Grandfather, Tshangkha Village, Bhutan
Canon EOS 5DSR, 11-24mm EF lens @ 18mm, f5.6 @ 1/15 second, ISO 1600
I have been critical about the selection abilities of Photoshop and other image editing programs for the past 20 years or so. The holy grail has been able to select a subject, no matter how similar the background colour and tonality might be. There have been numerous attempts, but once you moved past simple subjects like a yellow tennis ball on a green court, the programming fell apart and the selection or mask required significant attention. Often it was just as easy to start from scratch.
In recent year, I guess because of Artificial Intelligence, whatever that really means, the ability of programmers to design applications that really do isolate a subject for editing has improved dramatically. In fact, using Lightroom these days, I am hooked on the subject and background masking features (among various others). The masks are still not perfect, but for creating images for internet display, they are very adequate. And if you are making a print, then the basics are all there and usually just a little retouching is required. Life has never been easier.
The original reason we wanted subject masking was to cut out something and drop it in somewhere else, for which you need to use layers. Photoshop has the same selection/masking algorithms that are found in Lightroom, so no trouble. However, I think a more common use of this masking will be to adjust a single image - with tone, colour, contrast, sharpness and so on.
For instance, in the photo of grandfather above, it was the click of a button to select the background and darken it down a little more, so the subject was more prominent. I could then select grandpa himself and lighten him up. But here's the good part. While Lightroom selected grandfather from his beannie down to his toes, I didn't have to use all the mask. I could then 'subtract' from the mask, using a brush so that just the head and shoulders were lightened, leaving the torso and legs darker. It's this ability to refine the masks anyway you like that make masking in Lightroom and Photoshop a game changer. And yes, these features are also available in other applications, such as Luminar Neo, for example.
My Lightroom Atelier has been updated with a movie showing how the new masking in Lightroom works. However, the reason for producing the Atelier (which means an artists' studio or classroom) isn't to teach the mechanics of how Lightroom works, but to show you the potential for what it can do for you creatively. It's all about ideas that you can employ in your own work!
If you've already subscribed to the Lightroom Atelier, you'll find the new movie in Lesson 4. If you haven't yet subscribed, we have a new pricing structure and there's also 50% off that as well - so maybe it's time to have a closer look -click here.