Mask Photos in Half the Time with a Lightroom Hack (VIDEO)

Do you want to make perfect masks in Lightroom and get the job done in half the time? If so, you’ve come to the right place. The Lightroom hack in the tutorial below is so simple that it only takes five minutes to explain.

Instructor David Johnston is an accomplished landscape pro who regularly posts basic shooting and editing lessons designed to help nature photographers elevate their skills. His goal for this episode is “to show you a one-button click for perfect masks every time.”

If this sounds too good to be true, read on. Johnston begins with an image he captured in a Texas swamp. It’s a beautiful scene but the photo is a bit flat. His goal is to transform the dull shot into something really special using simple masking to selectively bump up contrast, tonal values, and colors in the right places.

Johnston walks you through the step-by-step process that begins by selecting Lightroom’s Brush icon (you can also bring up the tool by clicking the K on your keyboard). He then describes the various options available, which include modifying the size of a Brush and choosing the appropriate Feathering value for the task at hand.

Lightroom’s Auto Mask option is another key setting, and Johnston explains why he typically leaves it on. In short, “Auto Mask is going to find those different areas as best as possible using Lightroom’s sophisticated AI technology.”

With these and other key settings in place, Johnston begins painting in the background, taking care to avoid “bleed over” on adjacent areas. As he explains, “I’m trying to brighten the background and darken the foreground trees” to make the image stand out.

Now it’s time for the one-click magic to finish the job. Instead of taking the conventional approach by creating a second mask for the foreground, Johnston demonstrates how a single button will duplicate and invert his first mask. In other words, “everywhere it wasn’t brushed in is now automatically brushed in. ”BOOM end of masking!

Johnston also explains how to do a bit of quick and easy cleanup whenever that’s necessary for achieving a perfect result. 

You can watch more of Johnston’s tips and tricks by paying a visit to his popular YouTube channel. And don’t miss another tutorial we posted, explaining how one simple slider may forever change how you edit photos in Lightroom.