Lightroom Masking Changes

Back in October, Adobe changed the way masking works in Lightroom and Camera RAW. I was a little irritated at first. The new interface was unfamiliar and I didn’t know how to do things I was used to doing with the old version (the radial and gradient tools). How dare they “move my cheese“?

Anyway – I’ve been using it since, have figured it out, and now like it much better than the older approach. The AI based capabilities (select sky and subject) are awesome and work pretty well. And the re-organized interface combines all of the masking capability into one place with very helpful ways to combine selections.

I won’t try to explain how to use the new tools. There’s a lot of info on the web about it. Here’s one tutorial that’ll get you started: https://digital-photography-school.com/lightroom-masking-tool/.

Instead, I’ll show you an example of how I processed an image using the tools. This one is from Merritt Island and it’s been sitting un-processed in my archives since 2016. Once I started working on it, I wondered why I’d left it sitting there for so long! This is the finished version:

Another morning in the marshAnother morning in the marsh

And now, here are the four different masks I used in the final stage of processing:

Mask 1: Some areas in the clouds were too bright. I reduced highlights and bumped up texture and clarity.
Mask 2: I also lowered highlights in the corresponding reflection so they better match the sky.
Mask 3: The trees on the right were very dark, so I increased shadows there to bring out more detail.
Mask 4: And finally, the clouds on the left were a bit dark. I increased the exposure there by about 1/3 stop. This one is a radial filter intersected with a dark luminous range.

Here’s a before / after slider that shows the effects of the mask adjustments.

Comparison slider: Before (left) and after (right) masking. The changes aren’t all that dramatic, but I think they help.

So that’s my example. If (like me) you were a little put off by these changes, I’d encourage you to have another look. It’s worth the effort to master them. The control we have with digital capture and processing is just amazing when you think about how hard this would be to dodge and burn using film in an actual darkroom.

You can see a higher resolution version of this photo on Flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51720541937/in/dateposted-public/lightbox/

And you can see many more of my black and white photos in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157625316775091

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please be kind, take care of yourselves and each other – and if you can, get out and make (and mask) some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

6 thoughts on “Lightroom Masking Changes

  1. Thanks so much Ed..I just found out about masking certain areas..It is really fantastic…Thanks for sharing a few more tutorials…

    1. You’re welcome Jean. Masking is very useful, I use it all the time. Having such a sophisticated capability in Lightroom makes going to Photoshop (to use layers) less of a necessity.

  2. Your emotions and experience mirror my own when faced with this change!

    Irritation, frustration, learning, satisfaction.

    It was encouraging that I discovered that I am not, despite other evidence, too old to learn!

    And – very nice finished photograph, Ed!

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