Create beautiful web-sharpened images with grain

I’ve received a lot of great feedback and suggestions since I originally launched my free web sharpening utility. My friend Suhail had an excellent suggestion to add the ability to add some grain to the final output. This can help give the finished image a bit of a dreamy, nostalgic quality that is reminiscent of shooting with film. In this tutorial you’ll learn how you can easily use the new version to add some grain while creating perfectly sharpened images for the web.


Controls for grain include:

  • Amount: Controls the amount of grain applied overall. 7-15% is typically ideal. Set to 0% to disable grain.
  • Size: Controls grain particle size. 25% is the default. Try much higher values to make the grain look softer / less noisy (note that values >25% may slightly blur the image detail).
  • Roughness: Controls the regularity / uniformity of the grain. 50% is default and often ideal. Try higher values if you want a slightly textured look (this may appear blotchy on very smooth areas).

For ultimate control, hold <ctrl/cmd> while clicking “Sharpen” to leave a layered version of the image open. This allows you to control the local sharpening and grain using the following workflow:

  1. Optimize the grain on the sharpened layer by double-clicking the “Camera RAW Filter” on the top layer, heading to “Effects” and adjusting the grain, size, and roughness. This allows you to optimize these sliders visually. It is best to do this first, as the grain affects the apparent sharpness and therefore affects how much you might paint on the masks.
  2. Use a soft brush (and selections as needed) to paint dark gray on the filter mask in areas where you wish to reduce grain. Using dark grey paint (rather than black) helps ensure you retain a minimum amount of grain in all parts of the image.
  3. Use a soft brush (and selections as needed) to paint black on the layer mask in areas where you wish to reduce sharpening (as this will allow the “no sharpening” layer to be visible from below).
  4. You may now wish to apply the same grain values from the sharpened layer to the “no sharpening” layer. Failure to do so may reveal inconsistent results or may look noisy if the underlying area retains grain you just removed.
    • Duplicate the Filter Mask so that the areas that get grain are consistent between the layers. Hold down <alt/option> and then click and drag the top filter mask down over the lower layer. You may continue painting on the Filter Mask if you need to further reduce grain, but that’s generally not necessary. **
    • If you significantly adjusted the values in ACR, you may also wish to apply the same slider values to the lower layer. A quick way to do that is to delete or hide (click the eyeball icon) the existing Camera RAW Filter and then hold <alt/option> to click and drag from the top layer to the bottom to duplicate the filter just like you did with the mask. **

** When duplicating masks or filters in Photoshop, you must hold down <alt/options> BEFORE to click and drag. If you start holding that key after clicking, it will be ignored and you will move the mask/filter instead of duplicating it.


For a more complete demo on the web sharpening utility, please see the original tutorial and demo. This script has received several bug fixes and enhancements since the original launch and you may read more about them in the version history text file in the download.

Perfect Finishing Touches with Nik Color Efex Pro

Want to take a good landscape image and give it a couple of finishing touches that will make it perfect? I love using Nik Color Efex Pro (CEP) to make my images pop in Photoshop. It has a handful of extremely useful and easy to use filters to help get exactly the right enhancements. And you can use it on Smart Objects to work non-destructively to keep your options wide open.

In this this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use CEP, which filters you should use, and how to optimize them to their full potential. If you don’t already have CEP, it is part of the recently updated Nik Collection 3 from DXO. You can get a free demo of CEP and the whole collection, which also includes tools for black and white (Silver Efex Pro), sharpening, noise reduction (Dfine), precise color adjustment (Viveza), distortion correction (Perspective Efex), and more.


