Luminosity selections and masks

Over the last few weeks, I have been posting about Luminosity selections and masks. Today I will expand on the topic again, but going into how to blend images using luminosity selections. If you understood the previous articles on this, you should be able to understand how it works really quickly and be able to use it right away.

But before I start, I will presume that you have checked out the previous articles on luminosity selections and are familiar with what they are and how to create them. I will not be going into the things I already explained there.

Blending photos using Luminosity selections

The process here is almost exactly the same as when you are editing photos using luminosity selections. So as in the last article let’s take an example to show you how it’s done. I will be blending these three exposures here.

We will start again with a photo, for which we created the Bright 1 to 4 selections and Dark 1 to 4 selections. Additionally to that, I will put the brighter exposure and darker exposure on separate layers, both hidden (they have to be hidden when you create the luminosity selections, or else they will be made from them not the base image).

So what’s our goal here? If you look at the image, you will see some areas that are too bright and some that are too dark. The goal here is to brighten the dark areas by using the overexposed photo and darken the bright areas using the underexposed photo. You could look at it as if you cut up the photo into puzzle pieces and then put together a new one using all the best pieces from all the exposures. Let’s start.

Blending in the dark areas

  1. Make the brighter layer visible, and add a black mask to it (hold down Alt and click on the add mask button). This will again make the layer invisible.
  2. Go into the Channels window and with Ctrl+click select one of the Dark selections. The best process is to select each one going from 1 up until you see the selections that best matches the area you want to blend. Just look at the marching ants that show the selection. Usually having a selection that’s a bit bigger than what you want to select here, works the best. For this photo, I will choose the Dark 3 selection
  3. Go back into the layers window. Click on the mask next to the brighter layer to select it. Choose the brush tool, white color, 0% hardness, 50% opacity. Hide the selection by pressing Ctrl+H. It is still there just not visible.
  4. Now that all is prepared, you can start painting into the mask. Everywhere you paint, you are painting with the brighter layer into the base layer. To get more brightness in, paint over the same spot multiple times.
  5. Continue doing this until all the areas are brightened as much as you want them to be. If you feel you overdone it, just switch to a black color and paint over the same spot to remove the blend.
Create selection
Paint it in
Finished mask

Blending in the bright areas

  1. Fist deselect the selection you already have, with Ctrl+D. You don’t see it as it’s hidden, but it’s there. Same as before, make the darker layer visible and add a black mask to it.
  2. Go into the Channels window, and choose one of the selections, based on which one fits the photo the best. Again, go through all the bright selection starting from 1, and choose the one that selects the area you need to edit the best. Again, bo with a bit bigger selection to what you need. That results in a better blend. Here I have chosen the Bright 2 one.
  3. Return to the layers, select the mask on the darker layer, and start painting with the white brush on it, until you recover all the bright areas.
Create selection
Paint it in
Finished mask

Blended photo

And we end up with a photo that has the dark areas brightened and the bright areas darkened. Of course, this is not the finished photo. There are still thing one would have to correct, mostly the contrast. As I mentioned with the other edits, contrast is lost anytime you work with bright and dark areas of a photo.

This explains the basics of blending. If you need to blend more exposures, you do the exact same thing. You choose the base you want to work with and blend other exposures into it as I showed here. The only difference is, that you have to recreate your selections. As they are created from the base layer, once you blended in something into the base layer, they will no longer be as accurate as you need them to be.

So if I had a photo taken at 0EV, and I blend in a -1EV exposures to darken the highlights, I would have to create new selections if I wanted to blend in the -2EV photo to darken them even more. This is where Photoshop extensions like Raya pro and TK actions make the whole process much easier.

This was supposed to be the last article on Luminosity selections, but I will do one more, on the concept of matching exposures. Stay tuned :)

Taking photos

I take at least 95% of my photos with a tripod. Over time I just got so used to be able to use any exposure I need, just by having one. The resulting photos are so much better, and since I’m also forced to set up the tripod, I tend to get better composition in the end. But there are of course instances where this is not possible. There are more and more places where one can no longer use a tripod. Or you don’t have one available. Maybe it’s because the airline lost your luggage (like happened to me) or something similar.

