How to Use Luminosity Masks with ANY Photography Software

A lot of photographers ask me how they can use Lumenzia or luminosity masks with software other than Photoshop. In many cases, a 3rd party filter might make part of an image better while making other parts worse off. This is a perfect opportunity to use luminosity masks to combine the best parts of the original image with the best parts of the adjusted image. It would be nice if luminosity masks were a part of every photography program, as they make any photography software by allowing you to use that particular platform in a much more precise way.

However, we’re unlikely to ever get comprehensive luminosity masking options in every photography program, given the complexity and development it would take. In fact, I have yet to see anything that approaches the full capabilities of Photoshop. While there are some 3rd party programs which include “luminosity masks”, most do not include any support – and those that do typically offer only a tiny fraction of the luminosity masking capabilities available in Photoshop (ie, you’re often getting more of a marketing gimmick that real luminosity masking support). Thankfully, you don’t actually need native support for luminosity masks to do this, and that’s a good thing given limited native support.

There’s a simple way to extend the power of luminosity masks from Photoshop to ANY 3rd party software: Luminar, Topaz, Nik, OnOne, etc. All you need is Photoshop, and then you can use the workflows below to enabled dramatically more powerful and targeted ways to use 3rd party programs, plugins and filters. This is probably the ideal scenario, as it lets each of these companies focus on what they do best, and you can then put everything together to post-process your photos exactly the way you’d like.

In this tutorial video, you’ll see how Luminar’s Artificial Intelligence filter can be used to create an interesting effect in the ice, but it also causes problems in the sky and a strong blue case in the shadows. Using Lumenzia to create luminosity masks, you can easily blend that filter into just the highlights of the foreground ice – which increases the ice detail in a much more beautiful and natural way.

This is just one simple example, you can extend this approach to work with any 3rd party software to blend its results naturally with the original image to make much more targeted adjustments.

 

Workflow #1: Smart Objects / Smart Filters

If you’re using a plugin that appears under the Filter menu in Photoshop, you can apply it as a “Smart Filter” on a Smart Object. This has the advantage of allowing you to change either the original layer(s) or the filter settings at any time, and is my preferred workflow. The steps to use this workflow are:

  1. Convert your layer(s) to a Smart Object (you can put a Smart Object into a Smart Object if you need to).
  2. Use your 3rd party plugin on the Smart Object, which will be applied as a Smart Filter.
  3. Click the eyeball icon on the new Smart Filter mask to hide the new Smart Filter. This allows you to make your luminosity mask based on the original image, which is typically the best approach.
  4. Create and customize your luminosity mask preview (such as by clicking on L2 to select highlights).
  5. Select the Smart Object and click “Mask” and choose to have the preview applied to the Smart Filter. Do not apply it to the Layer Mask, as this would simply make parts of the image invisible. The goal is to selectively reveal the Smart Filter, not the layer itself.
  6. Click the eyeball icon on the new Smart Filter mask to finally reveal the new Smart Filter through the new mask.

If you are using my free panel, replace steps 4-5 with the following:

  • Create the luminosity masking channels.
  • Click on the filter mask to make it the target (should have white brackets around it).
  • Image / Apply Image: set the channel to the desired mask and blending to “normal”, then click OK.

 

Workflow #2: Layers / Layer Masks

If you have software that does not support the first approach, or you simply prefer not to use Smart Objects, you can use layers and regular layer masks instead. To do that, use this workflow instead:

  1. Use the software (Nik, Luminar, etc) to create a new layer or document. If you create a new document, you’ll need to import it as a layer on top of your image. Just open both in Photoshop, then right-click the newly adjusted image and duplicate it to the other document with the original image.
  2. If it isn’t already, move the new layer above the original layer(s).
  3. Hide the new layer, so that the luminosity mask is based on the original content.
  4. Create and customize your luminosity mask preview (such as by clicking on L2 to select highlights).
  5. Select the new layer and click “Mask” to have the preview applied as a layer mask.
  6. Click the eyeball icon on the new layer to reveal the adjustment through the layer mask.

If you are using my free panel, replace steps 4-5 with the following:

  • Create the luminosity masking channels.
  • Select the new layer and add a layer mask to it.
  • Click on the layer mask to make it the target (should have white brackets around it).
  • Image / Apply Image: set the channel to the desired mask and blending to “normal”, then click OK.


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