Here’s the basic workflow:

  1. Convert to a Smart Object.
    • Smart Objects are much better than working with flattened layers. This gives you the freedom to come back and make changes to any settings you choose in Nik (filters, slider settings, control points, etc), as well as perfectly preserving all the layers you already created. This way you can change any of the work you previously did and everything will automatically update when you’re done. You will inevitably find something you want to clone out, change your mind on color balance, or some other tweak that will be so much easier to do with this non-destructive workflow.
    • To do this, <shift>-click to select all your layers, then right-click and choose “Convert to a Smart Object”.
  2. Start CEP by going to Filter / Nik Collection / Color Efex Pro.
  3. Choose the first filter you want to use.
    • This is best done via the “Favorites” tab on the left after clicking the stars on your favorite filters (the best ones are listed below). After experimentation, you’ll probably setting on just a few that you use over and over.
    • Adjust the filter as needed per recommendations below.
  4. Use the “control points” to apply the filters locally where they enhance the image and avoid causing unwanted changes elsewhere.
  5. Click Add Filter to keep adding more effects. Be sure to do this before clicking on another filter or you will accidentally replace the current one with another. If you make this mistake, just undo and then add a new filter.


Some general tips:

  • Control points are used to apply a given filter locally (like an invisible layer mask)
    • No matter how many control points you use, they all use the same master slider settings for your filter. If you want to use different filter values in different parts of the image, click the “add filter” and add the same filter again with different settings and control points.
    • Control points only do two things: set opacity of a given filter and determine where it is applied in the image.
      • The opacity of a given filter is controlled by the lower o slider when you add a point. Click and drag it left or right to change opacity of the filter at that control point. By default, a + control point starts at 100% opacity and a – control point starts at 0% opacity.
      • The placement of a given control point determines not only where in the image to apply the filter, but it also tries to automatically select similar neighboring pixels. Effectively, this is form of luminosity masking within the Nik filters (not the same as luminosity masks in general, as controls are limited and you can’t apply this outside Nik). So placing it on white water will affect other bright areas, but not shadows. And there is a radius control, which you can set by clicking and dragging the top slider.
      • The master “opacity” slider in in the the filter itself determines the default opacity for any part of the image not affected by a control point. It starts at 100%, but will be switched to 0% for you if you add a + control point first (as this is the only way for other parts of the image not to get the filter).
      • You can view the hidden mask created by your control points by clicking the triangle to open the list of control points and then clicking the little box with a dot to the far right. Just like layer masks in Photoshop, white shows where the filter is revealed and black is where it is concealed.
    • <alt/option>-click to duplicate a control point. This is a very handy way to target in more complex ways, such as increasing tonal selection or expanding the selection in a way that isn’t uniformly round.
    • <shift>-click and drag to select multiple control points at once so that you can change all their slider values at once or delete all (via <del> key).
  • Double-click any slider to set it to its default value.
  • You can change the order the filters are applied by clicking and dragging their titles.
  • You can delete an unused filter by clicking the “x” right of its title.
  • You can undo via <ctrl/cmd>-Z. There is no “redo”.
  • It helps to compare before and after, and there are a few good ways to do this:
    • Click the “compare” button at the top to see before and after.
    • Alternatively, click the split preview button at top and then move the red vertical line where you like to see before and after at the same time. You can click and drag to wipe it back and fore to compare as well.
    • Use the check mark by the filters to turn individual filters off and on. This is very helpful when working with multiple filters.
    • This is especially helpful to do at the end to ensure you haven’t overdone things, which is easy to do when you keep making incremental changes.
  • Use the typical <ctrl/cmd> + and – to zoom and <space> for the hand tool to move around while zoomed in.


Tips for using the best filters:

