5 Reasons to use Luminosity Masks in all your Processing

5 Reasons to use Luminosity Masks in all your Processing

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Since I started editing my first images the main goal was always to make targeted and selective edits in my images. At first time I relied on third-party software for post processing, so I enjoyed their HDR tone mapping features to edit all my landscapes and cityscapes with good results

Over the years I realized that the tone mapping process and the presets I used were too limited and that to improve the image quality and my post processing I needed to do more, that’s how I discovered luminosity masks. In the following article we will talk about how this become over the years my main post processing method

1. Image Quality

Going back to the introduction, the HDR images were always too saturated or too noisy due to artificial and confusing processing that affect image quality

With luminosity masks instead you will work only on the raw file and you will only affect the values you want. The result will be a high quality image with the ability to manage lights, shadows and details like an HDR


2. Full Control of Editing

With luminosity masks you decide which area of ​​the image want to affect and on which image work, by selectively deciding the various points of the shot. With third-party filters and softwares you cannot always decide how and in which points to work your photo


3. Digital Blending

If you use luminosity masks and you capture bracketed shots you can easily digital blend your shots into a single perfectly balanced image. Personally, during my processing I edit almost all my images in this way because it gives you a great control of all processing. By selecting the appropriate luminosity mask and by choosing the opacity of your tool the precision of the changes you can make are awesome

For example in the image below, I used digital blending only to take advantage of the details and colors of the sky of the darkest exposure. To make this I used a brush with a 50% opacity to benefit only of information from the sky I need without making it too dark


4. Choice the Mask for your Needs

The selections made through the luminosity masks are specific, moving through the selection of masks is like choosing an area from the smallest to the largest for that type. Whenever shooting in high contrast situations (such as in the same direction of the sun) selecting the specific area of ​​light to decrease or shadows to increase becomes a great help


5. Speed up Processing

Since I use luminosity masks, the time spent editing images has been significantly reduced. Digitally blending images with luminosity masks is quick and easy, imagine doing the same job manually by selecting each area manually before blending it… it will take a long time

In the past I’d upload brackets in Photoshop and play with some sliders on the whole image, wasting a lot of time to adjust contrasts, lights and shadows always different

Now my processing is fast and fun and mainly consists of painting or applying some filters to the various exposures. At the end of the process I feel a sense of achievement to give to the image my desired design


Conclusions

Luminosity masks aren’t for everyone. They take a little time to understand and learn about it. They’re certainly more difficult to master than third part software and filters, but I assure you that once you master them you will never be able to go back. In my opinion, regardless of the quality of the third party software, nothing can give you control back than digital blending using luminosity masks

If you don’t know where to start, I have created a specific course on luminosity masks where you will get all the tools to start working using them and with pratice become a master


My free Luminosity Masks Resource

I created a panel to easily launch and select luminosity masks, the panel is the TTS Fast Panel and it’s completely free. With this panel you can manage the luminosity masks like a pro and benefit of some filters created by me and that I use very much in my processing

Don’t forget to give me a feedback about it in comments


7 Tips for Better Sunset Photography

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As everyone knows, the best moment to capture the best light is during sunset, this time of day coincides with the best softest light and which gives better colors in the sky and lights. This time of the day is generally between golden hour and blue hour to achieve the best light in the day

Nowadays everyone knows this simple but basic rule of photography, but so how to go further? How can be more professional in this field? Let’s find out in this article through these 7 tips for better sunset photography

1 Scout the Location Before Shooting

Scouting of the location is the requirement of a professional photography, as regards the main difference is made to arrive early and leave late the location. This simple advice will drastically increase the possibility of returning home with a shot of greater interest

Arriving earlier helps to find the right position of the photo, going away late helps to find the right light you are looking for in the shot you’re making. Sometimes it happens that the best moments for shooting are moved from the canonical moments of the golden and blue hour, this is because they are strongly conditioned from weather and location

2 Know the Sun Spot

This is the primary tip for a professional photo, knowing the sun’s position increase the chance to create impactful images. You will understand what the light will do and consequently what your image will look like, in this way you will be able to adjust your photo according to your needs

To find out this position you can help you with many apps, for example I use Photopills that have a very intuitive sun spot section

3 Shoot into the Sun direction

When it is possible I love shooting landscape into the sun direction. Taking the shot into the sun direction greatly increases the possibility of creating impactful images because it includes an important point of energy in the frame

Shooting into the sun direction also allows you to play with the sun’s spikes when it “lands” on some element of the frame, a condition that I love to capture in my landscapes

4 Always Bracket your Shots

When shooting towards sunset the possibility of having images with a great contrast is very high. Usually high contrasted images are very difficult to manage and for this reason I always shoot using bracketing mode

