Luminosity masks are a great way to bring detail out in your photo. Learn how to create them using channels in Photoshop to improve your landscape photographs.

What is luminosity masking?

Luminosity masking is a way to separate out the tones in the photos (such as the highlights and shadows) and edit them independently from each other. This way you are able to only select the highlights to make them darker — or the shadows to make them brighter — without overprocessing the other parts of the images.

luminosity masking

Working with channels

Channels are a popular method of creating luminosity masks. The goal is to select the channel with the most contrast, add an adjustment layer with a mask created from the selection, and then use image adjustments to add more contrast to the mask:

  1. First, go to the Channels panel in Photoshop
  2. Then, locate the channel with the most contrast. Select the channel by holding the Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (Win) key, and then click the channel to select it.
  3. With the selection active, add an adjustment layer (I usually use Curves when creating luminosity masks).
  4. (Optional) Preview the mask in black and white by holding the Opt (Mac) or Alt (Win) key, then click the mask.
  5. Make sure the mask is selected, then go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and use the sliders to add contrast to the mask.
  6. Now, use the adjustment layer to add the adjustment to your photo.

Luminosity masking in Photoshop — Watch the tutorial:

If you’d like to learn more about selections, masks, and layers in Photoshop, please take a look at my brand-new video training course: Layers & Masks by Nicole S. Young