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Luminosity Masks

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  #1  
Old 06-11-2009, 09:18 PM
AngeloLorenzo AngeloLorenzo is offline
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Luminosity Masks

I'm kind of a stickler when it comes to tonal range and contrast control so on some images in Photoshop I apply 5 curve adjustment layers with luminosity masks for bright highlights, mid highlights, middle tones, mid shadows, and deep shadows.

Here are the problems I am running into: the midtone mask covers a very narrow band of tones and is almost useless, and there is no overlapping tones so transitions between contrast changes in each area become steep and noticeable in continuous tone like backdrops.

Can anyone else who uses luminosity masks point me in the right direction to make this a more refined tool for me?
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  #2  
Old 06-11-2009, 10:19 PM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

do you blur your masks? that might help. Personally, I think 5 sets of curves for global contrast is a recipe for mask overlap confusion. How much do you do with one set of curves to start, or non-destructively in something like lightroom or camera raw on raw files?

Are there certain tonal zones you find yourself typically wanting to add contrast or decrease contrast? I generally find myself liking to increase midtone contrast, with the ends easy to handle with a single set of curves. To increase midtone contrast I like Clarity in CameraRaw/Lightroom; Midtone Contrast in Shadow/Highlights; Hi Radius Low Amount USM.

So, to decrease mask overlap confusion, the less masks the better. Adjust your endpoints and midtone contrast without masks, that might just eliminate 3 masks. Then add in a luminosity masked layer if one is still needed.

I've also been experimenting with byRo's action with promising results:

http://www.retouchpro.com/forums/rp-...ng-radius.html

I don't use the clipping layer or the brightness/contrast layer (yet). What I've had good success with so far on flat images is to use 3 of the green layers together. Generally, from top down, layers 2, 4, and 6. This targets three differenttanal radius in the image, small medium and large. I experiment with different layer modes for each between softlight, overlay, hardlight, linear, etc, and opacity.

Then a single curves adjustment layer to reign in the contrast/density as needed.

This gives me a lot of tonal control with a nice sense of depth, with few or no masks.

Don't get me wrong, I use masks A LOT, I just think 5 is drastic overkill for global contrast - as it seems you too are finding.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:43 PM
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MacBurg MacBurg is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

In addition to what Flashtones has mentioned above, you can also up the contrast of your masks, I use levels for this. Activate your mask and hit the tilde key to make the mask appear in B&W, then Cmnd+L will open a levels dialog where you can darken or lighten the mask to suit. I usually create a luminosity mask using Tony Kyupers actions, then adjust using levels and give it a small amount of gaussian blur, .8 - 2.

I also use a midtone contrast boost on pretty much all of my images, I avoid giving images too much "Clarity" in ACR due to the lack of control at this stage of editing an image, the last thing you wanna do is sharpen/enhance noise, and you also don't have the ability to mask properly in ACR to localize its effects. I use the action created a longtime ago by mac holbert, go here and scroll down to L16.25 to download the action.
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Old 06-12-2009, 12:40 AM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

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Originally Posted by MacBurg View Post
I also use a midtone contrast boost on pretty much all of my images, I avoid giving images too much "Clarity" in ACR due to the lack of control at this stage of editing an image, the last thing you wanna do is sharpen/enhance noise, and you also don't have the ability to mask properly in ACR to localize its effects. I use the action created a longtime ago by mac holbert, go here and scroll down to L16.25 to download the action.
I think you're giving clarity short shrift.

Do you really get enough noise in your midtones for that to be a significant consideration?

I played with that action a bit. It's range is slightly different than "Clarity". In one circumstance it actually had the effect of decreasing contrast in an area I'd expect an increase (a clouded diamond). I suspect it's tonal cutoff is more abrupt than Clarity's, though that could probably be remedied by blurring the layer a bit. But the layer itself is something of a mask, so in a sense we're right back into that "mask overlap confusion" issue, or overly sharp edged masks, again.

I can see one wanting to do some local midtone contrast adjustments, and there are a lot of ways to do it with masked layers (that action, Shadow/Highlight, curves, HIRLOAM, etc) but it's still a good idea to start with global adjustments and then work your way down in scale, and Clarity is lovely for that.

I come from the wet darkroom where the idea that the closer you get with global adjustments the less local adjustment you need to make still rules. In digital I leave some editing headroom on both ends of the scale, but I definitely like to ballpark my midtone contrast early in the game. I also open items from CR as smart objects, so no adjustments are written in stone and uneditable.

