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Apply Masking for local adjustments

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Masking offers you a variety of local adjustment tools in an organized panel to help you make precise edits to specific areas in a photo with the most creative control. 

Touching up specific parts of a photo is now possible with just a few selections. The Masking panel in Lightroom lets you work on any portion of an image to make intricate and precise adjustments using masks like Brush, Background, People, and more, topped by editing controls. You can access manual masks as well as masks powered by artificial intelligence. Try out the masking functionalities mentioned in the article and share your thoughts in the Lightroom community

Note:

Using Lightroom for mobile? See the following resources:

The Masking tools

The following local adjustment tools are available when you select Masking from the right-hand toolbar:

masking panel in Lightroom
The Masking panel in Lightroom desktop has all the masks.

 Brush

Select and drag the Brush tool over the areas you want to edit. You can specify the following: 

  • Size Specifies the diameter of the brush tip in pixels.
  • Feather Creates a soft-edged transition between the brushed area and surrounding pixels. In the Brush cursor, the distance between the inner and outer circle is the Feather amount.
  • Flow Controls the rate of application of the adjustment.
  • Density Controls the amount of transparency in the stroke.

You can also select Auto Mask to confine the Brush strokes to areas of similar color. 

Linear Gradient

Select and drag the tool into the area you want to edit. This is useful for adjusting a large portion of the photo with a gradually fading pattern that creates soft transitions.

Radial Gradient

Select and drag the tool into the area you want to edit. This tool helps you make local adjustments inside or outside an oval shape. Use the Feather slider to determine how soft you want the adjustments to be.

Color Range

Use this tool to accurately select a color in your photo that you want to edit:

  • Select + drag an area around the colors in the photo that you want to adjust.
  • Shift + select to add multiple color samples. You can add up to five color samples by holding Shift while clicking on the image. To remove a color sample, press Option (macOS)/Alt (Windows) and select the sample.
  • Adjust the Refine slider to narrow or broaden the range of selected colors.
  • To remove a Color Range mask, select the mask and then select Delete.

Luminance Range

Select a point or area in the photo using this tool. All areas with the selected range of brightness will become a mask. This way, you can precisely adjust specific brightness levels in a photo. To select a luminance range, do any of the following:

  • Adjust the Select Luminance slider to define the endpoints of the selected luminance range.
  • Select + drag an area on the photo you want to adjust. Selecting a small area to narrow down to a specific luminance range is recommended.

Select Show Luminance Map to view the luminance information of the photo in black and white representation. The part in red color shows the masked area, which is an intersection of luminance and local adjustment applied. 

Depth Range

Use this tool to select areas based on their distance from the camera. This tool is enabled only for photos containing depth information. To select a depth range to adjust, do any of the following:

  • Adjust the Select Depth slider to define the endpoints of the selected depth range.
  • Select + drag an area on the photo you want to adjust. It's recommended to choose a smaller area to narrow down to a specific depth range. 

Select Show Depth Map to view the depth of the image in black and white representation. The part of the photo in white represents the foreground, while the part of the photo in black represents the background. The red color shows the masked area, which is an intersection of depth and local adjustment applied.

Get Started: Create a mask

  1. Open the photo in Loupe view and select Masking from the right panel.

  2. Select the desired Masking tool (details are in the first section). A default Mask 1 is created in the Masks floating panel. To rename this mask, click the three-dot menu and select Rename.

  3. Using the tool, select the area you want to edit. Then, use the editing sliders in the right panel to make the local adjustments. To know more about these sliders, see Local adjustments

    You can also access presets such as Lighten, Darken, Warmer, Cooler, and more to help you make adjustments faster in the Presets drop-down menu.

  4. To add a new mask, select Create New Mask from the Masks floating panel and select the tool you want. This way, you can use different tools in the same photo and access them in an organized way.

Automatically select the subject in a photo

  1. Open the photo you want to edit and select Masking > Select Subject.

  2. Lightroom runs an analysis and automatically selects the subject for you.

    Select Subject in Lightroom
    The selected area is shown as a red overlay, by default

  3. To refine the selection, select Add or Subtract.

  4. Use the editing sliders on the right to make the desired local adjustments. 

    For details, see Local adjustments.

Automatically select a sky

  1. Open the photo you want to edit and select Masking > Select Sky.

  2. Lightroom runs an analysis and automatically selects the sky for you.

    Select Sky in Lightroom
    Lightroom running an analysis to automatically detect the sky

  3. To refine the selection, select Add or Subtract.

  4. Use the editing sliders on the right to make the desired local adjustments.

    To know more, see Local adjustments.

Automatically select the background in your photo

  1. Open the photo you want to edit and select Masking > Select Background.

  2. Lightroom runs an analysis and automatically detects the background for you.

    masking
    Background mask automatically detected by Lightroom.

  3. To refine the selection, select Add or Subtract.

  4. Once you're happy with the selection, use the editing sliders on the right to make local adjustments.

Automatically select objects

  1. Open the photo you want to edit and select Masking > Select Objects.

  2. Lightroom runs an analysis and automatically detects the object for you. You can also select another object in the photo by making a selection using the Brush or Rectangle Select tool.

  3. To refine the selection, select Add or Subtract.

  4. Once you're happy with the selection, use the editing sliders on the right to make local adjustments.

Automatically select people

  1. Open the photo you want to edit and select Masking > Select People.

  2. Lightroom runs an analysis and automatically detects the people for you. If there is more than one person in the photo, select Person 1, Person 2, and so on.

    select people mask in Lightroom
    Select people in a photo to make specific edits.

  3. You can select specific parts of the person - including skin, beard, clothes, hair, teeth, etc and make adjustments to the selected parts.

    masking
    Select various features within a People mask.

  4. To refine the selection, select Add or Subtract.

  5. Use the editing sliders on the right to make the desired local adjustments. 

    For details, see Local adjustments.

Apply Subject and Sky masks via batch paste

Backed by Artificial Intelligence, the Select Subject and Select Sky masks can be applied to multiple photos with just a click. This works for copy and paste settings.

  1. Open the photo you want to edit in the Detail panel. Click the Masking icon to open the Masking panel.

  2. Apply Select Subject or Select Sky masks based on your photo and apply local adjustments.

  3. You can also apply the Adaptive Presets for Subject and Sky from the Premium Presets menu.

  4. Once done, click the three-dot menu below the masking icon on the right side of the screen and click Choose Edit Settings to Copy... 

    edit

  5. In the Copy Settings menu, select Masking and all the other editing settings that you wish to apply in batch. Once done, click Copy.

    Batch edit Subject and Sky masks in Lightroom
    Batch edit Subject and Sky masks in Lightroom

  6. Additionally, you can also select the Copy Edit Settings at the lower right side of the screen. 

  7. From the Filmstrip, select all the photos you want to apply edits to and click the three-dot icon on the right side of the screen. Click Paste to Entire Selection to batch paste settings.

Add to mask

Once you have created a mask, you can add masking tools to it to further refine your selection.

  1. To make additional local adjustments in the same mask, click Add under the mask. 

  2. Select one of the masking tools to add to the parent mask.

Subtract from mask

Once you have created a mask, you can remove areas of the selection using the masking tools.

  1. To remove areas of the existing mask, click Subtract under the mask. 

  2. Select one of the masking tools. You can view this as a child mask under your parent mask.

Rename a mask

  1. In the Masking panel, do one of the following:

    • Select the three-dot icon next to the mask you want to rename.
    • Right-click the mask.
  2. Select Rename from the menu.

  3. Enter the name of the mask and press Enter.

Invert a selection

To select everything else except the initial selection you made, use the Invert feature.

  1. Do one of the following in the Masking panel:

    • Select the three-dot icon next to the selection you want to invert.
    • Right-click the selection.
  2. Select Invert from the menu.

Invert a Mask

If you wish to invert all the masks in a group, follow the steps below:

  1. In the Masking panel, do one of the following:

    • Select the three-dot icon next to the mask you want to invert.
    • Right-click on the mask's edit pin. 
  2. Select Invert Mask. You can also select Duplicate and Invert masks to create an inverse copy in the masks panel. 

Intersect with a Mask

To intersect an existing mask with a new mask, do the following:

  1. Select the three-dot icon next to the mask you want to intersect with.

  2. Select Intersect with Mask using from the menu and then select the mask of your choice.

  3. You can see the intersected masks and make edits as per your requirement.

Change the overlay color

You can easily change the default red overlay color to a custom color or choose from a range of preset options:

  1. In the Masks panel, click the default red radio button.

    Masks Overlay
    Change the overlay color using the Mask Overlay dialog box

  2. In the Mask Overlay dialog box, use the color picker to select a color of your choice. Use the Opacity slider to adjust the intensity of the color. You can also select Unaffected Areas to accurately view all areas that are not part of the selection.

    Alternatively, click the Mode drop-down menu to select from a range of options such as Color Overlay on B&W, Image on B&W, Image on Black, Image on White, and more.

  3. You can access the preset options from the three-dot menu too.

    Mask Overlay options in Lightroom desktop
    Mask Overlay options in Lightroom desktop

Local adjustment sliders

Use the following sliders to make the desired local adjustments to your selection:

Note:

Starting with the June 2023 release of Lightroom (version 6.4), (Film) Grain can be added to specific parts of an image in the Masking panel. Use the Size and Roughness sliders to determine the amount as needed.

Also, you can use the Refine Saturation slider to manually control saturation changes introduced by the Point Curve adjustments. 

Exposure

Sets the overall image brightness. Applying an Exposure local correction can achieve results similar to traditional dodging and burning.

Contrast

Adjusts image contrast, mainly affecting midtones

Highlights

Recovers detail in overexposed highlight areas of an image

Shadows

Recovers detail in underexposed shadow areas of an image

Whites

Adjusts the white points in a photo

Blacks

Adjusts the black points in a photo

Curves

Curves give greater control over tonal range and contrast in a photo. 

Temp

Adjusts the color temperature of an area of the image, making it warmer or cooler. A graduated filter temperature effect can improve images captured in mixed-lighting conditions.

Tint

Compensates for a green or magenta color cast

Hue

Adjusts the hue in a photo. Select Use Fine Adjustment for precise adjustments.

Saturation

Adjusts the vividness of the color

Colorize

Applies a tint to the area. Select the hue by using the Color swatch. The effect is preserved if you convert the photo to black and white.

Texture

Smoothens or accentuates textured details in your photo. Move the slider to the left to smoothen details; move it to the right to accentuate details. When you adjust the Texture slider, the color or tonality does not change.

Clarity

Adds depth to an image by increasing local contrast

Dehaze

Reduces or increases existing haze in a photo

Grain

Add grain (film) to your images.

Sharpness

Enhances edge definition to bring out details in the photo. A negative value blurs details.

Noise Reduction

Reduces luminance noise, which can become apparent when shadow areas are opened.

Moiré

Removes moiré artifacts, or color aliasing

Defringe

Removes fringe colors along edges

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