Every once in a while we discover a retouching tip or trick that blows us away, and we wonder how it was possible that we had not already heard about it? Buried deep within Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic (and even in Adobe Camera Raw) is one such trick: the Auto Mask tool.
Masking, in retouching terms, is a way to select specific areas within an image; it allows us to make isolated adjustments to selected areas without affecting the rest of the image. Masking works in conjunction with the brush tool where we can choose to either add or subtract masked areas by painting with the brush. Once we finish masking out our desired area, we have a panel with various adjustment tools to manipulate that masked area. Such adjustment tools include, but aren’t limited to exposure, white balance, hue and saturation, clarity, and much more.
While Lightroom is mostly known for working primarily by way of global adjustments, this masking tool allows us to make more localized adjustments. A typical example would be to use masks as a means to correct an overexposed sky, thereby creating a mask isolating only the sky and reducing the exposure of that area.
In Photoshop, however, we find that masking is an integral part of how we retouch, as they are located adjacent to all adjustment layers natively. Similar to Lightroom, we paint using the brush tool on layer masks, using a white brush to “reveal” our adjustments while a black brush “conceals” it. What’s more, Photoshop has a built-in powerful Select and Mask tool that enables creating selections and masks with even greater precision and ease.
That being said, Lightroom’s Auto Mask feature is located at the bottom of the Brush Tool Panel. This feature is nothing more than a simple checkbox with the option to either enable or disable it. When enabled, the brush will use an algorithm that automatically selects and masks specific areas based on the precise point of where we click on the image and as such, will select all related colors. While not perfect, using the methods highlighted in the following tutorial demonstrates that despite being imperfect, it’s still a very powerful tool.
To find out exactly how to take full advantage of this hidden trick, watch the tutorial below.