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Lightroom user transferring to Photoshop


hcphotography

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Hi PS community,

I've been using LR for my entire automotive photographing career so far. Always thought that LR was the go to editing program because it was just easier but after seeing another pro photographer's results from using PS only, I was absolutely mindblown. He advised me to switch over to PS so here I am. I've been using Photoshop for a good month and a half now (rough estimation) and I will say that both LR and PS have their good uses for me (just using the basic tools), though I have been using PS for the most part because I wanted to see how different the photos would turn out with me just using PS.

The one though that is confusing me with PS, however, is the difference between the clipping as well as the layer masks. I see a lot of photographers using it (mainly on YouTube), as well as the pen tool (I always only use the quick selection too now and sometimes the freeform pen tool if the object I'm trying to select is too hard to outline with the quick selection tool) with the layer mask but I don't understand how to use the layer mask. I did some quick searching around what I know of so far, the layer mask is only to adjust the opacity of a portion of the layer?

My question is, I watched a video made by one of the best automotive photographers, GF Williams, and he was using layer masks to brighten up and enhance the color of a car and then later on, partially desaturating the background, also with the layer mask. How exactly does a layer mask work and how/would it benefit me? I mostly darken the background from my subject as I like to get that glossy effect on cars that I shoot so I tend to overexpose the car by just a tiny bit (I don't have any light boxes so I have to use natural light) and then use the gradient tool/dodge/burn to darken the background.

Any tips and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
 
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IamSam

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Hello and welcome to PSG.

Do you have a link to the video created by GF Williams?
 

IamSam

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Thanks, I will take a look. I'm multi-tasking, so it may take me awhile. Sorry.
 

IamSam

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OK, I did not realize this was a speedart video. It's really not a tutorial. It's also very lo res and blurry. He's using some bad techniques an poor tool choices for certain jobs, like the Polygonal Lasso Tool to make selections instead of the Pen Tool.

I don't see where he used a layer mask for more than anything other than what it was intended for. He isolated certain areas with the layer mask and then made changes.

Layer masking is absolutely essential for any composite work. Let me see if I can find some videos that will help explain.

This is a fairly good video so watch this first. It starts off with basics that I think you will find useful as it pertains to adjustments (adjustment layers) and then moves into layer masks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBKHeU8rWFs

Here's another that's similar to the first, maybe a bit easier to understand.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D__nZoQY8Js

Here's a very quick video that pertains to cars that I think will help you understand the importance of layer masking.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqqVmGxvHaY

Here's the second ppart of a previous video that helps explain adjustment layers and their masks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80eVHRIgYrA

Here's a more advanced video pertaining to cars and it also goes into layer masking.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg1WS_yOcHM
 
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Tom Mann

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With respect to the difference between LR and PS and their appropriate usage, since the adjustment tools in LR are essentially the same as ACR in PS, most busy photographers use LR to ingest, catalog, and make initial, more or less global adjustments to their pix, and only go to PS when they absolutely need to use features like multiple layers, infinitely better selection and text tools, etc. that are only available in PS. After doing the required work in PS, these photographers will often bring the modified image back into LR both for cataloging, as well as to use LR's better printing and other output facilities. So, in the opinion of most working pros, the two programs nicely complement each other.

OTOH, low volume users, whether amateur or pro, don't tend to need LR's cataloging facility as badly, and often will only use PS.

With respect to the differences between (a) clipping and layer masks, (b) the whole set of selection tools that PS offers, and (c) the pen tool, the way I think of it is that the fundamental use of the pen tool is to draw paths and related constructs. You can do lots of different things with paths. For example, you can turn a path into a selection, you can have text conform to a path, you can directly make shapes (filled in or not), etc. etc. etc. with the pen tool. Only the first use of it (ie, to turn a path into a selection) is relevant to your question.

The difference between selections and masks is a bit more subtle. As you correctly pointed out, masks allow one to vary the opacity of a layer from point to point over the entire height and width of an image. Layer masks obviously apply to the layer (or layer group) with which they are associated. Areas that are white in the layer mask means that those areas of that layer will be completely visible, whereas black areas become transparent and gray areas have partial opacity. So, following your example, if you wanted to desaturate everything but the car in an image, you would select the background (with one of the selection tools, or by turning a path into a selection), add a "vibrance / saturation" adjustment layer above the layer with the photo of the car, and add a layer mask based on the selection to the adjustment layer. Then, when you decrease the vibrance and/or saturation sliders, only the background will be desaturated.

Clipping masks are a bit different. First, they apply to all the layers above them to which they are linked. Clipping masks don't use white and black to control transparency, but use their own opacity to control the layers above. I tend to use layer masks when I need fine control. In contrast, I tend to use clipping masks for convenience when I want to apply the exact same mask to a bunch of layers and you need to clip the to something that is already on a transparent background such as text. Here's a nice explanation: https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop-elements/using/clipping-masks.html .

HTH,

Tom M
 
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