  • Tonal Contrast
    • This allows you to make targeted contrast adjustments for shadows, midtones and highlights.
    • Start by setting all the sliders to 0 and then moving them one at a time to get a feel for what each affects in your image. In general, the midtones slider is typically the most useful.
  • Pro Contrast
    • This gives you nice control over local contrast via the Dynamic Contrast slider.
    • The other sliders are something you should use as often, but try them to get a feel for how they affect your image.
  • Detail Extractor
    • This can be a great tool for showing increased shadow detail at the default values. It ultimately acts like an HDR tone compressor and will try to create maximum local contrast.
    • Adjust the Detail Extractor slider for the desired amount of effect, and you should generally leave the rest at default values.
  • Glamor Glow
    • This is a great way to add glow and drama to the sun.
    • To get a sense of the sun emanating from the sky: place a large + control point at the center of the brightest part of the sky, then make duplicates around it to help target a range of tones.
    • You may then try increasing Glow for more intensity in the sun. This is one of the rare times when you might wish to increase the Shadows slider, which helps enforce a minimum black to avoid crushing the shadows.
    • Increasing the Glow Warmth is often also helpful to add color to the sky
    • Saturation may be helpful, but don’t overdo it.
  • Foliage
    • This can be useful for enhancing soft forest greens.
    • Change the Method for different colors and Enhance Foliage for the amount. Don’t overdo it, as you will lose the subtle color variation the image probably needs to look natural.
  •  Sunlight
    • This filter also lets you add add glow and drama to the sky. It’s a bit confusing to learn, as there is no set of slider values where the filter is not adjusting the image.
    • Light Strength creates a sense of glow by lightening the shadows, while Brightness affects overall brightness.
    • Temperature, Contrast, and Saturation do pretty much what you’d expect.
    • Watch out for color casts outside the sky if you increase Saturation.
    • To get a sense of the sun emanating from the sky: place a large + control point at the center of the brightest part of the sky, then make duplicates around it to help target a range of tones.
  • White Neutralizer
    • This is a great way to help minimize color casts, especially ones you may create via CEP.
    • Click the color sampler and then click on a neutral gray in the image. This will determine a white balance correction that tries to make the target color gray, while everything else moves a relative amount (ie, you are not desaturating, just applying a custom white balance).
    • Neutralize Whites controls the amount of correction.
    • Adjust Whole Image is used to create the equivalent of a color range mask. Slide to the left for precise correction of the just the sampled color or to the right to affect the entire range of colors in the image.
  • Brilliance / Warmth
    • The warmth slider is a great way to tweak the overall white balance in the image. (I generally leave the other sliders at 0).
    • Like the Skylight Filter, this is often best done as one of the last filters.
  • Skylight Filter
    • This simple slider lets you increase sunset color.
    • Its often best to add this filter to the bottom of the stack, so that you can optimize color at once without further changes from other filters.
  • The rest of the filters can generally be ignored for landscape work (skin softener may be helpful for portraits, and many of the other filters can be used for stylistic effects on abstract work).
  • It is often best to use these filters in the same order they are listed here (or at least to apply tonal changes before color changes).
  • Don’t use them all or push them too hard, a little goes a long way.


Be sure to take advantage of their free trial of CEP and the Nik Collection (look for the little yellow text link towards the bottom of the initial page).


[Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase through these links, a small percentage of the sale will be used to help fund the content on this site, but the price you pay remains the same.  Please see my ethics statement if you have any questions.  I have been personally using Photoshop and Lightroom CC for years and would not endorse any product I do not believe would be highly valuable to my readers.]

Automatically reduce noise, change colors locally, and the new LR / ACR interface

Adobe just released a substantial overhaul of the interface used by both Lightroom (LR Classic v9.3) and Adobe Camera RAW (ACR v12.3). You can now adjust hue locally, create smart noise reduction presets that adapt to ISO, the interface has changed significantly, and there are the usual bug fixes and new camera/lens support.


ISO adaptive presets

Both LR and ACR now support new “ISO adaptive” presets. The most obvious use here is to easily apply noise reduction scaled to the noise in the image caused by high ISO. This a great way to establish smart defaults right when you import your images. I would have loved to have had this feature back when I was shooting weddings, where you take thousands of images across a range of probably ISO 64 in mid-afternoon sun vs ISO 6400 during the reception. I can see this being similarly useful for sports and wildlife photographers who need to continuously optimize ISO in such of the fast shutter speeds needed to keep up with the action and use of long lenses.