The bracketing mode grants to obtain a wide dynamic range of the scene through a series of exposures, furthermore, this guarantees an excellent result for digital blending of the image in Photoshop

5 Try Differents Focal Lens

As a landscape photographer I have always captured many photos using my wide angle, but during time I learned the importance of experimenting with other points of view and other focal lengths to achieve best results


In some cases, using different lenses instead of wide angle can give better results, it all depends on the location and situation, it is the case of the gallery below that I took in the mountains or in the hills. At a distance I had points that hit the eye with a wide angle it would not have been the same results

6 Focus on Composition

Everything said above is important but it is nothing compared to a good composition, this is the main tip that allows you to create an impactfull landscape. Don’t always focus yourself on shooting at eye level, include the right portion of the sky / foreground in your photo and balance the elements for a perfect composition. On this topic I have written a specific guide that I recommend you go and read called 7 Composition guidelines for better landscape photography

7 Luminosity Masking

Luminosity masks are the best way to bring out the best on your sunset images, using luminosity masks and digital blending can easily include in your image all the main elements of your shots and create a balanced images with a full dynamic range

You can read more about luminosity masks in many articles of this site and you can take a look better at them on my dedicated guide mastering luminosity masks. Don’t forget to going deepen downloading my FREE panel for Photoshop and if you want to go deepen you can discover TTS Pro for easy and professional digital blendings


Easy Digital Blending using TTS Pro

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In this video we will see some fast and easy digital blending techniques using to using TTS PRO panel

It is possible to digital blend two or more exposures through the use of luminosity masks or through the digital blending functions included in the third page of the panel called Blend

1. Fast Blend

One of the most easy and fast techniques is the use of Fast Blend, if you have the darker image on top use fast blend darks, in the case you have the brighter image on top use fast blend lights. With this TTS Pro function with just one click the image on top is digital blended with the bottom image

2. Auto Blend

Auto Blend offers the possibility to choose the degree of digital blending among the images, using a series of luminosity masks to apply to the selection. In this way you can visually choose by scrolling with the selector, which mask applies best to your image

3. Blend using Luminosity Masks

TTS Pro allows you to freely use the luminosity masks not only for edits on adjustment layers but also for digital blending directly two or more exposures. An interesting and simple technique is to use the channels section in the first page of the panel and after selecting a mask, create a black mask adjustment layer to apply the selection directly. Below the steps:

  1. Go to Luminosity Masks page of TTS Pro
  2. Select Channel drop down menù
  3. Select a mask
  4. Select black mask from the adjustment layers buttons

Furthermore there’s always possibility of freely applying the masks to a previous layer mask created and then paint over the image in order to manually do it. Below the steps:

  1. Go to Luminosity Masks page of TTS Pro
  2. Apply a layer mask to the exposure you want to blend
  3. Select Channel drop down menù
  4. Select a mask
  5. Press Ctrl+H (Win) or Cmd+H (Mac) to apply the selection to the mask
  6. With a black brush paint the areas you want to manually blend

you can find all the steps described in the video below

Enjoy the video


Easy and Beautiful Glow on Highlights Using Photoshop

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In this tutorial we will see how to create a beautiful glow effects on highlights using Photoshop, this help to create a different eye catching look and great atmosphere mood at out landscapes

1. To begin with start going to Select>Color Range

2. In the Color Range window select Highlights and adjust Fuzziness and Range to refine the selection, than press ok

3. Now that you have the highlights selected you will see the marching ants. Press Ctrl+J (PC) or Cmd+J (Mac) to duplicate the highlights in a separate layer.

4. Now right click on the new layer and select Convert to Smart Object

5. Navigate to Adjustments>Curves and create a curve to brighten the highlights

6. Now it’s time to add blur, so go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur and adjust the radius to make glow

7. Now it’s possible to reduce the opacity of the layer that contains the higlights selection in order to softner the effect, or add a layer mask to remove selectively from the selection all the areas where we don’t want to apply the effect

8. As final touch is possible to give more details to the highlights going to Filters>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask and set the sharp you would like, than press ok

Enjoy the video:


The Power of Blue Hour Photography

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Some time ago I wrote an article on how to shoot during the golden hour, this is usually the best time of the day to shoot sunsets with the best and most powerfull conditions for photography. However golden hour does not always provide stunning results, it may happen that the weather is not good, or with a flat sky. In all these cases blue hour is a very good alternative

But blue hour is more than that, it depends on what are you looking for but in most cases can be to prefer to golden hour. So we see in this article the power of blue hour photography and when exploit it

