Three Ways to Use Luminance Masks in Photoshop

Thanks to software like Photoshop, there are continuous techniques that are being developed by photographers to make their work dreamy and realistic. One of the drawbacks to using cameras is that they don’t always accomplish creating the dynamic range that our eyes can see. One of the techniques to create a great photograph with additional dynamic range is using luminance masks in Photoshop.


I’ve been researching luminance masks and the different ways of doing them in Photoshop ever since I found photographers like Alex Noriega, Ted Gore, and Michael Shainblum. I wanted to learn how they got so much detail and range within their image without making them look fake.

While I’m no software engineer, luminance masks were learned, even if I had to watch countless YouTube videos explaining how they’re done. The classic idea and creation of luminance masks is very elaborate and takes some Photoshop knowledge (more than I had to be honest). You can tell the guys who do it the right way know a lot about the Adobe software.

However, I also found a few other ways to create the same effect of luminance masks without the difficulty of steps. Here are three ways to use luminance masks in Photoshop!

Curve Adjustments

This is the way that I pull of the same technique of luminance masks even if it’s not the classic approach. I just feel like curve adjustment layers make way more sense personally. I don’t get caught up in one way over another. Just use whatever works best for your style of photography, or do whatever makes the most sense!

Understanding and Creating Luminance Masks

This video gets into the process of creating your own luminance masks in Photoshop using channels. Channels are great because it will let you pick and choose which RGB channel will make your photo look best and give you the most detail overall.

Blending Exposures with Luminosity Masks

This video will show you a little bit about luminance masks but it also shows you how you can use your masks by blending exposures together. A very useful way to edit in Photosop.