I’ve already created an ISO-adaptive noise reduction preset that you may download for FREE for your own images. While it is based on my own testing with Nikon D850 images, it should be a great starting point for most cameras and you can edit the settings in my XMP file with any text editor. I’ve tried to add a few comments in the file to help make that easier.

Here’s how these new ISO adaptive presets work:

  • A single preset is designed with settings for two or more ISO values. You can import a preset created by someone else or create your own via LR or ACR.
  • When the preset is applied, slider settings are interpolated for any image with an ISO between the lowest and highest value used to create the preset. If the image uses an ISO below or above the values in the preset, the preset is applied using the nearest match (ie, values are not extrapolated, the sliders are simply set from the nearest ISO preset value).
  • Interpolated is based on the number of ISO stops. So if you create an ISO 100 with 0 noise reduction and ISO 6400 preset with 50% noise, ISO 800 (not the simple ISO average 3250) would get 25% noise reduction because it is right in the middle in terms of ISO (three stops above ISO 100 and three stops below ISO 6400).
  • There is an important “gotcha” with greyed out sliders: they are ignored from that source image. So if you set luminance noise reduction to 0 for your lowest ISO image, the “Detail” and “Contrast” slider values will not be recorded in the preset. When you then apply the preset, the nearest value will be used instead of interpolated. So if you want to make sure that those sliders are interpolated as well, try a “Luminance” slider value of 1 instead of 0 so that the other sliders are not greyed out.*
*If you’re comfortable, you can also open the resulting XMP preset in a text editor and manually copy and adjust the missing values. Note that these grayed slider values will show up as metadata values above the ISO-specific sections of the XMP file. If you do edit the file, make sure to restart LR in order to apply it (otherwise, you’ll be working with the settings that were in the file when LR launched). It’s also a good idea to test and to make a copy in case you make any mistakes, as LR won’t warn you if the file is invalid.
To create your own ISO adaptive preset in LR:
  • Process two or more images with the settings you wish to use in your preset. The images do not need to be related (you could pull the settings from an image of a bird and an image of a car for example and it won’t matter).
  • <shift> or <ctrl/cmd>-click to select multiple images in the Develop module.
  • Click “+” next to Presets in the left column and then “Create Preset…“.
  • Choose which settings you wish to include (just like normal when creating presets) and then be sure to also check the new “Create ISO adapative preset” at the bottom. If that option is grayed out, make sure you have selected multiple images and that they were shot at different ISO values.
Of course, you may wish to use these presets in ACR as well. There is a way to have LR presets automatically show up in ACR…  Victoria Bampton (aka the “Lightroom Queen“) shared this great tip with me: If you go to LR Preferences / Presets and uncheck “Store presets with this catalog“, then LR will use the ACR location for managing presets and this will keep your LR and ACR presets synced. If you like to export your catalog to share with other computers, you’ll have to manually share the presets, but you can right-click the presets and click the option to show one of the actual preset XMP files in order to copy all of them.**
** Note that if you previously had this “Store presets with this catalog” option checked, you will likely find that your export presets go missing (because this setting affects all presets, not just develop presets). You can simply migrate them from the catalog, which are in “Lightroom Settings” and its sub-folders starting from the folder where your catalog is saved. So if your LR catalog is saved in your user folder, you’d need to go to ~/Lightroom/Lightroom Settings/Export Presets” to find the presets that were saved with your catalog. You then need to copy them to the new shared location, which you can find by going into LR Preferences / Presets and clicking the “Show All Other Lightroom Presets” button.
A few quick notes on limitations with ISO-adaptive presets:
  • If you want to apply them in bulk to multiple images, there are at least three ways to do that:
    • Apply the preset on import (you can right-click the preset and choose “apply on import” to set this up).
    • In the Library module, select multiple images and use the saved presets dropdown in the “Quick Develop” panel.
    • In the Develop module, select multiple images (you must do this first or hold the <ctrl/cmd> key) and then click the switch on the “Sync…” button at bottom to turn on the “Auto Sync” feature. While this feature is active, using an ISO-adaptive preset will properly update all the images based on their ISO. Just be sure to turn it off or select a single image after you’ve applied the preset to avoid making other synchronized changes later.
  • Do not right-click the preset and use the “Update with Current Settings” command. Doing so will not change the ISO-specific values, it will overwrite the preset as if you were creating the preset from scratch (and there is no ability to undo).
  • ISO adaptive preset work with most sliders (not including white balance), and do not support binary checkboxes such as “Remove Chromatic Aberration” since you cannot partially check a box. As a result, it’s a good idea to either test the preset or open the XMP file and see which settings have been used in the ISO-specific sections of the file.