1. Enhance Mood

The aspect that I prefer about blue hour is the mood of the images, the blue hour manages to give a unique atmospheres that no other time of day can give. In all these cases especially with the help of dramatic clouds it is a unique way to deepening the mood of images

2. Long Exposure

With coming dusk the exposure time lengthen, taking advantage of this conditions is the key point of blue hour, long exposure can completely transform the scene. For example in landscapes to benefit from the movements of clouds or water, in cityscapes with light trails

3. Combine Blue Hour with Golden Hour

Another aspect I love about blue hour is the chance to mix it with golden hour. In every sunset there is always a moment where the golden hour gives way to blue hour. The mood contains the power of blue hour and the warm as golden colours on the horizon

4. Light Trails

Light trails are one of the strongest composition of long exposure photography, especially the cityscape are particularly suitable for this kind of photos. Usually light trails are made during the blue hour, for this reasons it gives the chance of mixing the colors of blue hour and the yellows of city lights, two complementary and attractive colors for the viewer

5. Reflections

Blue hour is a great chance to capture reflections on the water, no matter if in the city or shooting landscape, the result is sure. During blue hour, reflections are amazing and taking advantage of this time of the day is the right time to deal with it

6. Look for Unique Light

Sometimes when the light is falling down a beautiful light can emerge, it’s a totally random and unexpected look that often occurs on very cloudy days but can completely transform your shots. This is the case of my photo taken in Amalfi when a coming storm contrasted with the last colors of the sunset creates a stunning and a unique light

7. Digital Blend

I’ve spoken about the chance to combine golden hour with blue hour while shooting, but we can do this also using Photoshop. In the image you see I have digital blended two different images with different lights, the warm colors of the golden hour and the cold one that characterizes blue hour, in a time that runs between about 30 minutes

8. Emphatize Blue Colours

It can be useful to increase the blue tones of the blue hour in our images, this to make images that are not in enough blue mood in order to increase the dark/blue atmosphere of our photo

We can proceed with the increase of the blue through the use of camera raw blue tones slider or through the use of Photoshop filters. Using TTS Pro Panel there are functions to increase the blue hour such as the golden hour through the application of selective filters that take advantage of luminosity masks


7 Reasons to Prefer Manual Focus over Auto Focus

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Focus is certainly the main aspect of photography, if the images are out of focus they are ruined definitively. There may be several reasons that lead to an out of focus image, some of which may be the difficulty of automatically focusing on a subject but anyway the best way to get out images perfectly focused is by using manual focus. So here are 7 reasons to prefer manual focus over auto focus

1. Sharpen Images

The main reason for preferring manual focus to auto focus is certainly to get sharper images, the best way to deal with manual focus is to achieve it by using live view, following these simple steps:

  1. Set your lens to Manual Focus
  2. Set Live view on your Camera
  3. Use zoom button to zoom into the are you want to focus
  4. Turn the focus ring until what you see is in focus

In this way you should be able to focus manually with ease. There’s also another step to do just to be sure your images are 100% in focus and extra sharp: compare the images captured with manual focus system and live view with an image captured from live view using auto focus. If you’ve done things right the image taken with manual focus should be with better focus and sharper

2. Photograph with every Light

Focusing with auto focus in low light conditions this one may not work properly or be inaccurate. Imagine shooting during the night, especially for night photography, images like milky way or light painting or startrails, manual focus becomes crucial to focus into a total darker scene

3. Capture low Contrasts

The auto focus to work properly needs some points that are “recognized” to the camera. If you’re shooting something that has similar colors, tones, and textures, or a smooth wall your lens can struggle in autofocus mode. In all these cases manual focus is of great help to be able to focus on subjects with low contrasts

4. Capture out of Focus images

One of the strongest photography composition guidelines is framing. Composing a framing with an out of focus element can be a successful compositional element of a photo and can lead the viewer’s eye through the main subject. Manual focus helps in this sense to be able to take our images with such compositional techniques and play between in focus and out of focus elements

5. Photograph with Fog

Fog is that element that helps make the image more striking and create a beautiful atmosphere in the image. But fog will reduce contrasts and scatter light in the scene, and focusing with fog can be difficult with auto focus if there’s not strong contrasted element in the scene. In all the cases of fog and misty landscapes using manual focus will avoid the problem of having out-of-focus images in fog

6. Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is one of the most used technique to ensure all of images elements are in focus. With focus stacking you take many images of the same scene with different focus in order to achieve a completely focused images with all the elements of the scene perfectly in focus. I created a detailed guide on how focus stack your images using bracketed shots. For a precise use of focus stacking it is very imporant to use manual focus, because it allows you to have great control of the elements of the frame in at different focal angles

