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luminosity masks


Luminosity Masks

I began my work with luminosity masks in 2006. These are pixel-based masks where the mask itself is a map of specific pixel values in the image. In the case of luminosity masks, the luminance of each pixel is displayed as a grayscale value in the mask. Because luminosity masks are created from data encoded directly in the pixels of the image, they always match the image pixel-for-pixel, which makes them completely self-feathering. Any adjustment through these masks blends perfectly into the image with no visible lines, edges, or borders.

While luminosity masks have existed since Adobe introduced layer masks to Photoshop, the technique for creating the different series of masks—Lights, Darks, and Midtones—was first described in the  Luminosity Masks  tutorial in 2006. This was the breakthrough that allowed them to become precision tools for exposure blending and for making targeted adjustments to specific tones. The concept and method has since been widely adopted, copied, and promoted throughout the photo community. Almost anyone who now writes or makes videos about luminosity masks still creates series of masks identical to those described in the original tutorial. Luminosity masks have remained immensely popular and have become such an integral part of post-processing that Adobe even included them in Light Room and Adobe Camera Raw starting in 2017.

Personally, I've never stopped researching luminosity and other pixel-based masks since they've had such a significant impact on how I process images. The original tutorial and some of the other early ones are linked below along with resources and comments I've collected through the years. However, I moved my instructional writing to  my blog , so please subscribe if you'd like to be kept up-to-date. A lot more information can be found there on even better ways to make and use luminosity masks. I've also become reasonably proficient at writing computer code that makes these techniques easily accessible to anyone interested in trying them. The  Panels & Videos  page has a number of different products such as Photoshop panels and videos. They range from free and basic to detailed and comprehensive. Be sure to check there for the latest tools to add luminosity masks to your workflow.



Blogroll--Below are links to blogs from other photographers describing their impressions of these techniques and how they've applied them to their images.

André Distel (exposure blending)       André Distel (luminosity mask workflow)       Mark Graf       Alex Hare       Michael Breitung       Dorin Bofan       Richard Wong(1)       Ryan Cary       Ron Niebrugge (1)       Ron Niebrugge (2)       Andreas Resch       Alister Benn (1)       Alister Benn (2)       Kostas Petrakis       Steve Gledhill       Michael Pilkington       Richard Wong(2)       Mark Rupert       Don Smith       Interview with Marko Kulik       Joe Bridwell       Dana Foy       Robert Adler       David Vercruysse (en français)       Ken Koskela (web-sharpening)       Rajiv Chopra

Resources--Below are links to videos and eBooks that describe how other photographers have incorporated luminosity masks into their workflow. They provide detailed instruction that shows how quickly and creatively these methods can be applied when developing images in Photoshop.

Instructors--While written tutorials and videos offer significant assistance in learning these techniques, sometimes a more personalized approach or face-to-face time with an expert is the best way to get up to speed on what luminosity masks can offer. Below are some instructors that routinely contact me when they are offer training courses on how to use luminosity masks. While I've not personally attended their classes, their images and online content are a testament to their skill.

Feedback--I occasionally receive email about on the Photoshop actions and tutorials available here and, with the sender's permission, have posted some of it below.