Local hue adjustment

The HSL panel in LR (or “Color Mixer” now in ACR) has always allowed you to change the hue, saturation, or lightness globally across the entire image. A lot of users have asked for the same capabilities for local editing. And if you use a “range mask” with a gradient or brush, you can change the saturation or “lightness” (via exposure slider) of specific color ranges even in the old interface. However, you couldn’t change the local hue until now.

With the new interface, local brushes, gradients, and radial gradients all have a local hue adjustment. When you use it, it will change all the colors within your brush stroke or gradient. On its own, that probably won’t get the results you want from most images. However, if you also use the “range mask” targeting color, you can now change the hue of a specific color in a local area. For example, in the demo above, you’ll learn how to change the color of just a couple of flowers without affecting the rest or the green background.

Tips for working with local hue adjustment:

  • If you want to make more precise changes to the hue, hold the <alt/option> key while sliding to temporarily “use fine adjustment“.
  • Use a “range mask” based on color. When sampling color, you can click and drag to target a range of colors. You can also use the <shift> to add more colors without having to drag over unwanted colors. You may <alt/option>-click to remove any of the samples, but there is no way to create block specific colors other than not selecting them. Use the “amount” slider to control feathering of the targeted colors.
  • Try to use minimal feathering in your gradients or brush. The range mask should do the heavy lifting here, and further feathering of the adjustment itself may cause mixed color results toward the edges of the adjustment.
  • If you are working on an old image and do not see the local hue adjustment, go down to the “Camera Calibration” tab at the bottom and update the “process” to version 5 (you will need to use at least version 3 to see local hue).


The new ACR / LR interface

There are several common elements which are improved in both ACR and LR:

  • RGB curves are now much simpler to access and are shown in color. This makes them much more intuitive for color grading. For example, you can clearly see that dragging down the blue curve will shift the image towards yellow.
  • The look and feel of the interface has been modernized.


Ultimately, the most obvious change to LR is the new curve design. It should feel immediately intuitive to use. ACR is a different story, and has changed much more dramatically in the update. There are also several changes in ACR which make it more intuitive and / or bring it closer to the LR interface.

These ACR changes include:

  • White balance picker moved next to the white balance sliders.
  • The Transform tools are now part of a panel instead of an icon (called “Geometry”, whereas LR is “Transform”).
  • The cropping tools are now much easier to find and use in LR. The straighten/rotate tools and aspect ratio options are now clearly part of the cropping tool.
  • Zooming and scrolling can now be set to work the same way they do in LR. To use this, go into the settings and check “Use Lightroom style zoom and pan“.
  • Single” panel mode mimics “Solo” mode in LR and is the default. You may <ctrl/cmd> click to open or close additional panels without closing the others, or you can right-click the panels and turn on “multi panel mode” in ACR to leave multiple panels open by default.
  • Holding <alt/option> in ACR now allows you to quickly reset an individual panel to its defaults like LR via shortcut (though the appearance is different).
  • ACR now offers a grid overlay via an icon at bottom-right (which produces an overlay similar to using View / Loop Overlay / Grid in LR).
  • The full-screen and settings icons look much more intuitive/obvious.


For more information, please see Adobe’s official information in LR Classic v9.3 and ACR v12.3, as well as the Adobe blog post on the new hue adjustment tool.