7. Moving Objects

This point can be connected with the previous one but also because mobile elements are present in landscape photography. Imagine having to focus stack on flowers in the foreground that are moving on a windy day, or simply wanting to give movement to an element of the photo while keeping the focus fixed in one point. All of this with auto focus would be slower and even more difficult to achieve

Conclusions

Even if manual is better for all the reasons we talked about automatic focus can be very usefull in other situations, the auto focus should be used for:

  • Photographing animals, sport or other scenes where the subject is moving
  • Photographing events and concerts where the subject doesn’t stand still
  • Photographing handheld

Even if auto focus are certainly valid in different cases, for professional results rely to manual focus is the best solution. In any case relying on own’s eyes and judgment is always the best choice


10 Pro Tips for Snow Photography

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A snow covered landscape is always an attraction for every landscape photographer, for this reason every year I take almost two trip on the snow to take photos with beautiful icy and snowy sceneries. I love the colors of the sunset that reflects on the white that characterizes the landscapes this period of year. Photographing in the snow can give beautiful lights to your images, but to do the best you need to be prepared, which is why I have prepared this guide about 10 pro tips for snow photography

1. Save your Batteries

Cold is one of the downsite of snow photography, this reduces the battery longevity of your camera and all your electronic devices, including phone. One solution is to always have a spare battery and to put the camera on the bag when you don’t use it in order to keep your equipment warm

2. Be Careful of Condensation

This point is partly connected to the first one, before going from a cold to a warm environment remember to put your camera in your backpack. Switching from a cold environment to a heated indoor environment instantly creates condensation that can damage your camera and lenses

3. Set the Right White Balance

White balance is very important, especially when photographing in the snow. In snowy locations a trick is to set maually the white balance using Kelvin mode, this allows you to handle the white balance in various situations and set it on the light you have. If 5000K is the mid-day light a good starting point for white balance for snow is around 8000K

4 Use the Histogram

Using the histogram is very usefull in every photography situations not ony during snow photography, but in these cases the histogram takes on even more importance because it gives us a correct and graphic measurement of the exposure, avoiding relying only on a visual image in a prominent white scene

5. Find Colors and Contrasts

This is a compositional tip: in a mainly white scene playing with colors or strong contrasts helps the image to be pop or of greater impact for the viewer

6 Protect your Gear

When shooting in the snow some recommended precautions are:

  1. Keep the lens cap when you don’t use your camera to prevent moisture on the lens,
  2. If your lens becomes fogged avoid to blow warm air on it,
  3. Hold your breath when bringing your camera up to your face to take a picture could prevent fogging on your LCD screen and viewfinder

7 Use Polarizing Filters

Using a polarizing filter while shooting a snowy scene will help you cut through over-powering glare. The use of filters also reduces the light that passes through the lens and can make a great difference in the final result

8 Use Zoom Lenses

Images appear flat when there is nothing standing out in the foreground and most of the image is white. Snowy scenes are dominated by prominent colors over white. Getting closer on the main subject and its details is an interesting compositional solution to add depth to the image and make the image more captivating

9 Adjust the Exposure

In the white of the snow it may be necessary to have to adjust your exposure compensation to get the right light on the snow, in addition to this it is always useful to shoot in raw to be able to fix the exposure even in post with ease

10 Protect your Hands

While shooting landscapes we all use a lot the hands to interact with the camera, for this reason always having warm and dry hands is essential.
Having a pair of warm gloves that allow you to interact easily with the camera will prove to be the most important choice for the success of your winter photos


Light Bleeding Tutorial

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In this tutorial we’ll see how to add a beaufitul warm light and enhance the lights in the sky in a few easy steps. This technique is called Light Bleeding and consists in painting this light inside the image

Simply adjusting the opacity in the various areas of the sky and in the points that light strikes, the light bleeding technique helps to greatly increase the visual impact of light and our images

Enjoy the video


5 Useful Tips to get Sharpen Landscapes

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Achieve sharpen images is one of the goals of every lanscape photographer. Creating razor sharps images can take photography to the next level and bring your landscape works looking better

To achieve sharpen images, just consider some passages when you’re shooting, there are few simple tricks. Some beginners photographers don’t always pay attention to this tips, same for me in the past but once I find out how to do it, I will they can no longer do without it. I am very careful to consider all these tips to get clear images now. Let’s see what they are

1) Clean your Lenses

Before go out for shooting take time to clean your lenses. Having clean lenses allows you to have sharpen images and free from spots and dust

To clean lenses the best solution is to use specific products for lens cleaning but if you don’t have something to clean it, cleenex are a good alternative

