convoluted mode of you know, making all those different highlights, if you want to do that that's perfectly fine, but I would say that that's probably the next level of advancement for this. I wanted to show you that in the beginning but I wanted to show you how you could taper those things down. My biggest takeaways for you are to just know the control alt two is the selection for your highlights, control shift I is inverting those highlight selection. And that you can modify those at any point by using the adjustments and the, the levels slider. And that's your own custom luminosity masking. Really quick and really easy. Or do the color range, the cheater method. And again, it's really darn close, so. I just had a question and I'm not sure if this makes sense but, you do like a curves or a hue saturation layer and do the luminosity mask on that and then you go to image levels. If you aren't sure and you want the highlights to be flexible, if you wanna adjust that later, is there a way to make the level part that you've been going to image levels to do, to keep that flexible? Not necessarily. But to keep it flexible, you could incorporate something like blend if in there. Which in the blend if lesson we talked all about how you can incorporate blend if with even with masking. The way to do that would be again, making a channel selection for that one specific luminance value they had selected. The problem with a mask is that they are restrictive in nature. That once you push the contrast out of it, it's gone, there's really no going back. So that's the downfall. That's why you just get it right the first time, don't worry about it. I'm just kidding. (laughing) Its gonna take some playing. But you know, it's the difference between the types of levels of editing that you're doing. Are you doing basic editing or you doing more advanced editing. Now you're stepping into the waters of I'd say probably even heavy advanced, you know, editing. Not necessarily advanced, it's even a little bit beyond that. So you're gonna have that, you know, push and pull, play with it, see what happens. Play with the opacity slider. You know those are the things that you can do to reduce the affect of that mask. Let's take one from online. Okay. Lee Gardener asked a question. When I use the color range, why does it always say that only 50 percent of colors are selected? And can Blake tell me why it also says 50 percent when I do mid tone shadows and highlights. Absolutely So Is he doing something wrong? No he's not doing anything wrong. What it is is Photoshop likes to get solid selection of color. So if you click it and it says, it goes blong, and it says like, that's what it does on a PC anyway. Its a really annoying blong. It'll say only something like only 50 percent or whatever, I just press okay. Yeah. It's still making a selection for you. Okay. I think it just has to do with those racing ant lines, it can't show you that as well because it doesn't make a definitive selection for it. Because what that 50 percent is if I'm trying to wrap my head around it, is it's that color that you're selecting is not a full color. So Okay You know if you select like magenta at 255 magenta, that's a really powerful magenta color. So it can make a really robust selection for that. And it can show you that. But if you make a selection for a color that's a little lesser than that, it might come up with that error. Its not an error, you just press okay through it and make your selection or your mask anyway and it will make a mask for you. So like if, I'm gonna just try and force it if you wanna just try that real quick. If we go and we do our channels. Do control alt two, we make that mask, and then we press control shift I to invert it, we make that mask. The way you make a mid tone mask is to take this mask, control and alt subtract this mask, and we make a mask. Oh it actually did it. Again, couldn't force it, but what it would typically do there is that's making a mid tone mask. Its forcing it to select less than 50 percent value. But it will still make a mask. So what I suggest is if you've made a selection, just push through it, say okay, make your curves adjustment layer and a mask will still show up. It just won't be quite as potent as say a traditional luminosity mask. I'm just wondering if any of the images that you utilized this process for are ever shot with a color checker passport and if you do create the profile for that, how much specific editing do you really need to do? That's a good question. I mean, sometimes I don't use a color checker passport but sometimes I will use a gray card and make a selection for the gray card and not necessarily make a profile but tell Photoshop what is gray. Which is essentially kinda what the color checker passport is doing, but you're building profiles from it. It doesn't necessarily matter. You know this is something that you just kinda work into your work flow where you see a need for it and you do it. You'd be surprised how far you can push an image that you thought was done when you start doing these luminosity masks and really separating your highlights, your mid tones, and your shadows, and manipulating them within that realm. It's not for the faint of heart. Its not for everyone. You know if you have a system that works great for you, you may never get to a point where you're doing this. But I guarantee you those beautiful robust landscapes that you see on, you know, 500 PX, Let's just you know, put it out there. They're probably doing something like this. They're deliberately separating the highlights, mid tones, and shadows, and pushing them to the extreme that they can. The other thing about Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom is you know what a governor is? Like on a truck, they put governors on there so that that truck can't go over 70 miles an hour on the highway. There's governors set up in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom. They don't want you to push things too far. 'Cause if you can, it won't look good. And if it doesn't look good your not gonna wanna use the software. I don't know if Adobe really meant to do that but that's what I think. In Photoshop, there's no holds bar man, you can do whatever you want. You can make this look at ugly as possible. Now I was doing things that were very I guess convenient for the sake of teaching. (laughing) You know I wasn't pushing things to that limit because I didn't want you to see the ugliness that you can create there. But if you do a curves adjustment layer and you do this thing with it. It creates what they call a solar curve. Blues become purples, purples become blacks, and it just, it can get nasty. So you know, when you have no limits, the things that you can do with those images are pretty powerful. So what you're getting at is probably that the, you know, the color check that gets you pretty darn close to perfect essentially. Which I would say is probably more so for like studio work. When you're a.. [Lady In Audience] I would say landscape. Yeah. Yeah. We just you know, we just need data. We're data collectors. (laughing)

Class Description

Luminosity Masking has been the talk of the town for a while in the photo industry—and for good reason. It’s one of the easiest, most effective ways to create striking images that cover a wide range of levels of light. The idea is to separate the luminance data from your image, make a mask and edit the data independently. Blake Rudis will begin by walking you through the basics of Luminosity Masking, and then will address some of the more advanced uses. Once you master this awesome tool, you won’t know how you ever got by without it.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Great great great. What? You can do that? And easy Wow. Wait, you can do that too and so easy too? Wow! (ratta tat tat useful stuff)

Bhaven Jani

Amazing class, so top notch, to the point, and made easy to understand. Yes, luminosity masking is not an easy topic, it is complex, I have been using PS for several years and it still took me a while to get my head around it. But Blake Rudis makes it so engaging and intuitive to understand. And guess what, once you understand LM, you won't be able to edit images without using it. its so powerful. Thanks a ton for this class.

user e5ab02

I've been using PS for quite some time and have avoided this technique BECAUSE it's a bit tedious getting to the meat of what this tool can do. It is however well worth it. Blake has done a great job in presenting this and showing how it can best be used. He DOES NOT in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM seem overbearing or egotistical. On the contrary, he seems very approachable and is well aware that what he's teaching is a very dry subject and is trying to make it fun and graspable. Do NOT pay any attention to the reviewer above who says he is...that says so much about the reviewer's insecurities.