How to clone out tricky distractions using luminosity masks

Great photography is all about simplifying the scene. It can be so aggravating when a beautiful scene is disrupted by something that has nothing to do with the emotional message you want to convey with your photo, like the white PVC pipe in this scene.

Howard Thompson sent me this image from rural Arkansas asking how he could clean it up. Clone jobs like this get really tricky when you need to work around lots of detailed edges, such as the red farm equipment here untouched. You could spend hours of painstaking work to manually work around these little details, but thankfully luminosity masks offer a faster and more precise way.

Note that if you are using Lumenzia on Photoshop CS6, you should <ctrl/cmd>-click “L” in order to get the same red targeting I got by clicking the red color mode swatch in the video here.


The general workflow is:

  1. Create a replacement background (duplicate the image and use the clone stamp, healing brush, and patch tools)
  2. Create a copy of foreground elements (duplicate the image and reveal the foreground through a layer mask). This layer isn’t always required, but helpful when targeting the distraction itself may be challenging. You’ll need a layer mask to reveal the foreground elements and allow the cloned detail to show around it. I used the red color of the foreground here to make the mask by differentiating between the pipe and metal. Every image will have its own unique characteristics, the settings I used here are specific to this image. Try to find what’s most unique about the foreground or background to isolate them.
  3. Refine the layer masks and cloning as needed. Luminosity selections are an ideal way to deal with any halos or fringing by showing or hiding the layers as appropriate.


However, you’ll need to adapt the workflow to your specific image. Here are a few general guidelines to consider:

  • This technique is only as good as the quality of your rough cloning. Try the patch tool for large areas (with generous margins to avoid edge issues). Use the healing brush where you can (it tends to work well for objects you can completely remove, but not very well along remaining edges). Use the clone stamp where the other tools fail (it requires more time and sampling, but avoids the blotchy or discolored results the healing algorithm may create). The new Content-Aware Fill tool is often excellent for large objects.
  • I was unable to easily target the white pipe here because it had a full range of tones from bright white to deep shadow, and was also reflecting the surrounding green/red color. However, if you are able to target the distraction well enough, you can skip step #2 above and simply paint white through a luminosity selection onto a white mask in order to reveal the cloning where it is needed.
  • Customized selections are critical to getting the precise results you need. In this video, I used two custom luminosity previews. For the first, I created a red mask and brought the white slider in the orange levels all the way in to target the red metal. For the second, I used a L1.5 selection with the red and yellow to the minimum, which helped me target the white pipe.
  • Here’s another video some other ways to create custom luminosity selections.
  • Using luminosity selections to directly control the clone/heal brush is not typically a good approach. The primary challenge is that you’ll need multiple brush strokes to fully paint the new cloned pixels when working through a luminosity selection. You can do that if you have checked the option to keep the brush aligned. In general, you’ll get better and faster results by creating a rough clone job and then revealing it through a layer mask.

How to select and edit a bird with Lumenzia

I recently received an email from Jim Kay, who asked me how he might go about using Lumenzia to help isolate the bird in this image in order to darken the background. He’s done a wonderful job using a 500m lens to help remove distractions, but the background is still very bright and keeps the main subject from standing out as much as it he’d like. An ideal solution is to mask the bird to allow non-destructive darkening of the background.


Unfortunately, this is a very tricky task because the bird and branch are extremely similar in tone and color of the background. This limits my preferred solution, which would be to create a luminosity selection and let the image itself help create a perfect mask. The best approach here is to create a crude selection and refine the edges for a clean transition from subject to background.

