Range Masking in Lightroom

Published March 20, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Chris Malinao


Range masking is new in Lightroom and is available in the latest LR CC Classic version. It provides a non-destructive and completely re-editable way to limit the effect of local adjustment tools to a range of colors, or luminance or exposure values. For example, when you use the Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter tool, you can limit its effect to a range of tones (luminance) or to a range of colors, and that’s very useful.

In the example above (Fig.-1A) the Graduated Filter tool was used to reduce the exposure, or luminance, in the sky, to darken and saturate it. Unfortunately, this will have the effect of also darkening the trees. To mitigate it and remove the darkening on the trees, we go to the Range Mask option (yellow arrow) and choose Luminance. The Range Mask tool has two sliders below: moving the right slider to the left will limit the effect to the darker values, moving the left slider to the right will limit the effect to the sky, eliminating it from the trees. In the example, the left slider was moved to the right.

We further refine it by using the Smoothness slider, which will control the transition between the tonal values affected. Moving the slider to the left gives a more abrupt transition, moving it to the right gives a smoother transition. Experiment with it and see its effect; slide to taste. Also, try to move that slider while pressing the ALT key on the keyboard to show, in black and white, how it is masked (Fig.-1B). You will see a white mask over a black background. That’s luminance range masking at work.

Now, about color range masking: This is an amazing tool to select and refine a selection,then proceed to apply the edits in that selection.To use range masking using a color value or a range of color values, we pick the adjustment brush and assign an initial value for exposure, for example, and then brush on the area to be edited. Then, we choose Color in the range mask option. This will show an eyedropper to sample the color values inside the masked area. Use this color sampler, Shift-Click to add more points in the sample or Click-Drag to sample an area. Then, apply your edits. You’re not limited to just one function for the adjustment brush, exposure for example; you may use the other sliders for contrast, clarity, saturation, etc.

Due to space constraints in publication, this is all we can do for now, describe it. Color range masking is a sophisticated masking technique in Lightroom and it deserves its own example in another article that we shall write. Wait for it.

By the way, if you don’t see the Range Mask option, you need to be in the latest iteration of Lightroom CC Classic. If you have updated to the latest from a previous version, it can happen that you will not see that initially, as happened in my case. To solve that, I simply uninstalled my previous Lightroom CC Classic version, then reinstalled the latest. You know you’ve done it successfully when you see the Range Mask option there, and if you go to the Camera Calibration panel at lower right of the Develop module, you’ll see Version 4, Version 3, Version 2, and Version 1 in the Process versions instead of the previous year versions.

Chiao for now, we’ll see you again!


2[Chris Malinao teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. The FPPF is a non-profit that offers year-round workshops in Basic Photography, Advanced Photography, Wedding Photography, Strobist Lighting, Food Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and other specialty photography workshops. For details of FPPF workshops, visit www.photoworldmanila.com.]