The screenshots in these examples come from Capture One, but the tools, options and techniques apply across a range of different programs. It’s all about working quicker and smarter and using the full potential of the masking tools available.
1. Auto masking can save a lot of time
This is a feature in Capture One and Lightroom and there are similar tools in other programs. Basically, if you can get the software to do the hard work of cutting in around complex outlines, then use it!
2. It’s often easier to select the area you DON’T want
Auto masking tools typically work by using the tones and colors under the mouse pointer to make the selection. When you have a complex outline like a building, with finely detailed protrusions, it’s often easer to select the areas that you don’t want – the sky, here – and then ‘invert’ the mask later (see below).
3. You can refine your mask afterwards
It’s rare for your mask to be right first time. Check to see what options your software has for mask refinement. You may be able to soften (feather) the edges of the mask, move it inwards or outwards or, in the case of Capture One, ‘Refine’ it to more closely follow the object outline. This can be a lot quicker and more effective than trying to paint in or paint out the mask manually.
4. You can copy your mask to re-use it
When you’ve gone to all that trouble to create a complex mask, there’s no point doing it all again when you can simply copy and re-use it. Here, I’ve created a new Adjustment Layer in Capture One, and copied the mask I already created in the layer below. The process for copying masks will vary from one program to another, but it’s a really useful thing to be able to do.
5. Inverting a mask can be so useful
So at the start I mentioned the idea that it might be easier to mask the thing you don’t want, then invert the mask so this it selects the thing you do want. In this example it was easier to select the sky than the building, but by inverting that sky mask on a new adjustment layer, I now have a mask for the building, so I can make separate adjustments to that.