No biggy, we all have our favorite tools and comfortable workflows. I've seen your site and what you're doing certainly looks good. Looks great. It's just that with each level of control comes a managerial cost, so to speak, and it looks like the original poster is already suffering from overload of that cost. I'm not sure that your solution is sufficiently different from the midtone luminosity layer that's already giving him trouble.
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  #5  
Old 06-12-2009, 01:38 AM
AngeloLorenzo AngeloLorenzo is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

Well blurring the masks would bleed them into tones that shouldn't be affected. What I may have to do is set the masks with a destructive curves adjustment in a series of overlapping bell curves.

I guess I'm still experimenting with what works for me best. If I know I want full control of contrast via layers, I'll bring in an image with a flat curve via ACR and adjust as needed. Habit seems to show that I favor micro adjustments in the quatertones and close-to-highlights of an image so I may reduce my masking to three layers with overlap.

I have a number of clients requesting a film-like result without dedicating the money to actually shoot film so wrangling in contrast is a big thing for me besides emulating color response. I kind of want to simplify my workflow while improving my output so I'll follow up on the links posted and let you know what I've worked out.
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  #6  
Old 06-12-2009, 11:16 AM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

Angelo, it's the kind of thing we'd need to see. But too many tonal masks in one space opens yourself up to mask artifacts and/or gaps, which can lead to a posterized look in smooth areas, like sky, clouds, backdrops, skin.

You mentioned some of this showing up in backdrops. I guess what I'd ask myself is, are you using multiple masks to accomplish what could be done more simply? Can you not just select the background and do your tonal corrections through one or two sets of curves? It's hard to imagine a backdrop that would require a higher degree of specificity.

Got an image or detail you could share with us?
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  #7  
Old 06-12-2009, 01:34 PM
AngeloLorenzo AngeloLorenzo is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

Linked below is a zip of a psd with layers in tact of a image I used lum masks for as well as the associated action that I run in photoshop to set up the masks if you want to dissect that.

It's a pretty quick and dirty implementation of when I first learned it.

http://www.angelolorenzophoto.com/learn/lummask.zip
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  #8  
Old 06-12-2009, 01:51 PM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

Thanks for providing that. Looks good! But I'm confused because the action hasn't been run on it. Do you have an example that expresses your original post, where you are trying to accomplish something that is difficult to achieve with the luminosity masks? Or was there something in this shot you struggled with?

Edit: Oops, at first I saw your contrast folder as a single layer. I'll take a closer look.
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  #9  
Old 06-12-2009, 02:06 PM
AngeloLorenzo AngeloLorenzo is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flashtones View Post
Do you have an example that expresses your original post, where you are trying to accomplish something that is difficult to achieve with the luminosity masks? Or was there something in this shot you struggled with?
I don't have an example of the problems it creates because I tend not to use it on those types of files. I do get a bit of pseudo-posterization in continuous tones like the sky or seamless backdrops but it seems to perform in situations where the scene is more detailed like in the file I linked to.

As you can see, the midtone mask has detail, but as far as controlling a useful portion of tones, it's thin. What I'm interested in most is bringing out the specular highlights in the skin you can see when you turn on/off the bright highlight layer. If I were to do that with a single curve I'd have to place a lot of control points under it, so it becomes a bit unpractical without the mask.
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  #10  
Old 06-12-2009, 03:23 PM
Flashtones Flashtones is offline
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Re: Luminosity Masks

I was able to get pretty darn close with a single curve and no mask (other than the hair layer mask you used too). I'm sure a point on the curve can be tweaked better here and there, but it's eyeball close on my monitor.

If you look at each of your contrast channels you can see that you are essentially using 5 layers to make a similar curve. IMO it's overkill, but if one is more comfortable working that way, it works, most of the time.

The bright highlights were the trickiest portion of the curve, so in situations like this I'd say to take things as far as you comfortably can with one curve, and then use the bright highlight lum mask (or whichever part of the tonal range is the tough one) to finish it off. I think you'll run into far fewer problematic images that way.

The top image is mine doing the contrast adjustment with a single curve in luminosity mode. Yours is below using the 5 layer luminosity set.

Let me know if you'd like me to send you the curve to try on the full size image.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg LumCurve.jpg (88.9 KB, 89 views)
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