New Complete Workflow video series by Sean Bagshaw: Lake Bled

I’m very pleased to let folks know that Sean Bagshaw has released his third Complete Workflow video series. This one covers his “Lake Bled” image from Slovenia from start-to-finish and uses the new TKActions V6 panel. Exposure strategy, development planning, RAW file adjustments, mask making, exposure blending, fine-tuning, and creative development are all covered. Sean makes some intricate masks for this workflow that are an important part of the blending and development process. The last two chapters are my favorites since they do a nice job highlighting the creative control possible with the V6 panel. But there’s a lot to watch and learn in all the chapters, and Sean uses the V6 panel nearly constantly as he works.

Lake Bled photo

Sean has been regularly recording Complete Workflow videos for each new version of the TKActions panel, and starting now they are all bundled into one very economically priced product. The older series feature older versions of the panel (Secret Beach–V4 panel and Northland–V5/V6 panel) , but they still demonstrate the huge variety of different techniques Sean employs to create his dramatic images. If you don’t have the previous videos, the new three-volume set is essentially a guidebook to creative development.

Sean is one of the leading instructions in landscape photography today, and I’m happy to be working with him and being able to offer his high-quality instructional videos on my website. If you’re looking for photographic inspiration, these Complete Workflow vids offer hours of ideas both for working in the field and then in Lightroom and Photoshop. The sample videos below are from the Lake Bled series.

The new 3-series bundle of Complete Workflow videos (Secret Beach, Northland, and Lake Bled) is available on the Panels & Videos page for $45. Blog readers can also use the following code for a 10% discount on this product: CWFLB10

NOTE: I’ve contacted previous customers with private update information for receiving the new Lake Bled video series at a special price. If you’re a previous customer and haven’t received the email, please contact me and I’ll forward the information. Also, there was initially some server issues downloading the new series, but these have been resolved. If you purchased the new series but are still having download issues, definitely contact me and we’ll get it fixed.

TKActions Quick Tip: Exposure blending

Sean Bagshaw is heading out into the field soon, but he managed to squeeze in one more video Quick Tip before leaving. This one covers the popular subject of exposure blending. Because luminosity masks target specific tones in an image, they’re a natural for making masks that blend multiple exposures where the dynamic range of the scene exceeds that of the camera sensor. Sean’s approach to exposure blending has been to focus on the transition zone between light and dark areas of the image to make the blend look natural. Luminosity masks can help significantly with this process since they create natural transitions based on pixel brightness. The steps Sean uses are listed below.

  1. Open the RAW files as smart objects in Photoshop.
  2. Stack the images into a single document with the dark exposure on top.
  3. Make the dark exposure layer active, but turn OFF its visibility.
  4. Click the “Layer Mask” checkbox on the RapidMask2 module to enter Layer Mask Mode. This mode automatically applies the mask generated as a layer mask on the active layer.
  5. Click the “Composite” source button to apply a “Lights-1” mask as a layer mask to the active layer (the dark exposure). This starts the blending process.
  6. Turn the visibility of the dark exposure layer back ON to evaluate the blend.
  7. Modify the layer mask to create the proper transition zone. This might involve trying a different mask, using the MODIFY buttons to modify the current mask, or painting on the layer mask with black or white paint (try setting the blend mode of the paintbrush to “Overlay”).
  8. If needed, double-click the smart objects to reopen them in Adobe Camera Raw to make additional adjustments to brightness, contrast, white balance, etc.

It’s actually pretty easy watching Sean do it. In the 15 minute video he demonstrates the process, with small variations, using three different images.

Quick Tip: Exposure blending
Quick Tip: Favorite new V6 features
Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel for more tips on photography and post-processing.

TK Actions Quick Tip

As many of you know, I’ve been collaborating with Sean Bagshaw for many years on luminosity masks and Photoshop extension panels. He not only feeds me ideas for improved ways to use pixel-based masks, but his videos have also been instrumental in explaining these techniques to the photo community.

Now that TKActions V6 is complete, Sean is planning to restart his Quick Tip series on how to use the new panel. This will provide a great opportunity to watch an expert using the V6 panel, to get a more in depth look at its many functions, and to pick up some creative ideas for developing images in Photoshop.

I’ll be featuring Sean’s videos on this blog and providing some commentary on the techniques, but you might also want to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel. That way you can get notified of the other videos that he regularly publishes. He’s got a really nice teaching style that provides a lot of information and is also easy to follow.

His first V6 panel Quick Tip is below and looks at his favorite new features. It’s less than 5 minutes long and gives you an idea of what’s coming.

TKActions V6: New modules

“Combo” and “Batch” are the newest modules to be released in the latest update of the TKActions V6 panel. The RapidMask2 V6 module was released in October 2017. With the release of these two new modules, the V6 panel is now complete.

NOTE: Previous V5 and V5/V6 customers have already been sent information for a free download of these updated V6 modules. Check your spam/junk if you missed it. Update information was sent on February 26 and resent on March 3. If you’ve not purchased the panel yet, for the next 3 weeks you can use the following code on the Panels & Videos page for a 25% discount on all items: V625off

The new Combo module comes in two versions: Combo and ComboX (also designated Cx). The different arrangements have identical functions, but they make it possible to create two very different workspaces to utilize the V6 panel. This is explained in the “Custom V6 Panel Workspace” video at the end of this blog.

TKAction V6 panel

The Combo module combines the Control and Action modules of the V5 panel into one. This continues the evolution away from the button-crazy, multi-mega-panel design trend to a more compact, efficient, and logical workspace that started with RapidMask2. Most users will now need just two modules in order to access V6 functions: the RapidMask2 module makes all the different luminosity masks and Combo runs Photoshop. The V6 modules use smart menus to replace confusing tabs and even entire panels. A good example is the “TK ▶” button. It opens a menu that contains all the actions of the V5 Actions module plus several new ones (image below). While these actions can be extremely useful when developing images, it’s not necessary to have them in a separate panel given that they are used one at a time and generally only occasionally during processing. The smart menus in the Combo and RapidMask2 modules track what’s happening and automatically close once they’ve served their purpose.

TKActiosn actions menu

Below is a short list of the features of the new Combo/Cx modules.

  • Compact design−Combines the all features, functions, and actions of the V5 Control and Actions modules into one.
  • Run Photoshop from the module−Many common Photoshop functions, keyboard shortcuts, and menu items can be run with a single button click from the module.
  • Muted color interface separates buttons into logical groups in order to quickly find the correct Photoshop function. (Color is adjustable in the Settings window.)
  • Multi-function buttons−Several buttons have dual functions that are graphically displayed on the button itself.
  • Use the “TK ▶” button to access the creative Photoshop actions menu−Includes new actions for Smart Orton and Neutralize Cast 2 for creative development, and Stack, Align, and Focus Blend for blending multiple exposures.
  • Integrated web-sharpening−Sharpen images for the web to any dimension, convert to sRGB, and run post-sharpening actions with one click directly from the module.
  • Expanded user actions−Ten programmable actions, accessed via the “User ▶” button, allow users to run their own actions directly from the panel.

This update also includes some additional enhancements to the RapidMask2 module that was released in October 2017.

  • Advanced Mask Calculator−Any mask created using the panel can be added, subtracted, and intersected with any other mask. This makes it possible to combine luminosity, color, saturation, modified, and even user-created masks in any manner desired. There is also an Advanced Mask Calculator in Layer Mask Mode so users can see the results reflected immediately in the image itself.
  • Enhanced “Pick” button−The Zone mask that is picked is highlighted directly on the panel. This makes it easy to experiment with adjacent or nearby zone masks to see if one of them might work a bit better.
  • Properties panel toggle−Creating an adjustment layer automatically opens the Properties panel so that the desired adjustment can quickly be made. This feature is also active when using the Combo panel to create adjustment layers.

The Batch module is also part of this release. It resizes and sharpens entire folders of images for web presentation. It may not be used frequently, but can be huge time-saver when there are lots of images to sharpen.

The videos below provide a brief overview of the V6 panel. Additional information can be found on my website. The comprehensive instructions PDF for the V6 panel can be downloaded here. To purchase the V6 panel plus other panels and videos, please visit the Panels & Videos page. Don’t forget to use the V625off discount code. It also works on Sean Bagshaw’s videos listed on that page.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

“Briscoe Light”

Sean Bagshaw has a great new video on creating dappled light and light rays using a technique he learned from Chris Briscoe.

The user gets to manually create the target that determines where the light is applied in the image. It looks to be dramatic yet subtle and also quite natural when done right. Definitely worth investigating if you’re into creatively modifying images in Photoshop.

Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel to get his latest tips, tutorials, and updates.

Brightness adjustments using Selective Color and luminosity masks

I recently started experimenting with Selective Color adjustment layers. Normally I rely on Curves and Levels for brightness and contrast adjustments, but in reading about and experimenting with Selective Color, it definitely has some advantages, especially when adjusting the light and dark tones in combination with luminosity masks.

The image I’ll be working with is shown below. After looking at a print for a couple of days, I realized it could use more drama, especially in the sky−darker clouds, a bit more contrast, and perhaps additional texture. (You can roll the mouse over the image to see the final result. It may take a few seconds for the second image to load. Rollovers probably will not work in the email feed, so please visit the blog if you want to see rollover images.)

base image

The Selective Color Properties panel has a drop-down menu of colors. The panel’s sliders are labeled with CYMK colors, but they actually allow hue, saturation, and brightness to be independently adjusted for any item chosen from the list once you understand how this panel works. For this tutorial, the “Whites” and the “Blacks” will be of primary interest. Using the “Whites” and “Blacks” to adjust image brightness (and to some degree contrast) has the advantage of avoiding the saturation and color shifts associated with using Curves and Levels for this purpose. With Curves and Levels adjustments, saturation and color changes become mixed in with brightness/contrast changes, and it’s hard to separate them out.

The best way to see this is with a strong “S-Curve” equivalent adjustment using different types of adjustment layers. The S-Curve adjustment increases contrast−the lights get lighter and the darks get darker.

In the Selective Color adjustment, the “Whites” correspond to the light values in the image and “Blacks” correspond to dark values. In order to create an “S-Curve” equivalent, the “Whites” from the drop-down menue need to be less black and the “Blacks” need to be more black. The screen shots below show the two Selective Color adjustments necessary to produce a strong “S-Curve” equivalent adjustment.

selective color adjustments

A similar adjustment for a Curves adjustment layer is shown below. Lights get lighter and darks get darker. (This curve shape is where the name “S-Curve” comes from.)

selective color adjustments

The results from these two similar adjustments, however, are definitely NOT similar. Below is the result from the Selective Color adjustment. Rolling the mouse over the image shows the result of the Curves adjustment. What’s immediately obvious is that the Curves adjustment has undergone a strong saturation shift compared to the Selective Color adjustment. All colors are more intense as a result of the S-Curve on a Curves adjustment layer. This does NOT happen in the Selective Color adjustment because the “Neutrals” in the drop-down menu, which basically correspond to the midtones in the image, have NOT been adjusted. Only the “Whites” and the “Blacks” were adjusted. It’s the midtone values that cause the color and saturation shifts in Curves and Levels adjustments. With Selective Color, it’s possible to leave these midtones (“Neutrals”) untouched, and the result is increased contrast without significant color and saturation changes. (NOTE: As an experiment, select the “Neutrals” and then move the “Black” slider to the right to add more black. There will be a sudden and pronounced shift in color saturation. This clearly demonstrates how the midtones are the source of the color and saturation shifts seen with Curves and Levels, where the midtones cannot be so easily excluded.)

With Curves and Levels adjustment layers, it’s common practice to change the blending mode to Luminosity to counteract the saturation shift, and the image below, which shows the Curves adjustment layer set to Luminosity blend mode, shows that this does indeed help. However, there are still color shifts, and the rollover (which shows the Selective Color adjustment) shows that they are still present. It’s most obvious in the blues of the lower clouds, but also somewhat visible in the reds and yellows. So when it comes to avoiding color and saturation shifts, Selective Color has an advantage even after changing the blending mode of the Curves adjustment to Luminosity.

For the adjustment to this image, I ended up using only the full-on “Blacks” Selective Color adjustment that darkened the “Blacks” as much as possible. The light tones in the image really didn’t need any lightening so the “Whites” were not changed. The result of this initial adjustment is shown below.

selective color adjustments

This adjustment is definitely too aggressive for my taste, but that’s intentional. It provides a good starting point for using luminosity masks. A luminosity mask can be used to filter this adjustment only to those tones that really need it. In doing so, much of the exaggerated adjustment will be concealed by the mask. The end result will be a more balanced adjustment that blends in perfectly to the rest of the image.

In this case, I experimented with Darks, Midtones, and Zone masks and found that a Zone 4 mask added as a layer mask did a nice job of creating the desired effect. The result after adding the layer mask is shown below. The rollover shows the adjustment without the luminosity mask in order to see how seamlessly the mask blended the adjustment into the image.

The ease at which a preset luminosity mask finished this adjustment points out another possible advantage of using the Selective Color adjustment. And that is that it works well to create an initial adjustment to a broad, but limited, range of tones (“Whites” or “Blacks”), which can then be quickly and accurately refined with a luminosity mask. It’s almost like having a targeted double-masking technique where a strong targeted adjustment is first applied, and this can then be fine-tuned and focused using the narrower tonal range of a luminosity mask.

The video below shows the entire process for this adjustment that accomplishes the goal of adding drama in the sky. It uses the RapidMask2 panel’s Layer Mask Mode to quickly find the right luminosity mask for the adjustment. There is also a similar adjustment to a second image included in the video that uses the “Whites” instead of the “Blacks.” If you’d like to practice along with the video, a smaller jpg version of the unadjusted image is available here. (The download image will probably open in a browser window. Right-click on it and choose an option to save it on your computer, and then open it in Photoshop.)

SUMMARY−Adjustments to brightness (and to some degree to contrast) using a Selective Color adjustment layer helps avoid the saturation and color shifts associated with Curves and Levels. Additionally, Selective Color adjustments allow a two-step adjustment process where the initial, somewhat extreme adjustment can be easily modified by applying a more targeted luminosity mask to the adjustment layer to better control which tones in the image are affected.

FINAL NOTE: Every image is different and there’s likely no single workflow with Selective Color and luminosity masks that will work the same repeatedly. I’m finding that using Selective Color to adjust the “Whites” and “Blacks” provides expected and desirable results once I find the correct luminosity mask as demonstrated in the video. It’s always possible to return to the Properties panel to tweak to the initial Selective Color adjustment if necessary.

TK Basic V6 panel: New and FREE!

NOTE: This free panel is available on the Panels and Videos page. It is NOT a replacement for any of the current V6 modules. It is simply a new panel for people who want a fast and simple way to start working with luminosity masks.

I’m very happy to announce the new TK Basic V6 panel for Photoshop. It has the same core process and speed as the more comprehensive RapidMask2 module, and has similar features and layout. It’s essentially RapidMask2-lite and is a great way to experiment with adding luminosity masks to the Photoshop workflow. It’s also free and comes with some great videos.

TK Basic V6 panel

Key features:

  • Rapid Mask engine. The Basic V6 panel uses the same technology for generating 16-bit luminosity masks as the V6 RapidMask2 module. New masks are calculated and displayed on screen at near real-time speeds.
  • Mask-based interface. Users see masks up front to make intelligent choices about which one to use.
  • Intuitive layout. Top-to-bottom workflow with numbered sections for creating and deploying masks.
  • Click-tracking. The last button clicked retains an accent-colored shadow. Users always know which mask they last generated.
  • Multiple output options. Curves, Levels, Brightness/Contrast and Hue/Sat adjustment layers are available in the “Layer” menu. Selection, Channel, and Apply buttons provide additional output options.
  • Compact design. Small footprint so the image window is not obscured. The panel can be conveniently placed above any standard Photoshop panel or docked at the side of the workspace.
  • Instant help. Moving the mouse over any button provides information on what it does in the window at the bottom of the panel.
  • Active selection indicator. Provides visual feedback that Photoshop has an active selection even if it’s too weak to generate selection borders or if the marching ants have been turned off.
  • Language switch. Settings dialog offers six language options for the panel’s user interface.
  • Photoshop CC and CS6 compatible. Download folder has versions that work in PS CC and CS6.

There are many ways to use luminosity masks when developing images in Photoshop. Adding them as layer masks on adjustment layers and painting through active luminosity selections are two common techniques. The Basic V6 panel makes it easy to incorporate these methods into the workflow simply by clicking a couple buttons. The panel is also a great way to to see how easy it is to use luminosity masks since the Rapid Mask engine does all the hard work in the background. Luminosity masks need to be fast and intuitive in order to become a standard part of the workflow. The TK Basic V6 panel makes this possible and is the ideal tool for quickly getting up to speed with their creative potential.

To make the panel even easier to use, Sean Bagshaw has recorded a fantastic set of six new videos that are also included in the free download. Three of them are available to watch below. The first is a brief introduction to the new Basic V6 panel. The second is probably best and most concise description of luminosity masks I’ve ever watched. And the third video is a button-by-button walk-through of the entire panel. The download folder has additional videos on installing the panel, setting up the color workspace, and workflow demonstrations on how to use the panel.

The TK Basic V6 panel and videos are available as a free download on the Panels and Videos page.

If you like the Basic V6 panel and Sean’s videos, please consider trying the all-inclusive V5/V6 panel and Sean’s V5/V6 Video Guide. This “Combo” product is a complete luminosity mask resource that allows generating an infinite number of luminosity masks with many more ways to use them. For a limited time, the following code can be used for a 15% discount on the Combo, which is also available on the Panels and Videos page:  Combo15

I hope you enjoy the new TK Basic V6 panel and find it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.