22 Mar 2010 at 10:07pm
Everyone has probably heard about my foray into Luminosity Masks, well I have a treat for all of you. I contacted Tony Kuyper the guy who has the amazing Luminosity Mask Actions you can download from his website. They are brilliant and I use them in just about every image I produce. Say hello to Tony and make sure you get a set of these, they are the secret sauce that will make your images pop. The effects can be subtle or you can go heavier and radically improve an image. Tony says he will have his own blog up soon, that would be one to follow.
First I’d like to thank Christian for allowing me to post on his blog. I’ve enjoyed the variety and quality of his photographs for a long time. He has a great eye for composition and incredible skill at transforming RAW images into beautiful photos.
I’m a photographer living and photographing on the Colorado Plateau in the southwestern US. Many of the landscapes in this region are well-known and heavily photographed. I try to find unique compositions in this region with an emphasis on the varied and somewhat abstract character of sandstone.
Most of my images http://www.goodlight.us/ involve using Photoshop to create a distinctive look. While I don’t particularly like the “manipulation” moniker that is associated with intensive Photoshopping, there’s no question that my RAW files can be significantly transformed as they develop. I often use the phrase “follow the light” to describe the process whereby the photographer and the image collaborate to create the final photo. The image tells the photographer what it needs, and the photographer figures out a way to meet this need. I know, this might sound a little odd, but once you get in touch with your subject and photos, they do tend to guide you towards their final form. In the process, a rather personal style can emerge, and that’s the real benefit of learning to touch the light.
Christian has invited me to share some of my processing tips and methods here. The basics are found in the tutorials section of my website http://www.goodlight.us/writing/tutorials.html , but there are always additional strategies and approaches that develop through frequent use. Over time I hope to share some of these with his readers.
Luminosity masks http://www.goodlight.us/writing/luminositymasks/luminositymasks-1.html have been one of my favorite techniques for several years. These masks are an integral part of my processing. They isolate specific tonal ranges in the image for adjustment and then blend the adjustment into the image in a seamless manner.
Luminosity painting http://www.goodlight.us/writing/luminositypainting/luminositypainting-1.html is perhaps the most powerful way of using the luminosity masks. When I hear from people who use the masks, I always urge them to develop their understanding of them to the level of luminosity painting because this leverages the potential of the masks to a much higher level than adjustment layers. Painting allows both multiple brush strokes to intensify the effect of the mask and precise placement on the image to provide perfect control as to which parts of the image are affected.
Luminosity painting involves three steps:
1. Create a Burn/Dodge layer in Photoshop—New layer>fill with 50% gray>change blending mode to Soft Light.
2. Create a selection to target the desired tones, that is, make a luminosity mask.
3. With a paintbrush, paint through this selection onto the Burn/Dodge layer. Paint white to lighten (dodge) the underlying tones and paint black to darken (burn) them.
Of course, there are all kinds of variations within this process that increase your control over how the image is affected—the tones that are selected by the luminosity mask; the shape, size, and hardness of the brush; the opacity of paint applied; and number of brush strokes are some examples.
While there can be many aesthetic reasons for using luminosity painting with an image, my personal goal is usually to use it to bring a certain degree of balance to the overall light and contrast in the scene. This is a very personal decision, and everyone can decide and create their own personal balance of tones using this painting technique. Here’s an example how it was used in a recent image.
This first image shows how the image would look without the luminosity painting.
This second image shows the manner in which the light and contrast were balanced with luminosity painting. Hopefully you can see and appreciate how the painting increased the brightness of some areas and darkened others, while at the same time maintaining overall contrast and slightly improving saturation.
This third image shows the Burn/Dodge layer after luminosity painting on it to create the desired tones in the image.
This painted layer is instructive as it shows several important characteristics of luminosity painting. What should be most obvious is that parts of the image appear to be embossed in gray-scale onto the layer. This is the direct result of painting through luminosity selections/masks which select specific tones to receive paint. Areas darker than 50% gray darken the underlying tones in the image and areas lighter than 50% gray lighten the underlying tones. Applying paint through an active luminosity selection both selects the pixels that receive paint and darkens or lightens these pixels as the paint is applied. Because luminosity selections partially select pixels in proportion to their brightness, paint is also applied proportionally as the brush is stroked across the Burn/Dodge layer. The net result is not only that the tones in the desired parts of the image are changed, but the change is also perfectly blended into the surrounding pixels. The partially selected tones receive the exact amount of paint to make sure each brush stroke merges seamlessly with similar tones. Brush strokes can be applied repeatedly until the desired change is achieved. By choosing the correct mask or combination of masks to paint through, significant control can be exercised with regard to the final brightness and contrast of the painted areas.
This is only brief demo of how luminosity painting works. There are lots of variations to the process and perhaps they can be subjects of future posts. It’s easy to experiment with luminosity masks and luminosity painting to see how they might help your images. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Best of light,