Taking advantage of the different types of filters (Graduated, Radial) in both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom can totally transform a wide variety of photos. I’ve actually talked about these types of filters on this blog many times. I’ve also worked on all types of photos with a variety of filters and each time I edit a photo using one of these tools, I’m both amazed at how powerful they are and somewhat frustrated by their limitations. What I’ve come to realize as time has passed though is that while I sometimes experience frustration while I’m using a particular filter, it’s mostly because of something I don’t understand. To be honest, 99 times out of 100, there’s a workaround available and I just need to learn more about it. That’s what this post is going to be about.
In today’s post, I’d like to talk about something called Range Masking in Adobe Lightroom. Range masking, and more specifically, color range masking, is basically the process of masking something out of an altered photo by the colors a particular area isn’t. I know, that’s pretty difficult to understand. I’ll give you an example to make things easier. Let’s say you have an image that’s half red and half blue. Now let’s say that you apply a filter to the entire image that increases its exposure. The problem is, you didn’t really want to increase the exposure of the blue side. You only wanted to brighten the red one. Well, with the color masking feature inside of Lightroom, you can select the red color and everything but that color will have the filter not affect it any longer. Essentially, by using this tool, you’ll be telling Lightroom to only filter the red and mask out everything else. Of course, if there’s any red in other parts of the photo, you’ll have to deal with them another way, but I’ll deal with that later down below. For now, I’d like to simply help you understand how you can mask things out of a photo, using the color range masking tool.
To demonstrate in this post, I’ll be using a photo that contains a variety of colors. I’ll first apply a Graduated Filter to the photo and then alter a few aspects of it. After that, I’ll use the color range masking tool to select an area of the photo that I’d like to keep affected by the change, therefore rendering the remainder of the photo unaffected.
The Demo Photo
For this demonstration, I wanted to find a photo that truly separated many of its colors. I think I found that photo. With this one below, I can distinctly see a blue sky, red flowers and green stems and leaves. I should have no issues explaining what’s going on with any change I decide to make down below.
Applying a Graduated Filter
I’ll cover the steps necessary to apply a graduated filter to a photo, but if you’d like a more in-depth description, please take a look at this post. I go into many more details there.
Anyway, since the image is already imported into Lightroom and I’m in the Develop module, I’ll go ahead and click on the Graduate Filter icon in the right side of the application, above the Basic panel.
Then, I’ll apply the filter and make a few slider adjustments over to the right.
As you may notice, the sky is bluer than it originally was. Here are the sliders that I pushed.
I think that looks pretty good.
So What’s the Problem?
After applying a graduated filter to a photograph, as I just did, it’s sometimes tough to identify the exact problem. Because of this, I’ll tell you what it is. Before I applied this filter, I decided that I wanted to adjust the exposure and the saturation of the sky. I didn’t really want to adjust anything that had to do with the flowers though. The problem is, because the Graduate Filter is a linear tool, meaning it goes straight across the entire photo, some of the flowers got caught in the cross-fire. So anything I did to the sky is now also applied to those flowers. This isn’t what I want and this issue is what this post is about.
Masking a Filter by Color
Luckily, inside of Lightroom there’s a tool that allows us to select the color range that we’d like to limit the filter to. This is the Range Mask tool I spoke of above. If I head down to the bottom of the slider panel, I’ll see a small drop-down box that’s labeled Range Mask. If I click that drop-down, I’ll see three choices. Off, Color and Luminance.
If I click to select Color from this short list, I’ll have the ability to mask out anything other than the color I’m interested in filtering. So, I’ll do that and then I’ll click on the eye-dropper tool that appears.
Finally, I’ll head back up to the photo and I’ll click inside the blue sky somewhere to select the blue color. If the color is a gradient as this sky is, I can hold down the Shift key on my keyboard to take multiple samples. Also, I could just as easily click and drag across the sky to capture all the different shades of blue.
Here’s an example of multiple clicks. You can see the dropper tools.
And here’s an example of clicking and dragging. All the color captured inside of the box will be filtered while anything outside the box won’t be.
Do you see how the sun and the red flowers brightened back up? That’s because they aren’t being filtered anymore and those sliders positions are having no effect on them. They’re affecting only the blue sky.
Below the drop-down box and the eye-dropper tool in the right panel is an Amount slider. I can drag this slider to the left and to the right to adjust how strong and precise I want the color masking to be. If I drag to the left, the masking effect won’t be that strong and if I drag to the right, it will be stronger. This is a trial and error type thing that needs to be experimented with.
Using in Conjunction With the Brush
Even though I took advantage of the Color Range Mask tool and the Graduated Filter, that doesn’t mean that I can’t also go in and make further edits with the Brush tool up above. But, since I already wrote a super duper post on this topic, I’ll just direct you to that if you’re interested.
I just wanted to mention that the brush option is always a possibility.
Also, one last thing. Anything I did with the Graduated Filter in this post is also possible with the Radial Filter. Both filters behave the same way when it comes to masking and further edits with the brush.
I hope I clearly explained how to use the Graduated Filter and the Color Range Mask in Adobe Lightroom. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!