This tutorial actually covers every type of image, color or black and white. For landscape, you might process the sky alternately from land but, this process is especially relevant to Leica Monochrom shooters who work on monochrome files from the start.
Black and white imagery is simple and the power of an image comes through the composition, but the instantaneous impact is down to the dark room process. Imagine Ansel Adams’ photography without the beautiful contrast work he employed to varying degrees and sections of each and every one of his photographs? Great photos, still, but so much less impact.
I will work through an example to show how I utilize masking, within Photoshop, to get the best from the major areas in an image. It’s not a great composition, so apologies up front.
This image above is straight from the camera. No in camera settings applied, so it is tragically bland. Thankfully the Monochrom files retain immense levels of detail.
There are 3 areas to concentrate on.
- I want to see a great range of soft tones in the woman and with a good level of contrast, but not so much she looks hollowed out
- The window display is behind glass and I tend to process reflective areas harshly with great clarity and contrast
- The masonry work should look worn, but still bright. This means very little clarity/structure
The image below is processed for the woman, but the window display is lack lustre and the masonry looks the worse for wear.
This next image is processed for the window display, but the harsh nature of the process leaves the woman over ‘processed’ and the masonry is just awful.
And lastly, below, we have processed for the masonry work and brought back some of its majesty, whilst reflecting age and wear.
Photo manipulation is probably off somewhere celebrating a near 100th anniversary, so I can have my cake and eat it!!
A warning for you color photoshoppers – your selection accuracy for the purposes of layer masking should be a lot more accurate than the ‘mostly accurate’ method I show here for monochrome work.
You should have all your specific layers stacked in a single image within photoshop. Having only processed them, they should all be down to the pixel aligned
Remember with layer processing that the topmost layer will be seen first and, if set to 100% opacity, you won’t see anything under it!
I will select the masonry from the ‘Masonry’ layer first and I will not select round the woman’s legs because she will be the topmost layer!
I will use the selection tool to select the masonry.
Click to show the Refine Selection dialogue.
It’s clearer to me to have unselected portions of the image highlighted in red. Click on the ‘View’ drop down to select this option.
I simply use the brush tool to ‘paint’ my selection edges and let Photoshop find the ‘edges’ for me.
You should end up with a more elegant selection edge, like so…
With the ‘Masonry’ layer selected, I can simply click on the ‘Mask’ button…
… and Photoshop will create my mask based upon my refined edge selection!
The layer should now have a mask applied. Black areas will not show, but white will. Shades between black and white, within the mask, will be grades of opacity depending on how near they are to black or white.
Here are the layer masks, clearly showing woman, on top hehe, window display and masonry work…
… resulting in our final image. Click on it for a larger 1600 pixel version.
Again, apologies for the choice of image, but we have a clear demonstration that a single image wide process will not provide desired results but, with layer masking, we are allowed to process elements of the image however we wish.