We all have seen pictures of marvelous sunrises, breathtaking views of cities with great sunset on the sky and shots of milky way leading up to the moon. But even if it's a subtle image of misty forest in soft morning glow, rare photograph stays with no post processing in Adobe Photoshop.

There are many different plugins and instruments, but of the most often used tools nowadays are Luminosity Masks. In portrait, street and wedding photography they are used most often for color correction and toning, but in landscapes there are many more ways they can be applied:

  • exposure blending
  • working with details in bright lights and deep shadows
  • color correction and custom toning
  • controlled dodging and burning
  • selective effects

Here are just a few examples of images processed with luminosity masks:

Adobe Photoshop is famous for it's ability to work with layers and masks. Regular masks became popular mostly because you can draw them with soft brush or a gradient. Even though it's a very powerful tool, people quickly understood that contrasty parts of the image are very difficult to draw around with brushes. Examples could be tree branches, hair strands on the face or dark stones surrounded by water reflecting bright sky.

With that came the idea to somehow build masks based on the brightness, as if selecting bright or dark parts of the image separately. Created by hand with cumbersome and slow method, still, luminosity masks became very popular, and there came to be luminosity masking panels. They have not only significantly speed up the workflow, but also increased the quality of created masks.

ARCPanel is exactly this kind of panel. Very easy to use, it stays fast and keeps the quality of the masks high.




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To show how easy it is to use the panel I suggest even without diving deep into the masks trying it yourself.

Open one of your images and start the panel. If it's not already in your toolbar you can enable it by selecting Window - Extensions.

  • First select Luminosity as the source
  • If you have Preview checkbox enabled panel will preview masks when you hover over buttons
  • Select a mask by clicking on it, for example Darks-1
  • And, finally, apply the mask to a new adjustment layer by clicking on a Curve button in the lower part of the panel.

In lesson 3 I will give you a full description of how panel works and can be used, For now just try to adjust the curve and you would notice that it doesn't affect lights. It happens because our mask limits the effect of the curve. You will see more detailed examples later, but I can already tell you now that with such darks masks you can increase contract in shadows or brighten dark parts of the image.

While panel is definitely the fastest and the most accurate way to make luminosity masks, you can also do this manually. This is what Lesson 2 will be focusing on, showing you all the necessary steps. Lessons 4-6 will teach your how to use different kinds of masks. Processed to next lesson to see which kinds of masks are there in Adobe Photoshop.

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