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Lightroom Adds Sky and Subject Masking, a Masks Panel, and More

Lightroom updates: sky and subject masking, a masks panel, and more

This week, Adobe released Lightroom Classic version 11.0 and Lightroom version 5.0, both of which provided a handful of eye-catching updates, including a revamp and expansion of Lightroom’s masking options.

Prior to the October improvements, users could work with three distinct local adjustment tools: a Graduated Filter, a Radial Filter, and an Adjustment Brush.

Now, Adobe has integrated these tools into a Masks panel that offers increased functionality, plus you now have access to several handy new masking options. 

Let’s take a closer look, starting with:

Lightroom’s new Masks panel

Both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom now feature a Masks panel, which allows you to easily create new masks and combine existing masks:

Lightroom Masks panel

Previously, masks could only combine in a limited capacity. Now, however, you can create several sub-masks, which add and subtract from the overall mask for precise results. 

Want to brighten a person’s face while leaving the eyes untouched? You can add a Radial Gradient (i.e., a Radial Filter) to the face, then subtract a Brush mask over each eye. The three masks will “intersect” to form a single (still editable!) mask in the Masks panel:

Lightroom mask intersection

In addition to these new “Add” and “Subtract” features, the panel allows you to easily name and organize your masks. Compare this to previous versions of Lightroom, where you might struggle to even determine where each masking pin was located.

You also have plenty of overlay options, so you can view your masks in different colors, on black, on white, and more.

Expect these features to enhance local adjustment flexibility, as mask intersection makes highly customized, specific masks a reality. And thanks to the organization capabilities of the Masks panel, it’s easier than ever to apply dozens of masks without becoming overwhelmed.

Select Subject and Select Sky masking commands

Lightroom and Lightroom Classic now include two never-before-seen masking features, Select Subject and Select Sky:

Select Subject and Select Sky masking

Tap the Select Subject option, and Lightroom will identify and mask the main subject from the image; tap the Select Sky option, and Lightroom will do the same for the sky. Of course, these masking options are only as powerful as Adobe’s technology, but I did a few tests and was impressed by the results.

As with all masks in Lightroom, Subject and Sky masks appear in the new Masks panel, and they’re completely editable – so if Lightroom accidentally selects an area behind your subject, for instance, you can always subtract it with a Brush mask.

Previously, precise selections were the domain of Photoshop. But with these automatic masking options, photographers can rely on Lightroom for precise local adjustments to subjects (helpful, in particular, for portrait, pet, and wildlife shooters) and to skies (helpful for landscape, real-estate, and architectural photographers).

Additional updates to Lightroom Classic

The October update included several helpful changes to Lightroom image organization features. Metadata can now be customized to include specific fields, batch editing has been sped up, and Lightroom databases will occupy less hard-drive storage space. 

Adobe has also added support for new cameras, including the Canon EOS R3, as well as new lenses, including a handful of Canon RF models.

And you get new Lightroom presets: Retro, Food, Landscape, and Cinematic II, among others.

Additional updates to Lightroom 

Lightroom Remix function

Adobe Lightroom has received the same masking updates as Adobe Lightroom Classic, along with new presets. Lightroom users will also appreciate several additional improvements, such as:

  • Recommended presets. Lightroom will now suggest different presets for your images, using the ever-expanding capabilities of its artificial intelligence technology.
  • Additional supported cameras and lenses. These appear identical to the cameras and lenses now supported by Lightroom Classic, and include recent cameras like the EOS R3, as well as lenses from Canon, Sigma, Tamron, and more.
  • Remixes. You can now edit the images of other users, which you can then share with the original photographer. This update is confined to the desktop version of Lightroom.

Lightroom updates: final words

For the advanced, and even casual, Lightroom user, these changes are a huge deal, allowing for precise local adjustments, easy organization, and a few additional bonuses. 

I recommend you go test out the updates for yourself. See what you think. And then let us know in the comments below:

Are you pleased with the Lightroom updates? Which new feature is your favorite? How will it change your editing? 

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Jaymes Dempsey
Jaymes Dempsey

is the Managing Editor of Digital Photography School, as well as a macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To learn how to take stunning nature photos, check out his free eBook, Mastering Nature Photography: 7 Secrets For Incredible Nature Photos! And to see more of Jaymes’s work check out his website and his blog.

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