5 great ways BlendIf can improve your photos

BlendIf is one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. It allows you to quickly and easily make adjustments specific to highlights, shadows or midtones. It works similarly to “range masks” in LR/ACR, with the distinct advantage that you can use BlendIf on any adjustment you can make in Photoshop. You can also use it like a range mask to work with any of the tools in LR/ACR which are not available as local adjustments (HSL, vibrance, camera calibration, curves, advanced sharpening / noise reduction, etc).

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use BlendIf to improve your images in numerous ways including:

  1. Make sunsets glow (without harming shadows)
  2. Better dodging & burning (targeting highlights and shadows)
  3. Fix blown highlights
  4. Better noise reduction (keep highlight detail)
  5. Better vignettes (avoid crushing shadows)

But these are just a few ideas you can apply to your own work. You might use BlendIf to help lighten shadows, color grade, apply a Nik filter to highlights, target specific colors to enhance sunset, increase mid-tone contrast, target color channels in the image, etc. There are endless scenarios where targeting your adjustment by tone (or color) using BlendIf can greatly improve your image.

 

BlendIf offers a couple of substantial benefits over luminosity masks:

  • It adds nothing to your file size. Zero. By comparison, a single luminosity mask increases the file size by roughly 1/3rd the size of the original image (because a luminosity mask is essentially a grayscale copy of the image). Using BlendIfs where you can reduces disk space, helps avoid the 4GB TIF file size limit, and lets you save images much faster (because they are smaller).
  • It creates a dynamic mask. If you ever make significant changes to your underlying layers (such as cloning out dust spots or some other distraction), you will likely need to update or replace your luminosity mask as well. BlendIf is constantly updated, which can save you a lot of work when you update underlying layers.

Ultimately, luminosity masks offer much greater control than BlendIf and should be used for exposure blending, advanced dodging & burning, etc – but BlendIf is a great choice for simple targeting of shadows, midtones, and highlights.

 

While similar in concept, BlendIf also has major advantages over the “range masks” available in LR / ACR:

  • You can use it with any adjustment or content layer in PS.
  • You can use it to target any of the adjustments in ACR, whereas range masks cannot control camera calibration, curves, detailed sharpening and noise reduction, color grading, HSL, etc.

 

Lumenzia includes several tools to help create, visualize, and refine BlendIf. A general workflow may include the following steps:

  1. Click the top-left mode button a few times to put the panel into “If:under” mode and then click any of the preview buttons (such as L2, D, zone b, or the zone pickers) to create a BlendIf .
    • Or <shift>-click any of the preview buttons to create a BlendIf without needing to change modes in the panel.
    • If you’re goal is to protect a range of tones, click “Not” first or hold <alt/option> when creating the BlendIf. For example, to apply a vignette which protects the shadows you might use “Not D2” to affect everything which isn’t D2.
    • If you want to target by color, you may use the color swatches at top while using the “If:under” mode or hold <shift><cmd/ctrl> while clicking to create your BlendIf (the ctrl/cmd key will offer a choice of targets). Remember that BlendIf is targeting channels, not actual colors. So light values in the red channel include red, white, purple, and yellow. You could then additionally target dark greens to eliminate light white and yellow values.
  2. Drag the sliders as desired to refine specific values (such as for L2.5).
    • If you have a layer mask and it is selected, the slider will be white and affect feathering on the mask. To use the BlendIf slider, click on the layer thumbnail instead of the mask (the slider will appear blue when adjusting BlendIf).
  3. If you need to visualize the BlendIf, click the red “If” button at the bottom of the panel. Click “If” again when done to clear it.
    • If you’ve also added a layer mask, this visualization will show the combined result.
    • <shift>-click “If” to choose a different color for visualization if you don’t like the default green.
    • You can also convert the BlendIf to a layer mask by <ctrl/cmd>-clicking “Mask”. If you’re using this for learning or visualization, you can then undo to get back to the BlendIf when you’re done reviewing it.
Greg Benz Photography