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Lightroom vs Photoshop • PhotoTraces

Picture masking in images is likely one of the most necessary functionalities of any picture enhancing program. Regardless that picture masking implementation can range from {photograph} to program, the idea behind the picture masks is identical. Picture masks permit us to make use of selective enhancing.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop

Let me clarify.

When analyzing any picture, you’ll be able to see that totally different areas have distinct traits and properties. It’s unlikely to use a sequence of edits to a whole picture and obtain the specified outcomes. The one option to produce professionally-looking photos is to edit totally different areas of the picture individually utilizing varied instruments and strategies.

That is when picture masking involves play.

Picture masing helps us isolate (masks) particular areas of the picture and go away unmasked areas obtainable for enhancing.

What’s Picture Masking?

Picture masking is the cornerstone of graphic design, picture compositing, and picture enhancing. It permits designers and photographers to selectively edit solely a portion of the picture, leaving the remaining untouched. By creating customized picture masks, we are able to goal particular areas of the pictures based mostly on totally different parameters reminiscent of coloration, brightness, objects (individual, animal, product), and different options (sky, water).

Picture masking has its roots in movie images. Within the darkroom, photographers used to cowl a part of the picture paper, the one they didn’t need to be affected by the sunshine coming from the enlarger. The method of concealing the realm of the picture paper known as masking.

The idea of masking transitioned to digital images, however as an alternative of bodily masks, we use digital instruments to guard (masks) or reveal a part of the picture for selective enhancing.

Image Masking in Photography

Picture Masking in Lightroom 

When Lightroom was launched in 2007, it didn’t have any picture masking capabilities. The first perform of this system was picture group. You could possibly apply easy edits reminiscent of publicity, saturation to the whole picture solely; selective enhancing didn’t exist. To make use of selective enhancing with the assistance of picture masks, you needed to change to Photoshop.

Through the years, Adobe launched selective enhancing to Lightroom (Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter), however it was not even near Photoshop’s masking capabilities.

The primary huge change occurred in 2018 with the introduction of the superior masking instruments, the Vary Masks. With new masking instruments, photographers may selectively goal areas of the picture based mostly on coloration and luminance values. It was enormous. It modified the best way I edited pictures in Lightroom. It allowed me to carry out 90-95% post-processing in Lightroom, and the necessity for Photoshop declined.

However the implementation of the Vary Masks was not ultimate. It had too many limitations. You could possibly not create a picture masks from scratch; you needed to apply Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, or Radial Filter first and create masking after.

And at last, in October 2021, Adobe launched Lightroom model 11, the place they rebuilt and rearranged adjustment instruments. Essentially the most vital change was the introduction of a devoted Masking panel. Now, all of the masking instruments reside in a single place, not depending on any explicit software.

The enhancing workflow is easy now. You create a number of picture masks focusing on totally different picture areas first. Subsequent, you selectively edit these areas utilizing enhancing sliders.

New Image Masking Panel in Lightroom
New masking Panel in Lightroom

Let’s see what picture masking instruments we now have in Lightroom at this time.

1. AI Picture Masking: Choose Topic 

Adobe all the time lagged behind the competitors, reminiscent of Luminar, with the event instruments powered by synthetic intelligence (AI). But it surely appears as whether it is beginning to change.

Lightroom launched two new AI instruments, and they’re very efficient.

The Choose Topic AI software analyzes the picture and identifies the picture’s fundamental topic; subsequent, it mechanically creates a reasonably correct masks.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 3
Lightroom recognized the primary object of the scene (huge rock) and chosen however disregarded the sky.

It’s the excellent companion for portrait and product photographers.

In addition they launched a brand new function, the Invert Masks, a must have for any picture masking software. After the primary object is chosen, you invert the masks and goal the background of your picture with enhancing instruments.

2. AI Picture Masking: Choose Sky 

The Choose Sky performance is just like the Choose Topic, however as an alternative of the primary object, it identifies the realm of the sky and creates a masks.

Image Masking: Select Sky

The Choose Sky software works quick, and it is rather correct. It’s a lot quicker and extra correct than utilizing the old-school strategy focusing on the sky with the Brush or Linear Gradient instruments.

As soon as once more, you’ll be able to invert the masks.

Right here is my workflow when utilizing new masking instruments. I click on the Choose Sky software, and it mechanically creates a picture masks with the sky chosen. Subsequent, I duplicate the masks and invert the choice. Now, I can edit the realm of the sky and foreground individually.


Image Masking: Select Foreground

It’s evident that the Choose Sky software is the right companion for panorama photographers.

The one unfavourable I see with the Choose Sky software is it cannot be used dynamically. I cannot put it aside as a Lightroom preset to generate a picture masks in any chosen picture dynamically.

I hope Adobe improves the performance of the Choose Sky sooner or later.

3. Brush Picture Masks 

The previous Brush Adjustment software is now known as the Brush. It reworked from an adjustment software to a pure masking software.

Let me clarify.

When utilizing previous Brush Adjustment, you possibly can transfer enhancing sliders first after which begin portray with the comb over the picture, visually making use of selective edits. With the brand new Brush software, you all the time begin with the masks creation. And solely if you end up proud of the masks, you start shifting sliders making use of desired results to the remoted space.

With the introduction of the Choose Object and Choose Sky AI instruments, the first perform of the Brush software in my enhancing workflow is masks refining. If I’m not totally proud of the masks created by the Choose Object and Choose Sky instruments, I can fine-tune them with the Brush.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 4
I used the Brush software to fine-tune the masks produced by the Choose Sky software.

4. Linear Gradient Picture Masks

The Linear Gradient is a brand new title for the previous Graduated Filter software. The software transformation is just like the Brush software. From the adjustment, it reworked right into a pure masking software.

Now, I usually mix the Choose Sky with the Linear Gradient focusing on space of the sky and making the highest of the sky darker.

 Linear Gradient Image Mask

5. Radial Gradient Picture Masks 

The Radial Gradient follows the suite of the Brush and Linear Gradient instruments. It has a brand new title; it’s Radial Gradient now as an alternative of Radial Filter. And it carries masking performance now.

However the best way you utilize it is rather just like the earlier model. The one distinction right here is as an alternative of 1 circle that signifies the chosen space, there are two. The internal circle signifies the place the opaque space ends, and the gradient begins.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 5

6. Coloration Vary Picture Masks

The Coloration Vary masking software helps you create masks based mostly on particular coloration values or vary of colours.

Regardless that I usually used the unique Vary Masks, it had too many limitations. First, it was hooked up to Brush, Linear Gradient, or Radial Gradient instruments, and also you solely may modify the masks created by these instruments. In fact, I had workarounds, however it felt as if implementation wasn’t well-thought.

Now, nearly all limitations are gone. Each the Coloration Vary and Luminance Vary are separated and never depending on any instruments.

Big enchancment.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 6

I usually use the Coloration Vary masks when enhancing the sky space in my landscapes. I goal solely the blue hues of the sky and maintain brilliant areas of the clouds protected. And if I edit the sundown picture, I would create a separate Coloration masks focusing on solely orange and pink hues of the sky.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 7
After I goal the blue hues of the sky utilizing the Coloration Vary, that is the masks it produces.

However, it has the identical limitation because the Choose Sky picture masks; you’ll be able to’t use it dynamically. No less than at this second, it’s unattainable to include the Coloration Vary masks creation into Lightroom presets. It solely works with the particular picture.

7. Luminance Vary Picture Masks

If the Coloration Vary software allows you to create a customized masks based mostly on the colour values, then the Luminance Vary software generates masks based mostly on the brightness (luminance) of the pixels. 

The brand new Luminance Vary masking software is my favourite addition to the masking toolset. I exploit it most frequently together with the Choose Sky AI software.

For instance, I exploit the Choose Sky software with the Invert possibility checked to pick all the things besides the sky. Subsequent, I exploit the Luminance Vary to focus on the midtone pixels solely. Now, I can enhance the distinction with out affecting shadows, highlights, and the sky.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 8

And what’s the most vital function of the brand new Luminance Vary software is it may be used dynamically. I already created a set of distinction presets focusing on midtone values solely. After I apply the preset to any chosen picture, Lightroom creates a picture masks on the fly based mostly on the luminance values of the chosen picture.

8. Depth Vary

Adobe launched the Depth Vary software some time in the past, however I used to be vital due to its very restricted use. It solely works with the brand new HEIC format, Apple’s proprietary model of Excessive-Effectivity Picture File format.

The Depth Vary software creates a picture masks based mostly on how shut the a part of the picture to the digicam. In idea, it’s a nice function that permits you to selectively edit solely the background space of the picture and maintain areas near the digicam untouched. 

The issue is that HEIC photos with the depth map could be produced solely utilizing the iPhones with the twin digicam beginning with iPhone 7+.

Since I’m an Android person, I’ve no use for this software. However even in case you have a brand new model of iPhone, you get higher picture high quality when taking pictures RAW format (DNG) than HEIC.

9. Superior Masking in Lightroom

With the introduction of eight new picture masking instruments, you’ve gotten loads of choices for creating exact and complex masks for selective enhancing. However you’ll be able to take it even additional with the brand new Add and Subtract options.

Now you’ll be able to mix all of the masking instruments making selective enhancing much more versatile.

Here’s a sensible software of the Subtract function.

To selectively edit the sky space, I exploit the Choose Sky software first. When Lightroom creates the masks, I hit the Subtract button. Subsequent, I decide the Luminance Vary software and subtract the highlights from the present masks created by the Choose Sky software. When I’m achieved, I’ve the choice focusing on solely darker areas of the sky. I can selectively edit the sky with out affecting the brilliant clouds.

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 9

The Add function works the identical method, however you broaden the masks as an alternative of subtracting a portion of it. For instance, you need to use the Brush software to broaden the masks by portray over desired areas of the picture.

Plus, there may be one other masking function I nearly missed. It’s the Intersect possibility. You allow it when urgent down the ALT key. It allows you to create a masking choice by intersecting 2 masks.

Intersect masking option in Lightroom

The shortcomings of Lightroom Masking Instruments

I want that Adobe made the Choose Sky and the Coloration Vary instruments totally dynamic, as I discussed above. However I consider it’s a work in progress, and within the close to future, they may enhance the performance of the masking instruments. I’ll replace my Lightroom Speedy Modifying system after they do it by incorporating all of the masking instruments in my preset-based picture enhancing workflow. It would permit me to edit pictures a lot quicker and with larger precision. 

However the primary shortcoming of the brand new masking instruments, the best way I see it, is that after creating the specified masks, I should not have entry to all of the enhancing instruments obtainable in Lightroom. 

Image Masking in Photography: Lightroom vs Photoshop 10
The enhancing sliders you’ve gotten entry to when utilizing new masking instruments.

For instance, my favourite Lightroom enhancing instruments are positioned in HSL/Coloration panel. They permit me to focus on particular person colours selectively. I should not have entry to the HSL/Coloration panel with the brand new masking instruments. The identical goes with the Tone Curve and Coloration Grading panels; they’re unavailable when utilizing the masking performance.

It appears as if Adobe arbitrarily determined what instruments I would like and instruments I don’t. The problem wouldn’t exist if Adobe used the layer-based strategy because it exists in most enhancing packages, together with Photoshop. However, for some inexplicable motive, they refuse to offer us layers in Lightroom, the primary function that made Photoshop so highly effective.

Picture Masking in Photoshop 

I transitioned to images from graphic design. For years, I used Photoshop as my major enhancing and compositing software as a graphic designer. And what I discovered from my graphic design years is that to grasp Photoshop, you need to grasp learn how to create exact choices and masks.

Photoshop has a way more in depth choice of masking instruments and is rather more highly effective in comparison with Lightroom.

This text goals to not train you to make use of masking instruments in Photoshop as a result of it’s unattainable. However as an alternative to offer you an thought of masking choices obtainable in Photoshop. So you’ll be able to resolve if it is advisable study Photoshop or Lightroom picture masking instruments will probably be ample.