There are several ways to create a crude selection, and each has its own advantages:

  • The Quick Select tool, which allows you to click and drag to identify the subject, with Photoshop automatically seeking appropriate edges. This is generally one of my favorite tools for making crude selections. To use it to its full potential, use both the additive and subtract modes to refine the selection – do not expect perfection with a single click of this tool. Make sure “enhance edge” is checked.
  • Image / Select Subject, which attempts to isolate humans and animals. In this case, it does a great job selecting the bird (other than its feet), though it ignores the branch.
  • The new Object Selection tool, which uses artificial intelligence to help select a subject from a rectangular or lasso selection input from the user. I tried this as well and felt took more time with this image.
  • The Magnetic Lasso tool. This is a lasso tool which attempts to snap to the edges of a selection. It can work well with high contrast edges when working zoomed in with appropriate settings for width and contrast. However, I find that other tools tend to work more easily on such images and this is an option I don’t use often.
  • Select / Color Range. Unfortunately, when luminosity masks aren’t an option, this approach often fails for the same reason that the color and luminosity of the subject and background are too similar. I generally find this tool less precise than using customized luminosity masks for cutouts and tend to reserve it for other use cases. But if you aren’t using a panel to help create advanced luminosity selections, this is a great option.

Once you have the rough selection, there are several options to refine the edges:

  • The Select and Mask workspace (aka Refine Edge in older versions of Photoshop).
    • The edge detection radius helps automatically clean up edges. This is a global setting for all detected edges. It isn’t perfect, but can often do a great job. Adding a very slight feather (around 0.3 pixels) can also help.
    • The Refine Edge Brush Tool is a handy way to locally target edges. This is best used when the ideal refine radius varies around the image, such as for using painting a large radius over hair without affecting the rest the subject by increasing the radius globally.
    • The standard Brush tool can be used to manually paint in missing ares. Unfortunately, if you activate the standard brush tool and start to paint, the edge detection radius will reset to 0 (which I consider a bug in the interface). So be sure to check and reset that radius if you use the brush.
    • The Quick Select tool can help add missing areas quickly. Try turning on a red overlay and checking the option to show edges, which will help make it very clear when you have properly targeted the edges while working with this tool. Be sure to take advantage of the subtracted mode by holding <alt/option> to cleanup with with tool.
    • Th Object Selection tool is also available in newer versions of Photoshop CC and tends to be very useful when used in the lasso mode.
    • The standard Lasso tool is an option and is most useful in the subtract or intersection modes to help remove unwanted areas of the selection.
  • Painting through Luminosity selections. Even if the main subject cannot be isolated with a luminosity selection, these can often be helpful to refine particular edges of the cutout. Because the pixel color and luminosity is nearly or truly identical to the background, they aren’t useful for a lot of edges in this image.
  • The dodge and burn tools in Photoshop (these are available with ideal settings via the — and +++ buttons in the Lumenzia Basics panel). These are a great way to help nudge grey pixels in the mask towards white or black, and are a good way to do secondary cleanup if needed after using Select and Mask or luminosity selections.
  • Painting with a white or black brush in soft light or overlay blend mode is another popular option to help nudge grey pixels towards black or white. However, I find that the dodge and burn brushes not only provide a better result in most cases, they are also much easier to select that continuously changing the blend mode for the brush.
  • Manually painting with a standard brush. Sometimes the best fix for small areas is to paint by hand, and it’s often quick to make a few enhancements this way. This is most commonly needed when the subject and background have similar colors and tones, which causes problems for many of the tools above.


Workflow used for this edit:

I placed a slightly darker copy of the image on a lower layer so that I could paint a white mask on the bird and branch to reveal the darker background below. I used the “Edge” tool in Lumenzia, which ultimately was equivalent to using Select Subject to get the bird, Quick Select to add the feet and branch, and a roughly 12 pixel refine edge radius via Select and Mask to create the layer mask. I then needed a black brush to manually paint out one small piece of the brighter background showing by the bird’s foot.

Once the cutout was done, I proceeded to dodge and burn through luminosity selections to lighten the eye for interest, darken the feathers on the back of the bird, and add some contrast in the feathers around its belly. When working with a cutout, adding a clipping mask is a very simple way to ensure that the dodging and burning targets the subject without spilling onto the background.

The edit was then finished by using a lasso selection to target an area to vignette.


This image used here is the copyright of Jim Kay and edited with his permission.

Greg Benz Photography