So how does one get a nice photo in those occasions, where you just have to shoot handheld. Today I will share with you few tips for that. Also, if you have a steel grip, and you can hold a few second shot handheld without problems, this is not for you :)

Taking photos without a tripod

  • Place the camera on something – If you can, put your camera on something, a bench, wall, pillar, anything with a flat top. Then push your camera down so it stays firmly in place when you are taking the photo.
  • Brace yourself against something – If you can not place the camera on anything, try bracing yourself against something. Lean on a railing, pillar, sit on a bench, on the floor. The less your body is moving, the more stable will you be able to hold the camera.
  • Hold your camera close to your body – Your body is always moving, holding the camera away form the body will transfer much more movement to it. Hold it close to you, so minimizing this movements.
  • Use a timer – Pressing the shutter button will move your camera. Even on a tripod this can cause movement. Set your camera to a two second timer, so it takes the shot automatically. The less movement the better.
  • Underexpose your photo – If you shoot in a RAW format, you can easily underexpose all you photos by 1 to 3 stops (depending on your camera) and still get a good photo. You just overexpose it later in post-processing. Each stop down splits in half the time needed to take the photo, so one stop down is 1/2 the time, two stops is 1/4 of the time needed and 3 stops is 1/8 of the time needed. So for instance, if you need a 1s exposure taken handheld, just by underexposing by 3 stops, you shorten this to 1/8th of a second.
  • Set minimum exposure time – On some cameras you can set up the ISO speed settings. This is an option where you can set the longest exposure time the camera uses in automatic modes. So if you see that you just can’t hold a 1/25s or 1/50s steady enough, you can set you camera to always use a shutter speed shorter than 1/125 or 1/250 and similar. You of course limit this by the max ISO you set in the camera. If you set this up, you can be sure that you camera stays in faster shutter speeds, so you have better chance of sharp photos.
  • Take multiple shots with the same settings – Don’t take just one photo, take multiple photos with the same settings. You can put your camera into burst mode, and just hold the shutter down. If you take multiple photos, there is a bigger chance one of them will be good. If you take only one, you just have to be lucky.
  • Forget about bracketing – Bracketing exposures in pointless when shooting handheld anyway. I know photographers that do it, but I personally never been able to get a really good result by doing so. Even in very bright situations. The shots never align anyway. Rather, take multiple same exposures, or underexpose the shot. By using RAW you will get enough information most of the time anyway.

This one is one of the very few photos I took without a tripod. Here I pout the camera on wall, and hold it down to keep steady.

Taking photos without a tripod

Social networks

Yesterday I noticed a tweet by my friend Jim Nix, in which he mentioned, that he no longer uses Facebook and Instagram that much, but he appreciates Twitter more and more. And funny enough, I feel exactly the same way. But why is it so? I though about it, and this is what I gotten to.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

All social networks are different. And one joins them for many different reasons. I joined Facebook because of my friends. Instagram to share photos and follow other photographers. Twitter mostly from curiosity. There are one’s where one shares more, and ones where one reads more. But over time I lost most of my interest in them. I removed Facebook from my phone around a year ago, and don’t plan to add it back. Instagram is still there, but have not been used in a while. But I do visit Twitter daily.

I though abut why this is, and in the end I found the reason. The biggest difference is, why I follow people (and companies) on these different social networks. There is a different reason for every single one.

  • On Facebook, I follow mostly family, friends and acquaintances. But over time, I noticed, that those that I care about, I talk to and meet outside of Facebook, so I don’t need to check on them there. And the rest is just too much information I don’t need.
  • On Instagram, I follow accounts based on how good or interesting their photos are. It’s all about photography. I don’t think I followed anyone there for a different reason. Of course as a photographer I’m interested in photos but I don’t feel the need to check them out all the time. It’s same as with 500px and Flickr. I go there sometime, but don’t feel the need to be there all the time.
  • On Twitter, I follow accounts that share stuff I like. I have many interests and there are a lot of accounts that fit them. People share about photography, movies, books, games, software, anime, models, drawing, culture and much much more. Like this, my feed is very diverse, full of stuff I like. I also find there is much less personal updates, which you get much more on Facebook or Instagram. It feels more as a place to share ones interests. And that’s why recently I been mostly just there.

This all could be because how the different social networks started, and what kind of content they were build for. Even if you can find everything everywhere, there are still associations to the content they have been started for.

What are you still using? Or nothing anymore, like a lot of people tend to do now. Maybe the era of booming social networks is over. Who knows.

You can find me on Twitter here.

Mobile wallpapers


Photos with a lot of bokeh usually work great as wallpapers, as the icons stand out quite nicely in the out of focus areas. So today I have for you some of my spring photos, with a lot of bokeh. And they are all formatted as mobile phone wallpapers. These are all in 1080×2160 resolution, and will work great for most phones. Even if they get cropped a bit or stretched, they look great on an average size phone screen.

I have not added a watermark to these, as on wallpapers this size, it would be too distracting and won’t look so great.

Don’t forget to check out other available wallpapers:

Spring themed mobile wallpapers

And here are the wallpapers. I kept them bright and colorful, perfect for a Spring feeling :)

Luminosity selections and masks

Last week, I shared with you, what are luminosity selections and masks, and how to create them in Photoshop. Today, I will show you, how to use them when you are editing photos. There will be another post about this topic, where I will show you how to use them to blend images.