1. Layer Masks

Photoshop is a layer-based program with an nearly limitless variety of layers. And for every layer, you’ll be able to have a devoted transparency masks. 

Layer Masks in Photoshop
I used the layer masks to selectively apply sharpening to the picture.

Lightroom doesn’t have layers, however you’ll be able to have a number of masks hooked up to any picture you edit.

2. Vector Layer Masks

The vector layer masking performance permits you to create resolution-independent masks in Photoshop. This function doesn’t exist in Lightroom, however it’s hardly ever utilized in picture enhancing. 

I solely used vector layer masks when working with high-resolution photos meant for print. I by no means felt the necessity for vector masks in my images.

3. Adjustment Masks

Adjustment layers are nondestructive edits you’ll be able to apply to any layer in Photoshop. And for every adjustment layer, you’ve gotten a transparency masks. Authentic adjustment instruments in Lightroom (brush, graduate filter, radial filter) labored exactly as adjustment layers in Photoshop. With the most recent revamping of masking instruments in Lightroom, they work barely totally different however nonetheless similar to adjustment layers and masks in Photoshop.

Adjustment Masks in Photoshop
I used 2 Curve Adjustment Layers with 2 masks to create a vignette in Photoshop.

4. Clipping Masks

Clipping masks in Photoshop allow you to management transparency masks in a single layer based mostly on the content material of one other layer. The performance is extensively utilized in graphic design and picture compositing. Such a function is just not attainable in Lightroom as a result of it has no layers. However you received’t miss it in case you are solely focused on picture enhancing.

5. Alpha Masks

Alpha Masks is an advance and really highly effective performance in Photoshop. The masking info is saved in one of many picture’s coloration channels (alpha channel) and could be accessed by varied packages outdoors of photoshop.

Alpha Masks in Photoshop

After I was working as a graphic designer producing graphics for broadcast tv, 80% of my time was spent creating subtle alpha masks in Photoshop. It allowed overlaying a number of photos on a TV display screen, preserving transparency in varied areas of the pictures.

Regardless that it’s a highly effective function, you don’t miss it when processing pictures. And there’s no such a function in Lightroom

6. Choose Sky

The Choose Sky software is powered by synthetic intelligence and machine studying. It detects and selects the sky space with precision and accuracy. I’m sure the software makes use of the identical algorithm because the Choose Sky software in Lightroom. Each instruments produce comparable outcomes.

Select Sky in Photoshop

7. Choose Object

The identical goes with the Choose-Object software, which is powered by AI and similar to the way it works to the Choose Object software in Lightroom.

8. Coloration Vary

The Coloration Vary is a really great tool in picture enhancing. You’ll be able to create customized masks based mostly on particular coloration or vary of colours in any given picture. For a very long time, I missed such performance in Lightroom. However since Adobe launched the Coloration Vary in Lightroom in model 8, the necessity for Photoshop coloration masking capabilities disappeared.

9. Luminosity Masks

I consider the implementation of Luminance Vary in Lightroom is extra user-friendly and logical than Photoshop’s Luminosity Masks. In Lightroom, you’ll be able to create a customized masks based mostly on luminance (brightness) values in seconds. In Photoshop, it’s extra highly effective however rather more sophisticated. Persist with Lightroom.

Luminosity Masks in Photoshop

As you’ll be able to see, despite the fact that Photoshop is a way more highly effective and feature-rich program, the necessity for Photoshop in picture enhancing diminishes quick. And with reference to picture masking functionalities, I don’t see a large benefit of Photoshop over Lightroom. 

Plus, to totally reap the benefits of Photoshop superior options, it is advisable rasterize photos first. In Lightroom, you’ll be able to keep in a RAW enhancing surroundings benefiting from nondestructive enhancing.

Picture Masking in Images: Conclusion

I’ve been vital of Adobe for the previous few years for the shortage of actual innovation in Lightroom. It appeared that a lot of the competitors was forward of Lightroom. However with the implementation of recent picture masking instruments, there may be hope that Adobe lastly awakened and can deal with us with actually modern instruments and options.

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