Post-processing is in many ways an important part of photography but it can be quite difficult to know where to begin and how to improve. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming as you start realizing just how much you’re able to do in certain photo editors.

Luminosity Masks is not a technique for complete beginners but once you’ve gained some basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, it’s something that has the power to drastically improve your post-processing workflow. We’ve written several articles on Luminosity Masks here on CaptureLandscapes and it’s a technique that is growing in popularity amongst you.

In this video by Jimmy McIntyre, creator of Raya Pro, you’ll be introduced to the essentials of Luminosity Masks and how to easily apply them to your images. The video mainly focuses on exposure blending but you’ll also learn how to use both Raya Pro and the free Easy Panel to seamlessly create these selections.

Why Use Luminosity Masks?

When you begin to work with Layer Masks it’s important to understand that they aren’t perfect right away. Just painting with a brush on the mask is fine in some scenarios but you’ll quickly realize that you get a certain amount of haloing, bleeding or other unwanted artifacts on the images.

That’s where Luminosity Masks come in handy; since these masks are based on the tone value of the pixel you don’t need to worry about the adjustments being visible in the wrong places.

An example of when using Luminosity Masks rather than manually painting on the Layer Mask is beneficial is when you want to make a targeted adjustment. I often adjust the color balance in certain areas of the image; I might add blue in the darkest shadows. When doing this, I’ll use the Luminosity Masks to get a specific mask that only targets the darkest shadows. I then don’t need to worry about brushing a little too far into a brighter area I don’t want to be adjusted.

Another example is when darkening areas of the image. I often use a Curves Adjustment Layer to darken an image. However, every now and then I only want to darken a specific area that is too bright: let’s say the brightest parts of the sky in the image below.

Essential Luminosity Mask TutorialThe easiest method (and perhaps the one you’re used to) is to create a new curves adjustment layer and darken the image. Then you manually paint in the adjustment to the areas you want to affect. The problem, however, is that you’re not able to make the adjustment seamlessly blend in. This is what it looked like after making the manual adjustment:

Essential Luminosity Mask Tutorial

As you can see, I’ve succeeded in darkening the brightest areas but I’ve also darkened the parts of the sky around those places; creating a weird and unnatural looking blend.

By applying a Luminosity Mask instead I was able to darken the only the bright areas and not the places around them:

Essential Luminosity Mask Tutorial

Ironically, applying the adjustment via the Luminosity Mask took me less time than doing it manually. As you keep working with this method you’ll quickly realize just how easy it actually is.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can use Luminosity Masks and Photoshop to improve your post-processing make sure to have a look at these articles: