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It helps to be able to see what you’re doing while you’re doing it. When you’re refining masks in Photoshop, if you can see them better, you can make them better. There are a number of useful ways you can see masks in Photoshop.

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In the Layers palette, Option click the mask to display it in black and white.

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Option Shift click the mask to display the mask and the image at the same time in the same window.

LayerMaskDisplayOptions

The overlay’s default color and opacity are red and 50%, but you can change these defaults by double clicking on the mask in the Channels palette or by double clicking on the mask icon in the Layers palette and using the mask’s Properties.

You can see an image and a mask at the same time.This is ideal for checking the placement and quality of contours carefully. Go to the Window menu and navigate to Arrange > New Window. (This creates a new window for the same document not a duplicate document.) While you’re on the new window, Option click on the icon of the mask you’d like to view; you’ll find this in the Layers palette. The first window will still display the image. The second window will display the mask. You can also choose Window > Arrange > Match Zoom and Location to have both windows zoomed into the same location at the same magnification.

Sometimes seeing a mask gets in your way. Shift click a mask to disable it.

Once these moves become second nature to you, you’ll work more freely and have more mental energy for your images.

Read more about masking here.

View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Quotes_Slides_Prints_425

Enjoy this collection of quotes on photographic Prints.

“A picture is worth a thousand words; A fine art print so much more.” – Steve Denby

“Mostly, I worked so quickly, I didn’t see the details of a photograph until it was printed.” – Harold Feinstein

“I think that it is a sensual pleasure – image making. It’s not just the finished print which is sensual in terms of the tactile qualities of the materials that I use. I’m seduced by the light, all the time.” – Elizabeth Opalenik

“I was a very, very careful printer when I used 8-by-10 film. I probably spent more time on printing than anything else. The more the prints were appreciated, the more time I spent on them.” – Ruth Bernhard

“A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page.” – Irving Penn

“My ideal is to achieve the ability to produce numberless prints from each negative, prints all significantly alive, yet indistinguishably alike, and to be able to circulate them at a price not higher than that of a popular magazine, or even a daily paper. To gain that ability there has been no choice but to follow the road I have chosen.” – Alfred Stieglitz

“For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It’s that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.” – John Sexton

“To convey in the print the feeling you experienced when you exposed your film – to walk out of the darkroom and say: ‘This is it, the equivalent of what I saw and felt!’. That’s what it’s all about.”-John Sexton

“The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance.” – Ansel Adams

“In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.” – Ansel Adams

“Some of my photographs have always been a mystery to me in terms of how I arrived at them. Even with the technical ability to produce fine prints, I am hard put to know how it happens, yet unless technique and materials are seriously investigated and experienced, I see that moving statements are seldom made.” – Paul Caponigro

“All that I have achieved are these dreams locked in silver.” – Paul Caponigro

“When you make prints you deepen your relationship with your images.” – John Paul Caponigro

“It’s the last 5% in quality that separates the good prints from the great prints.” – John Paul Caponigro

“We used to have to make prints in order to view certain images, particularly black and white ones. Now you don’t. But for many of us, prints are still very much desired – I think they always will be. Physical prints do many things that no other method of presentation does. With a print you experience an image in combination with specific materials, which enhance expression. You experience a print at specific scales, which has an impact on how an image is viewed and in many cases modifies the message the image conveys. Prints offer non-powered portability; they can be retrieved and distributed at a moments notice to anyone without the need for other supporting devices or additional communication. Prints can be displayed in ways that make an image’s presence more durable, affecting and even shaping the environments they inhabit; with sustained viewing this can add additional depth to looking. Prints are collectible. While the time-honored tradition of printmaking is currently evolving rapidly (so rapidly that it would be fair to say it is experiencing a profound paradigm shift) it is very much with us today, and will be for the foreseeable future.” – John Paul Caponigro

“Something happens between a novel and its reader which is similar to the process of developing photographs, the way they did it before the digital age. The photograph, as it was printed in the darkroom, became visible bit by bit. As you read your way through a novel, the same chemical process takes place.” – Patrick Modiano

“I consider it essential that the photographer should do his own printing and enlarging. The final effect of the finished print depends so much on these operations.” – Bill Brandt

“I set myself up in opposition to the thing that I’m going to photograph and I try and find a place to stand so that when the image is made a visual resonance is engaged between me and the subject. I can then take that image and amplify it in any number of different directions as I take it into the print making process. And then, when the print is seen by someone else, whether I’m there or not, hopefully what I’ve put into that piece will initiate another situation of resonance between the print and the viewer. That’s what’s really important to me.” – Craig Stevens

Explore The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes here.

View The Essential Collection Of Creativity Videos here

Discover more quotes in my social networks.

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03.6-contour

A complex contour mask – made one minute.

Digital imaging offers the ability to define complex contours efficiently and precisely, enabling users to affect an image in very specific areas. What was once extremely tedious and challenging is now quick and easy. Once you learn a few essential selection and masking techniques, few contours will elude your grasp.

Before I continue, let me caution you against always defining contours precisely. Remember, contours in continuous tone images are often quite soft. What’s more, many times, photographers simply need to define broad areas to work in with smooth transitions into surrounding areas. Just because you can define contours precisely, doesn’t mean you should. But it’s highly advantageous to have the option of doing so when you need to.

Besides defining an area by hand, either with a selection or brush tool, there are a number of more efficient and precise ways to isolate contours; the Magic Wand Tool, the Magnetic Lasso Tool, the Color Range feature, and deriving a contour mask from a contrast mask. Try these first.

Keep in mind that all of these techniques use contrast within an image to isolate a contour. Contrast in any one component of color can be used – luminosity (light and dark), hue (warm and cool), or saturation (intense or desaturated). If contrast helps define a contour then you can accentuate the contrast of any one component of color within an image to make it easier to define a contour, using an adjustment layer. Once the contour has been defined, you can throw away the adjustment layer that was only intended to be used to make selection easier.

The Magic Wand, found in the Tool Bar, is ideal for selections of broad areas of color. Two check boxes give you control over how the Magic Wand tool behaves; Tolerance (which defines the range of related values away from the sampled color that will be included in the selection – based on 256 levels) and Contiguous (which limits a selection to areas of similar color that abut one another). In the same location in Tools, the Quick Selection Tool offers fewer controls but does an even more intelligent job. Try it before you move on to other options. Many times it does a surprisingly quick good job with little or no fuss.

The Magnetic Lasso, also found in the Tool Bar, tool can be used for slightly more difficult contours. Using it, you can add an extra degree of discrimination manually. The tool will define the majority of the contour for you, if there is adequate contrast between it and surrounding areas. While the default settings often provide excellent results, Width (the distance from the path drawn where contours will be detected), Edge Contrast (the amount of contrast required for a contour to be detected), and Frequency (the number of points placed while defining the contour) can be used to modify the sensitivity of the tool. Drawing a contour too quickly will reduce the accuracy of the tool. While defining the contour, if points are placed that are undesirable you can hit the Delete key to eliminate previously placed points, one at a time. When using Lasso and Marquee tools, practice drawing selections in closed loops. If you define only part of a contour and then let go, a straight line will snap between your start and finish points. All selection tools can be used multiple times to define a selection and can be used in combination with one another; hold the Shift key to add to and the Option/Alt key to subtract from an existing selection.

The Color Range feature, found under the Select menu, is very useful for defining complex contours involving multiple areas. Color Range has predefined settings to automatically detect Reds, Greens, Blues, Cyans, Magentas, Yellows, Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. In addition, it has a Sampled Colors feature that can be used to define a custom range of colors that can be increased or decreased by using the Add to Sample (+) and Subtract from Sample (-) droppers. Selections can be expanded and contracted using the Fuzziness and Range sliders for Sampled Colors, Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights but not predefined hues.  The selections Color Range makes are often more sophisticated than the previous tools mentioned, defining areas not just with black and white but also shades of gray.

Contrast masks can be turned into contrast masks, for the most challenging selections with very fine detail and/or transparency. Based on the luminance values of individual channels (R,G, or B), a contrast mask can be used to define a contour by accentuating it’s contrast so dramatically that all shades of gray are eliminated leaving only black and white values. Duplicate the channel with the best contrast in the area you wish to isolate. Or, load it as a selection by dragging it to the selection icon in the Channels palette and then create a layer mask. Then, accentuate the contrast of the alphachannel or layer mask, using Curves. When accentuating contrast, pay particular attention to using increased contrast to define the contour you are concerned with. Avoid the temptation to use contrast to drive broad areas to white or black, if doing so will adversely affect defining the contour precisely. On occasion, you may want to select a specific area of an alphachannel or layer mask to accentuate contrast locally. Where unwanted values remain, select and fill or use a brush to paint an area with the appropriate value (black or white).

Using these tools and strategies few contours will elude your definition. You’ll be able to define very complex contours efficiently and precisely.

Read more about masking here.

View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

01-lakedistrict

RGB image

RedChannel

Red Channel

GreenChannel

Green channel

BlueChannel

Blue channel

The relationship between highlights and shadows is a critical aspect of any image. Photographers have been trained to become highly sensitized to these relationships. Today, photographers have more control and greater precision than ever before over these key visual elements, using the digital darkroom. In Photoshop, the type of adjustment chosen will provide very specific control. The specificity of an adjustment can be further refined by using a mask. One type of mask yields extreme precision and is derived directly from the light and dark relationships within an image, a luminance or contrast mask.

A contrast mask will allow you to target a specific range of tones without affecting the others; highlights, shadows, and even midtones. In the analog darkroom it’s quite challenging and time consuming to make contrast masks; in the digital darkroom it’s quite easy to quickly make contrast masks. And, you can refine or modify them infinitely and indefinitely.

Here’s how to do it.

