Enhancing a Sunset Photograph with Lightroom and Photoshop
Illustration by

Enhancing a Sunset Photograph with Lightroom and Photoshop

with Chris Orwig

Video: Combining two images together with masking

This movie is going to be fun because here we're going to make some magic happen as Once you go to the Fill dialog, you can then select a

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Watch the Online Video Course Enhancing a Sunset Photograph with Lightroom and Photoshop
57m 1s Intermediate Apr 09, 2014

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Learn how to make your dusks and dawns more vivid, vibrant, and alive with Lightroom and Photoshop. This short, project-based course walks you through the steps needed to transform a dull sunset image into a beautiful photo worth sharing, using the tools in Lightroom and Photoshop. Leveling, cropping, retouching, and tone and contrast adjustments are par for the course, but Chris Orwig also shows how to take advantage of virtual copies to create different color treatments, and then combine those treatments in Photoshop for a really stunning final effect.

Photoshop Lightroom
Chris Orwig

Combining two images together with masking

This movie is going to be fun because here we're going to make some magic happen as we look at how we can use Photoshop masking in order to combine these two layers together. Yet, before we start to work on masking, one of the things that I want to do, just for demonstration purposes, is to resize this photograph so that our exercise files aren't incredibly large. So, here I'll navigate to the Image pull down menu and then select Image Size. Take note, this is a step that you don't need to take.

I'm simply doing this so that my files are a little bit smaller, so that the exercise files, which are included with this course, will be smaller as well. Alright, here I'll click OK in order to resize the photograph to a smaller size, and then press Cmd+plus a few times to zoom back in. Now, another thing that I like to do when working in Photoshop, is to work in full screen. To access full screen, simply tap the F key on your keyboard. Then, you can move your image around by tapping the spacebar key, which will give you access to the Hand tool.

So, tap the space bar key, and then you can click and drag to move your image around. And often, what you'll want to do is, position the image near the top of the screen rather than the bottom of the screen. This will ensure that you have good posture while you're working in Photoshop. All right, let's zoom in a little bit more here as well. All right, well, next, what we need to do is to do some masking. We're going to create a mask which is filled with black. And then, we'll paint on it with white in order to paint in these beautiful sunset colors which are located on this layer.

So here, let's begin this process by clicking into the layer which we named Warm. And then, let's click on the Add Layer Mask icon. That's located at the base of the Layers panel, right down here. Go ahead and click on that icon which will create a mask which is filled with white. Now, in order to change this mask to a mask which is filled with black, we have a few different techniques that we can use. One technique that you can use is to navigate to the Edit pull-down menu. Then, select Fill.

Once you go to the Fill dialog, you can then select a color here, or a solid color like black or gray or white. Here let's choose black, and then click OK. Now, what happened when we did that? Well, it filled our mask with black, which concealed or it hid the entire warm layer, which is exactly what we wanted to have happen. Because what we're going to do is we're going to paint in the warmth into a specific area of the photograph so that we can have these warm and cool tones combined in a single image.

Alright. Well, in order to paint on this mask, we need to select the Brush tool. Do you know the shortcut for that tool? It's the B key. So tap the B key, or click on the Brush tool icon, located right here in the Tools panel. Then next, we need to go up to the Options bar, and dial in a few settings. First, let's use our brush size. We need to increase the brush size, probably somewhere around 200 or so, maybe even 250 would work well. Or perhaps a little bit smaller than that. I think about 200 is good. Now, in regards to the brush hardness, we want to brush with 0% hardness.

That will ensure that our masking will blend in really fluidly and smoothly, because this will give us nice, soft edges. Well, what else do we need to do up here? Next, we need to work on opacity. We want to drop our opacity below 50% and what I recommend you try is somewhere around 30% or so. This will allow us to make multiple brush strokes to slowly and to subtly build up this effect. Next, we need to choose a color to paint with because we want to reveal on our mask.

