Painterly soft shadows with luminosity masks

In the images of many famous landscape photographers you can see the effect of soft shadows. There are many ways you can build it. Here is how to make one with luminosity masks.

  1. Create a restrictive Darks luminosity mask. Probably Dark-3 will work best.

Selecting darks for soft shadows

  1. Convert it to a selection and duplicate your image to have only dark parts on a new layer.

Move all shadows to a new layer

  1. Run a Surface blur on your new layer, select values so that your shadows would be blurred, but edges would still be present. Surface blur gives a painterly effect while keeping the edges of objects.

Surface blur

  1. Add a Curves layer and limit it to below layer with Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + G.

Limit curves layer to affect only below

  1. Adjust your curves to increase brightness of the blurred shadows.

  2. Group the effect and put group to Screen mode. Adjust the Opacity until you like the result.