Load a channel as a selection and with that selection still active create a layer mask. The quickest way to do this is to go to the Channels palette and while holding the Command key click on a channel – R, G, B or RGB. This will create a selection based on the luminance (light and dark) values of the channel you choose.

With so many choices before you, which channel should you choose? Choose the channel that is light in the areas you want to adjust and dark in the areas you don’t want affected. When in doubt, load the RGB master channel as this will give you a selection based on luminance. If you choose an individual channel (R, G, or B) related hues will become lighter than others and complementary hues darker than others – i.e. in  the red channel reds will be very light while cyans will be very dark.

The active selection outline will appear complex; a dotted line will appear at all 50% gray values, but the whole image will be affected to varying degrees based on the density of the values used to make the selection. As values grow darker the affect reduces; as values grow lighter the affect increases. Remember this mantra, “Black conceals; white reveals.” You can turn a selection into a mask in one of two ways, make an adjustment layer (Layer: New Adjustment Layer)(the selection automatically becomes an adjustment layer mask) or make a layer mask (Layer: Layer Mask: Reveal Selection).

As a mask is comprised of shades of gray its lightness and contrast can be adjusted. Very often, contrast masks can be improved by having their contrast adjusted. Use Curves for the greatest precision in contrast adjustment. Here are a few strategies for doing this. Increase the contrast of a mask and its lightest areas will allow more of an effect to show through while its darkest areas will allow less of an effect to show through. Darken the mask and it will allow less of a correction through. Lighten the mask and it will allow more of an effect through. In special cases, you may want to raise the black point when applying Curves to a mask; this will allow some adjustment to be applied to the deepest values with increasing intensity in the highlights. Conversely, you could lower the white point to reduce the effect in highlights or you could simply reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer.

Would you like to target the shadows instead of the highlights? Invert the mask (Image > Adjustments > Invert or Command I) to reverse the relationship between highlights and shadows; black becomes white and white becomes black.

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Mask inverted

Contrast masks add the ability to target highlights and shadows to any color adjustment tool that does not already provide this function and to all filters.

Question whether you need a contrast mask when making image adjustments with Curves, which provides the ability to target specific ranges of tone without the use of a mask. If the adjustment you want to make to a specific region of tones in an image is extreme and you want to substantially reduce the affect on adjacent tones, then, and only then consider using a contrast mask in combination with Curves. Guard against introducing posterization when doing this.

Classically, photographers use a contrast mask when darkening very bright highlights or lightening very dark shadows. For these types of corrections, where industrial strength methods are required, consider using the blend modes Multiply (for highlights) or Screen (for shadows) in combination with a contrast mask to reduce the affect on the opposite end of the tonal scale and prevent loss of detail.

Today, photographers have additional opportunities to enhance color images using contrast masks. In addition to affecting the lightness (luminosity) of highlights or shadows, you can affect their hue and/or saturation. Compare these three solutions; an image with lightened highlights; an image with warmed highlights; and an image with saturated highlights. All three versions will appear more luminous or filled with light, but the qualities of light in each one will differ. After you’ve tried this, try making opposite moves in the shadows. Once you’ve done these experiments, you’ll start seeing new potential in every color image.

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Highlight lightened

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Highlight warmed

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Highlight saturated

Never have we had so much control over the quality of light within our images. Imagine the possibilities. Better yet, experience them. A world of possibilities for image enhancement will unfold before you.

Read more about masking here.

View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

MaskKeyCommands

There are at least two good reasons to become more familiar with Photoshop’s key commands related to masking. First, while many of these functions can be accessed through menu items, not all of them can; these features are essentially hidden to users who don’t know the key commands. Second, key commands that make masking and selections easier and faster.

Here’s a list of the most important Photoshop key commands related to masking.

Option click displays a mask in black and white.

Shift click disables a mask.

Option Shift click displays a mask in red at 50% opacity.

Double click on a mask displays options for changing the color and opacity of mask.

Command click loads a mask as a selection.

Shift Command I click loads an inverted selection.

Shift Command click adds to an existing selection. (gradients add at 50% then 10% increments)

Drag and drop to move a mask from one layer to another.

Option drag and drop to copy a mask from one layer to another.

Delete fills a mask with the Background color.

Option Delete fills with the Foreground color.

Control click on a mask to bring up a contextual menu of options …

      Disable Layer Mask

      Delete Layer Mask

      Apply Layer Mask

      Add Layer Mask to Selection

      Subtract Layer Mask From Selection

      Intersect Layer Mask With Selection

      Layer Mask Options …

As masks are often painted, brush key command are useful too.

Numbers change brush opacity. (1=10%, 2=20%, 3=30%, etc)

X to reverses foreground and background colors.

[ makes a brush smaller.

] makes a brush larger.

Shift [ makes a brush softer.

Shift ] makes a brush harder.

Read more about masking here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

DesktopCalendar2009

Illumination XL

My free June Desktop Calendar features an image from Namibia’s Serra Cafema.

Download your free copy here.

Find out more about this image here.


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