Guest post by

As this is my first post with Photofocus, Id like to start off by thanking Scott for the opportunity to share some Photoshop tips and techniques with you. By way of introduction, I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop, an award-winning trainer, I have been featured three times on Photoshop User TV, and I have been writing online since 2002.

One of my readers, Steve, does a lot of work with landscape HDR photography but recently created an image that included a person. The HDR process did not produce a very flattering effect on the persons face so he selected the best of the original bracketed frames and layered it underneath the processed image and proceeded masking the face to reveal the underlying layer.

Now, using a mask in the traditional way to show the layer below won’t do because youd have an HDR image with a non-HDR face and the difference would be way too noticeable. Even with a soft-edged brush (which you should be using in this case anyway) the transition between the face and the rest of the image would not blend well.

The next thing Steve tried was to paint on the mask with a medium grey to only reveal the face by about 50% or so. The issue here is that you are not able to dial in the proper balance between the original and processed without a lot of trial and error with the shade of grey you use. It can be done this way, but it will certainly take more time.

The way to do it is to select a black soft-edged brush and set the opacity of the brush (found up in the Options Bar) to somewhere around 15-20% or so. With a lower opacity brush you are able to apply the black to the mask incrementally to get exactly the amount of the effect you want. As you work, if you go too far and reveal too much of the underlying layer you can simply hit the X key to switch your brush color to white while keeping the same brush opacity and incrementally take things back the other way.

The image above contains two layers: a black background layer and a white layer with a mask. With a 50% grey brush, each time you click and paint on the mask you are only revealing the layer beneath by 50%. No matter how many times you paint the most you can do is increase the area of the mask that you are painting away. If you are painting with a black brush set to 20% opacity, each time you click and paint you are able to reveal the lower layer to a greater and greater degree giving you more flexibility and more control over your images.

Have fun with it!