What we need to do is to choose white. Click on the little toggle switch here to switch between white and black there. So, we can select white or you can also click on the color chip and choose white in the color picker as well. Alright, well, here we have our brush. We have a nice, big brush size with a low opacity and we're able to now paint with white. Now, so I can see what I'm doing, I'm going to zoom out just a little bit here. I'll press Cmd+- on a Mac or Ctrl+- on Windows. Then, I'm going to go ahead and make some broad brushstrokes across the image.

And here I'm just going to paint back and forth. And I'm going to progressively move up the photograph and bring out these warmer tones into a few different areas of the picture. And because we're working at a lower opacity, we want to paint back and forth in those areas where we want this to be a little bit more intense. And as we paint over those areas, what you can start to see is that we're bringing in this warmth into this part of the photograph. Take a look at the before and after of these simple adjustments. Now here, one of the things I want to do is work on the edges.

In other words, the top edge up here and the bottom edge down below of this color which we're adding. In order to work on those areas, I need to change the brush size. So, let's start by increasing our brush size. Here I will increase the brush size pretty significantly, somewhere to around 300, maybe even 400. And the reason why I'm going to do that and bring it up to 450, is because I just want to start to get close to that edge and with this nice soft edge it will create a nice smooth transition that isn't as noticeable in regards to where that color starts or stops.

I also want to do the same thing over here in the trees, so I get a little bit more of the warmth in that area. Now, if ever you notice that you make a mistake and you go too far, well you can always paint with black, and when you paint with black that will then conceal or hide that adjustment there in that area. Next, let's zoom in on the picture. Press Cmd++ on a Mac or Ctrl++ on Windows. To work on the transition edge, the lower transition edge, we'll need a smaller brush. So, here, let's select a much smaller brush.

Maybe somewhere around 100 will work well. Again, it's just an approximation. There isn't a right or wrong here. It's just a matter of getting a smaller brush so we can do a little bit more detail work. Now, with this brush, what I'm going to do is paint over that horizon line. So that we have a little bit more of a defined edge there. Now, as we start to paint over that area, you may see some other little detail areas that you want to paint as well. These trees for example, I think it would be nice to have really bright vivid colors. I'm just going to go ahead and paint through that and paint up here a little bit and just look to bring in a little bit more of that with this precise or smaller brush.

Now, again, if you make a mistake. Here I'll make a mistake. You bring in color in an area which is too low, we'll just paint with black and go back and forth over that until you can remove that color change there in that part of the picture. And what we're looking to do is to try to create edges and seams which are really nice and natural. For even more precise control, you can make your brush even smaller. Now, once you have a nice small brush, you can go over that edge either by painting with black to hide it or white to reveal it.

And as you do that, what you'll be able to do is to really dial in a nice transition area. And sometimes it takes a little bit of back and forth, as I'm needing to do here, just to get that transition to look its best. Well, let's evaluate how we're doing. Here it is. There is our before, and now here is our after. And as you can see here, by combining these warm and these cool tones, all of a sudden, we have a completely different look. And when it comes to customizing this look and working with the mask, there really is an art to it.

You need to give it some time. For example, one of the things that you want to do is, right now even, just close your eyes, or look away, and then look back. And when you do that, sometimes you'll notice that there's an area which you might want to change or which you didn't quite work very well. One of the things that I noticed is I don't like how high the brighter oranges are going up here. So, I'm going to make sure I'm painting with black and I'm going to increase my brush size so I've got a nice big brush here. And I'm just going to go ahead and paint over this area and essentially lower that effect so it's not quite so high up there.

So, a little bit lower. Looks like I went just a touch too far so I'll paint with white here. Bring back in a little bit more. Again, there's a lot of give and take here, going back and forth to get this just right. And I think that looks pretty good. And it's all about the subtle differences that you can make when working with masking. Next, you want to zoom out a little bit, just to make sure that that's looking good. I think we have a pretty good adjustment here. And, so far so good. At this point, we're ready to go to the next stage in our process.

So, let's go ahead and leave this file open as we'll continue to work on it in the next movie.

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