When you clean your lenses avoid to breathe on them before cleaning it, breathe is not suitable for cleaning and promotes the attachments

2) Use Tripod

Tripod is a fundamental tool for landscape photographers and one of the most powerfull tool for the sharpness of a shot

In almost all of my images I use the tripod, this mainly because I shoot during times where the sun is low, golden hour/blue hour situations and the tripod allows you to set camera values with low shutter speed that would otherwise be very difficult and cause blurry images without using it. You simply aren’t able to hold the camera perfectly still when using slow shutter speeds

Having a tripod available is still one of my best tips for capturing sharper images. However, any tripod is not enough to create sharper images, you need to have a sturdy tripod that is able to efficiently support the weight of our camera and lenses

3) Use a Remote Shutter

Relate to tripod for a landscape photographer a remote shutter is another very usefull equipment to use. Using a remote shutter can remove vibrations caused by pressing the shutter button on your camera and eliminate the shakes for sharpen images.

There’s many different models of remote shutters from the most affordables to the more advanced that allows many funtions for every needs related to long exposure photography. In any case every shutter release will help you to remove shakes for sharpen images

4) Use Manual Focus

Auto focus is a more pratical way to focus your images, but rather than auto focus the manual one is definitively the best to improve it and sharpen your images nothing is better than manually focusing your shots and to rely the focus to your eyes.

To focus manually without mistake I can suggest a little trick. Set the live view and enlarge the picture on the part you want to focus on, set the focus ring until the image is perfecty in focus and return back to classic vie, in this way it will be easy to focus manually

5) Use Sharpen Photoshop Filters

Sometimes it happens that despite all these previous steps the image is not as sharp as we expect, or that we simply want a greater sharpen effect on that picture. It depends on the type of shot and what are you expecting from that picture but a sharpen effect sometimes can give you something more to your image

To create a sharpen effect just follow this simple steps:

  • Duplicate layer
  • Navigate To Filters>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask
  • Set the radius between 50 or 100 it depends of how strong you want the effect. Set radious 1

The new layer now include sharpen and you can reduce the opacity for softner effect or create a layer mask to mask out the unwanted areas of sharpen

Another great way to apply sharpen is selectively throught the use of luminosity masks that only apply the sharpen effects on the selected areas of lights, darks or midtones.

If you want to go deepen this advanced method of selection you can read the article I wrote about a professional use of luminosity masks. If you want to create easily luminosity masks and many other professional photoshop filters for perfectly clean results, included sharpen, take a look on my professional editing panel TTS PRO the complete digital blending tool for Photoshop.

So those where the 5 tips to get sharpen images, have your tried some of above tips? let me know in comments!


How easily create Color Value Masks for precise selections

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Few weeks ago I published an article called how to use color range to select highlights, in this article we’ll talk about how the color range tool is very helpful for making a quick and precise selection of all highlights making easy digital blending between exposures

This type of adjustment can also be used to select a precise mask based on color value, this technique is very useful when you want to make an adjustment to a specific color range. I often use this technique to easily create color value masks for precise selections when working on an image’s color balance, particularly for sunrises or sunsets

Creating the Color Value Mask

For example I need to select only some colors in the sky without affecting any of the other colors in the image. To do this Navigate to Select>Color range and a new window will appear

Color Range Window

Compared to the color range tutorial this time I select sampled colors, with the eyedropper tool simply click on the color that you want to select.

After select the color we need to adjust the fuzziness, about this further right you pull it, the wider the selection becomes. If you want intead a more restricted selection, simply pull it back towards the left

By clicking ok, the Color Range window closes and the new selection with marching ants appear. With this selection active, it is possible to create the adjustment layer needed

Add More Colors to the selection

Right side to the eyedropper tool selection there are other two eyedroppers:

The First: with a + symbol next the first eyedropper tool to add a new color to the selection without losing the old area selected. If we need to add a sampled color to the selection just press the eyedropper tool. In my example image I can select other colors to make my selection more complete. You can repeat the process as many times you need to add more colors to the selection

Add to Sample Eyedropper

The Second: with a symbol, to subtract a color by using the third and last Eyedropper Tool

How to use selections

Although I usually use Luminosity Masks to select areas in my workflow, I prefer using this Color Range technique when make adjustments to the sky for making specific selections based on colors or working on color balance

Selected areas

Selections such as this can be used for a large variety of purposes, for example with Photo Filters, Adjustment Layers, Curves, Color Balance, Levels, Hue/Saturation or either to add a mask using digital blending

So this was how to easily create color value masks for precise selection, if you want to let me know what you think about it or if you have further questions please let me know, I’m always happy to answer to you!


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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