Color Synchronizing Sequential Luminosity Mask Images

by Joe Bridwell

In a recent blog, I presented an Edge of Light view of Red Mountain 1 near Silverton, Co. In reality, I actually shot 3 HDR images showing a motion time lapse of that edge of light moving down the mountain.
The most noteworthy image occurs when the edge of light moves down to tree line. We choose that final image and developed it with luminosity masking steps.

Red Mountain - First Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Red Mountain – First Edge of Light 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Here’s the final image…

Luminosity Masking Peculiarities
The image below shows luminosity mask working space to ColorSync 2 complex images. On the right, we have Channels and Layers panels. In the middle, we have each layer Property. On the left, we have final and intermediate image.
A luminosity mask is a grayscale pixel-for-pixel image, reflecting brightness, contrast, and detail definition. If you’ve created additional luminosity masks as you work, remove them from the layers panel before saving. Each luminosity mask layer takes about the same amount of disk space as the original image.

Self Feathering Edges
Luminosity masks are completely self-feathering. There are no hard edges like with Photoshop’s selection tools because the luminosity mask was created from the image, it has perfect shade gradation. Self-feathering insurers each and every pixel will be affected in exact proportion to its brightness.

Preliminary Workflow
Let’s talk about preliminary workflow. In the Layers panel, you’ll note:

  1. An initial Levels luminosity mask layer.
  2. An Ultra Darks Triple Play mask set.
  3. An Expanded Mid Tones luminosity mask layer.
  4. A Wide Mid Tones luminosity mask layer.
Color Synchronizing 2 Images with Luminosity Masks 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Color Synchronizing 2 Images with Luminosity Masks 2013©Chopawamsic LC

Each layer in the top image, LastEoL, has been carefully tone mapped using the appropriate luminosity mask.

We’re working on the bottom image called FirstEoL. We took 5 shots, combined them in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2 as an initial HDR image, then opened that image in Photoshop for luminosity masking. That initial image lacked brightness, contrast, and impactful colors. It’s our luminosity masking job to create a suitable image with steps from the Layers panel note above.

ColorSync Luminosity Masking Workspace
Open an image prepared with luminosity masking as your top layer. Here, we use LastEoL.
Open an unprepared image as your bottom layer. Here, we used FirstEoL.
Your luminosity masking workspace should be arranged as shown on the right side (above). You want the layers and channels panels open. You want to be able to have Properties and TK_Actions easily assessable. In this demo, you’re gonna be working between TK_Actions, luminosity masking layers, and properties.
Luminosity masks differ for each original image. So, you need to create each layer and its related mask singly.

How to ColorSync Both Images

  1. Choose FirstEoL.
  2. Click TK-Actions panel.
  3. Click Actions tab atop the panel.
  4. Under Creative Masking, click Levels action to create a Levels layer.
  5. Click Layer thumbnail for that layer.
  6. Levels Properties box pops up.
  7. Move Black and White point buttons inward to expand histogram.
  8. Choose LastEoL.
  9. Bring up Levels property box.
  10. Confirm black, mid, and white point range is alike between images.
  11. Open FirstEoL, click on levels property box, and compare numbers.
  12. Repeat this process for all layers between LastEoL and FirstEoL.

Congratulations! You’ve just done your 1st ColorSync of multilayer luminosity masking.
When done, you’ve added similar brightness, contrast, and detail definition to each image. Beyond that, you’ve also ColorSync’d images within a small, indiscernible range.

With only a few luminosity mask efforts under my belt, I find a new world of well-deserved results. Once you have a feeling for luminosity masking, you simply get better images.
Self-feathering luminosity masks are very useful. You make perfect selections each and every time. No need to go back and touch up selection edges after change is made.
Prior Photoshop HDR efforts selecting light sky and dark foreground boundaries have taken hours of intense masking labor. Luminosity masking of complex subjects takes perhaps 30 minutes per image.
My workflow usually occurs at different times. I tend to save a TIF file, then come back to it to add more as my knowledge grows. Alas, keeping old TIF files around can literally use gigabytes of vital future space. I suggest pruning unneeded files after a ColorSync…

©2013 Chopawamsic LC,,

About Joe 

Photographer, author, teacher with enhanced skill creating Award-Winning Photos. Joe uses Luminosity Masking and CFAM-Creating Fine Art Magic for his work!