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Back when all photographs started with a film negative, prints were made from that negative inside a darkroom. Circa 1968 I shot exclusively black & white film, mostly for my college newspaper and yearbook.


When making prints I used a technique known as dodging and burning. To dodge I held a small square or round piece of cardboard attached to stiff wire over that part of the projected negative I wanted to affect while the rest of the image was hit by the light of the enlarger. The part of the image I dodged was lighter on the print. Burning was just the opposite with simpler tools, if you can imagine that. I cupped my hands in such a way as to allow a narrow circle of light from the enlarger to hit the photo paper below. The areas hit by the additional light became darker in the final print. 


Today I (and most everyone else) am all digital. My laptop is my darkroom. And, while some photo editing software still provides digital dodge & burn tools – mouse or pen driven – I am a great fan of masking.


Masking tools allow me to quickly and easily treat parts of my images differently than other parts. Photoshop and Photoshop Elements provide useful masking brushes that I use for minor adjustments in some images. When I want to lift a subject from the image and treat each separately, I call up my big gun: Topaz Remask 3 from Topaz Labs. I’m sure that there are other great masking tools out there, but Remask was recommended to me and I love it.


Below are four images. The first is a 3-exposure HDR image merged and tone mapped in Photomatix Pro. For the 2nd I used Topaz Remask 3 to isolate my subject. The 3rd image is the background after applying effects from Topaz ReStyle and Lens effects. The 4th image shows the mask layer reinserted on top of the background. I should note that I used a PhotoShop Elements darkening brush (mask) on the clothing.



Masking with Topaz

Masking with Photoshop Elements



How to Mask a photo        


Digital Darkroom how to


This image was made in an old doorway on a very bright sunny day. No flash or other lights were used. What appears to be light coming from below is simply sunlight reflecting off the concrete sidewalk.


While we’re on the subject of masking…


Recently, I was approached with an idea for a business website. The owner asked me to create multiple versions of him in a single composition. I set up my camera on a tripod with a remote shutter release and placed him in the first shooting position and fired off 3-exposures for HDR. This would provide my background. We repeated the process six more times with a change of clothes for each. 


In my digital darkroom I masked him out of 6 images and placed each of the 6 layers over the original background image. Here is the final image. 


creating multiple=


You too can have fun with masking. You need a masking program like Topaz Remask 3 and software like PS Elements that allows you to build an image in layers. 


See Lew's ever evolving body of work at his Fine Art Websites:

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