Digital Darkroom

New Lightroom Tutorials: The Masking Panel

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The new Masking Panel is one of the biggest changes to Lightroom since 2012. It’s incredibly powerful and flexible, with better tools for viewing and organizing all your local adjustments, two new AI-powered selection tools (Select Subject and Select Sky), and best of all, the ability to combine selections in almost unlimited ways to create exactly the selection you want.

I’m really excited about all these new capabilities, but there’s a lot to learn, and it takes some getting used to. So I’ve just finished a new three-part video tutorial all about Lightroom’s Masking Panel.

I’ve included Part 1 here for free to help get you up to speed with the Masking Panel. This video will help you navigate the new layout and learn how to use its great new tools for viewing, organizing, and renaming your masks.

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Major Lightroom Update: the New Masking Panel

Sunrise along the Oregon Coast, USA

Sunrise along the Oregon Coast. I used some of the powerful selection tools in Lightroom’s new Masking panel to re-process this image, balancing the bright highlights and dark shadows, and bringing out subtle colors and definition in the foreground.

Today Adobe officially released a major update to Lightroom, Lightroom Classic (v11.0), and Camera Raw (v14.0), featuring a completely revamped method of making local adjustments called Masking. This new implementation improves the layout and functionality of the local adjustments, adds some powerful new selection tools, and allows you to combine tools in almost unlimited ways to create exactly the selection you want.

With the new Masking panel, all of your local adjustments can be viewed together, rather than spread out between three panels (Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush). You can also rename each mask, turn each mask off and on, and view the masks with different overlays.

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Overlooked Images

Aspens in fog, White River NF, CO, USA

Aspens in fog, White River NF, Colorado. I used a bit of negative Dehaze to slightly soften this image.

In preparing my recent presentation for the Out of Chicago Live conference, I was digging through my archives for examples to use, and found some interesting images I had overlooked. In some cases I had put them aside, too busy to process them at the time, and then just forgot about them. In other cases I think my perceptions had changed. And sometimes I could see the potential to process an image differently, using new tools and new skills.

One of those tools is the Dehaze slider in Lightroom. It’s not that new (2015), but didn’t exist when I initially processed some images, and can sometimes make a big difference – especially with fog. I’m a big fan of fog for forest scenes, and these days I’m often using Dehaze selectively with the Adjustment Brush to cut through fog in one part of an image, or thicken fog in another area to hide or deemphasize something. (Just to be clear, you can’t create fog where none existed; there has to be some fog to begin with. But you can make some tenuous fog look a little more substantial. I show how to do all this in my latest Lightroom course, Landscapes in Lightroom: Advanced Techniques.)

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Lightroom’s New Color Grading Panel

(If you don’t see the video, click here to view it on YouTube.)

On October 20th Adobe released an update to Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Adobe Camera Raw that included a new tool – the Color Grading panel. It replaces the old Split Toning panel.

What is color grading? I guess I have a broader definition of that term than Adobe does. To me, color grading includes a wide range of color adjustments that go beyond the basics of setting a white balance and adjusting saturation. Mainly I think about adjusting individual hues to either bring the colors of an image into better harmony, or to separate and differentiate hues to create more color contrast.

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Image-Adaptive Behavior in Lightroom’s Tone Controls


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There’s a lot going on under the hood in Lightroom – things that aren’t obvious, and aren’t talked about much, not even by Adobe. For example, all the Tone sliders in the Basic Panel are image-adaptive – that is, their behavior changes based on the image content. The two most important image-adaptive behaviors are the automatic highlight recovery, and the automatic black-point adjustment, which kick in when a raw file has overexposed highlights or underexposed shadows.

The seven-minute video above explains how the automatic highlight recovery and automatic black point adjustment work. The full 44-minute video about the Basic Panel Tone Controls has much more, including an in-depth look at all the Tone sliders, an explanation of why Adobe’s default settings might not be the best starting place for many images, and demonstrations of how I approach processing both high-contrast and low-contrast images in Lightroom.

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