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luminosity masks


Luminosity Masks

In 2006 I started my pioneering work with luminosity masks. 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 luminence of each pixel is displayed as a grayscale value in the mask. Because luminosity masks are created from values encoded directly in the pixels of the image, they are always perfect and completely self-feathering. So any adjustment through these masks blends perfectly into the image with no visible edges or borders.

While the concept of luminosity masks existed since Photoshop started using masks, the process for creating the different series of masks—Lights, Darks, Midtones—was the breakthrough that allowed their widespread adoption. The masks in these different series could more accurately target specific tones in the image and thus became a precision tool for making adjustments and doing exposure blending. The different tonal series of luminosity masks were first described in the  Luminosity Masks  tutorial in 2006. 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 are now such an integral part of post-processing that Adobe even included them in Light Room and Adobe Camera Raw in 2017.

I've never stopped researching luminosity and other pixel-based masks. The original tutorial and some of the earlier ones involving pixel based masks are linked below along with resources and comments I've collected through the years. Over time I've developed even better ways to make luminosity masks but have moved my instuctional efforts to  my blog . Please consider subscribing if you'd like to be kept updated on the latest information. I've also become reasonably proficient in writing computer code to make these techniques easily accessible to anyone interested in trying them. The  Panels & Videos  page has a number of different products, including Photoshop panels and videos, that range from free and basic to detailed and comprehensive. Please 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.