But before you get into today’s guide, I suggest checking out this post on understanding masks in Photoshop here, and the post explaining luminosity selections and masks here.

Editing photos using luminosity selections

Let’s start with a photo in the state we left in the last post. Go into the channels window, and create the Bright 1, Bright 2, Bright 3 and Dark 1, Dark 2 and Dark 3 channels. Each time from now on, when we need to select a certain one, just go back to selections and Ctrl+click on the one you want to select.

There are two ways we can approach editing from here on. Either we want to effect the whole selection, or just paint in a part of it, exactly where we need it. The process is a bit different for both of these, so let’s look at them now.

Global edits on whole selection

When you want to effect the whole selections, the two steps you have to do are:

  • Select the luminosity selection you want to use – Go into the channels window, and Ctrl+click on the selection you want to use. Go back to the layers window afterwards
  • Add the edit you want to use – Create new fill or adjustment layer, by using the button (circle icon, half white, half black) in the bottom right. You can use any adjustment you need. The selection will be automatically added a layer mask to the new layer and you can then edit your adjustment.

Let’s look at an example to understand this. For this photo, I want to brighten the shadow areas and I want to darken the highlights. Let’s start with the shadows.

  1. Go into the channels, and select a Dark selection. The more restrictive selection you choose, the less efect your edit will have. So if you go to Dark 3, or even 4,5 and higher, you effect only the very dark areas in the photo. For this example, let’s choose Dark 2. Ctrl+click on the channel with that selection
  2. Go into layers and add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer (one can use also other adjustments, like curves or levels to get the same effect). A new layer will be created with the mask applied to it.
  3. Now in the properties of that layer, adjust brightness to make the shadow areas brighter. You will see, that the bright areas of the photo are not effected at all and only the shadows are brightened.

Going to the second edit, darkening the highlights, just do the same, just change the selection and the adjustment. For instance, select a Bright 2 selection, create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and lower the brightness. And you have darkened the highlights of the photo.

Don’t limit yourself to just darkening and brightening a certain area. You can use this to change the color balance, saturation, detail, white balance and much more. Just use the adjustment layer you need. Also, one note about changing the brightness. Each time you brighten a dark area or darken a bright area, you photo looses contrast. A good practice is then, that every time you do this, to add a bit of contrast to the same area. If you use Brightness/contrast, add a bit of contrast, in levels, move the mid-tones a bit, in curves, create a S curve. Like this, your edits will look natural and photos will not become grey and flat.

Local edits by painting in the effect

If you don’t want to use the whole selection, the process is a bit different. The steps you have to follow then are:

  • Create an adjustment layer – In the layers window, create the adjustment layer you need, and set it to parameters you need. It will effect the whole image, but that is OK for now.
  • Add a black mask to it – We need to hide this layer for now. So click on the white mask next to this layer, and press Ctrl+I to invert it to a black mask
  • Make a luminosity selection in the Channels window – as before Ctrl+click on the Bright or Dark channel that closely matches the part of the image you want to edit. This will create a selection for you.
  • Paint in the edit – now go back to the layers window, choose the Brush tool, white, 0% hardness. Select the black mask you inverted before and start painting in the areas you want the edit to have effect. If the marching ants of the selection are distracting or in the way, you can hide them by pressing Ctrl+H. The selection will limit where you can paint, so you will only effect the area you need to.

Let’s go back to our example. Let’s say I still want to brighten the shadows, but not everywhere. I want to just brighten them around the buildings in the middle of the photo. I will use levels in this example

  1. create and edit a new adjustment layer – With the button in the bottom right of the layers window, create a new levels adjustment layer. Brighten the photo by moving the white triangle to the left
  2. invert the mask – Select it’s mask, and press Ctrl+I to invert it. Now the adjustment layer will have no effect on the image
  3. create your selection – Go into channels and let’s select the Dark 2 one by Ctrl+click on it
  4. paint in the effect – go back to the mask, hide the selection with Ctrl+H, and with the white brush start painting around the are you want to brighter. The more times you paint over a spot, the stronger effect the adjustment will have on it. But it’s all limited by the selection, so for instance the bright castle in the middle will not be effected at all.

If you ever add to much, just switch your brush to black color, and paint over the same spot. By switching back and forth between white and black, you can add or remove the effect until you are satisfied with your result. If you see that you selection is too narrow or broad, delete the layer and start again. Don’t forget you can use this with any other adjustment. You can paint in saturation, detail, colors, brightness, contrast and anything else you can put on a layer.

That’s all for today, next time I will share with you how to use these same selection to blend multiple exposures together.

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