Tuesday, June 24, 2014

From That To This – Luminosity Masks

IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t


Recently I came across the concept of Luminosity Masks and using them to blend multiple exposures via a tutorial “The Basics Of Luminosity Masks In Digital Blending” by the travel photographer Jimmy McIntyre.  The tutorial also includes a link Jimmy’s Photoshop action set for creating luminosity masks.

After a number of failed attempts in trying to both understand and utilise luminosity masks I decided to go back to basics by using what I perceived to be a very simple image.

I am by by no means an expert with luminosity masks, but thought it might be a good idea to document my progress so far.  There are a number of excellent tutorials available, which I have referenced at the bottom of this post.


4 photos of some rooftops and the sky, with each one at a different exposure (-1, 0, +1, +2)

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  1. Load the images into Photoshop as layers ordered as 0, –1, +1, +2, and turn off the layer visibility for –1, +1 and +2.
  2. Now create the luminosity masks by running the Luminosity Masks from Jimmy McIntyre’s “Easy Panel”.  If you look at the Channels panel you will see 18 additional channels:  Brights 1 – Brights 6, Darks 1 – Darks 6, and Midtones 1 – Midtones 6

    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 3
  3. First lets work on the lower part of the image, the rooftops and the walls.  This needs to be brightened so duplicate the +1 layer and add an inverted mask.
  4. Now we need to choose an appropriate luminosity mask to use.  For the rooftops we are interested in one of the Darks, as we don’t want the sky brightened.  Go to the Channels panel and click on the thumbnail of one of the Darks channels’.
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 4
  5. Once you have decided upon the channel to use (I am used Darks 3) hold the Ctril key and click on the thumbnail.  Marching ants will now appear around the selection (the white areas, these being the dark tones, in this case elements of the rooftop and not the sky).  Click on the RGB thumbnail to bring back the colour and also see the marching ants more clearly.
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 5
  6. Go to the layers panel, select the inverted mask of the duplicated +1 exposure layer (see step 3), select a feathered brush with white foreground and 100% opacity, and paint over the rooftops and walls to reveal the bright areas from the duplicated +1 exposure layer (you can hide the marching ants if they are distracting by pressing Ctrl + H).  See the before and after below:
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 6
  7. Now repeat steps 3 – 6 for each combination of area and level of exposure you want to blend in.  For example I used multiple copies of the –1 layer with various luminosity masks, both Darks and Brights, to not only darken the sky but to bring out the detail in the clouds.
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 7
  8. The problem is that the image still looks a bit flat, but we can also use the luminosity masks to adjust the contrast.
  9. Go to the Channels panel and Ctrl + Click on the Midtones 3 thumbnail, then go to the Adjustments panel and create a Curves Adjustment Layer.  At the same time a layer mask will be created based on the selected Midtones 3 luminosity mask from the Channels panel
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 8
  10. Adjust the Curve to taste.
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 9
  11. Repeat steps 9 – 10 for any other areas were you want to adjust the contrast.
    IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)-t2t - 10

Final Image

IMG_0041 42 43 lm exp 01 (no lr adj)

Further Tutorials

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pixelated Matrix

Michael Freeman is an award-winning editorial photographer and best-selling author, and since taking up photography I have read a number of his books.

Apart from being very informative, these books are a good read and they have helped me in gaining a better understanding of photography and how to take better photographs.

The book I am currently reading is:

Exposure is the deceptively simple concept at the very heart of photography.  It has always been a subject of fascination to aspiring amateurs and professional photographers alike.  Recent developments in digital technology have transformed the ways in which exposures can be manipulated, and this in turn has forced photographers to think about what they can achieve by understanding the variables of aperture, ISO and time.

One concept the book introduces is the Pixelated Matrix.  By reducing an image to it’s tonal distribution it is a way of seeing the important tones, but without the content interfering.  It makes it easier to consider any exposure issues (after the event).


To create a pixelated matrix in Photoshop do the following:

  1. Create a duplicate of the image
    Image | Duplicate…
  2. If the duplicate is made of multiple layers, flatten it
    Layer | Flatten Image
  3. Reduce the duplicate in size to 1,200 pixels on the long side
    Image | Image Size…
  4. Desaturate the duplicate
    Image | Adjustments | Desaturate
  5. Apply a mosaic filter to the duplicate with a cell size of 67
    Filter | Pixelate | Mosaic…
    Cell Size: 67

I plan on using this technique quite often in the future to assist in making sure that I am not loosing any detail in the shadows and highlights, an area that competition judges like to pick up on.

Monday, June 02, 2014

From That To This – Shane Byrne



3 times British Superbike champion Shane Byrne came second in 2013 and is the favourite to win the championship in 2014.  The photograph was taken at Brands Hatch during free practice 2, the day before the first race of the season.

IMG_8820-21/500th; f/8; ISO 400


  1. Crop the image to remove the advertising hoarding (top left), rumble strip (bottom) and the patch of green (right).

  2. With the Basic panel adjust make the following adjustments:

    Exposure (+0.20), Contrast (+10)

    Highlights (-100), Shadows (+75), Whites (+36), Blacks (-10)

    Clarity (+30), Vibrance (+20), Saturation (-5)

  3. With the Detail panel adjust the Sharpening and Noise Reduction:

    Sharpening Noise Reduction
    Amount: 70 Luminance: 40
    Masking: 74 Contrast: 10

  4. Add a vignette using the Effects panel:

    Amount (-15), Midpoint (45)

  5. Using the Spot Removal (Heal) brush remove any spots or marks:

    IMG_8820-t2t - 1
    The “before” image highlights the marks that will be removed.

  6. Finally using the Adjustment Brush, with the Exposure set to +0.50, brush over the bike and it’s direction of travel.  This will help concentrate the eye on the bike and assist in emphasising the movement:

    IMG_8820-t2t - 2

Final Image