Today’s cameras are better than ever at capturing a wide range of detail in a single RAW file. Some even have a dynamic ranges of 15 stops! However, in a lot of situations, such a high number is not even enough to satisfy our need to control the highlights and shadows of the image.
Let me introduce you to Luminosity Mask technique. This technique is a way to select a specific range of pixels which have similar lightness value. With this selection, you can then replace those highlights or shadows with a more suitable exposure (that you have taken at the same time as the base capture) or even do some colour work on them. It is most used in landscape photography but has its place in commercial still life and product photography as well.
Here, I will list the five best tutorials on Luminosity Masks out there.
This lesson, written by 500px’s author Jimmy Mcintyre, gives a very easy introduction to the Luminosity Masks. It is very well written, laid out and gives the reader plenty of photo examples. Even more, Jimmy gives you a link to its “The Easy Panel”, which is an extension to Photoshop with a lot of actions to set up different techniques (the one for Luminosity Masks is called “JM Luminance Masks”). However, what the tutorial doesn’t show you is how to create a luminosity mask in all the nitty-gritty details (because most of the work is done thanks to the action). Still, it is a great learning experience if you want to quickly figure out what to do with Luminosity Masks.
Opposite to 500px’s, this tutorial shows more manual work. In fact, it only contains the part to actually set up the selections (albeit Christopher does offer another one to put to use the masks). It goes in much more details than the former article but leaves you with more reading and complexity.
The third lesson in this article is from Light Stalking. In term of complexity and completeness, I’d say it’s in between the 2 firsts. The post was written by the same Jimmy Mcintyre that wrote the 500px text. However, it is a bit different. Light Stalking give you sample images so you can work along and a nice 8 minutes YouTube video to help you understand.
Unlike others, the fourth tutorial on our list, uses Luminosity Masks as a way to add contrast and colours in a photograph. It’s definitely a different spin on the technique and is worth looking at for the new ideas it can pop up in your mind.
It is not the first time that I’m featuring Michael in my “five best tutorials about” serie. That is because his tutorials are always very throughout, complete and high quality. This one is no exemption. While it consists only of a 12-minutes YouTube video, he gets his point across very well.
These were, in my opinion, the five best tutorials on the useful luminance mask technique in Photoshop. After having absorbed all of this material, you should be very familiar with it. But, the best way to learn is to, well, practice. So, I suggest you understand what the procedure consists of and, then, you go into action and execute it.
Do you have a great example of a luminance mask yourself? I’d love to see it!