Anything Photoshop or Photography


Image of a Spanish Cay runway marker in the Bahamas
During Photoshop Week 2019 on Creative Live, I watched a segment by Randy Van Duinen called Lightroom and Photoshop for Architectural Photographers. I did not think there would be much relevant to me, but it is loaded down with some new ways of looking at photographing and post processing. It is an inexpensive class and frequently on sale – definitely worth the buy. One of Randy’s tips is about de-emphasizing those distracting areas and putting them into shadows (or as in the above, making the foreground lighter). After working with his technique, I figured out a way to get the same results using the Properties Panel on a Layer Mask, so check out the Alternate Workflow for these steps. Not sure which is the easiest to do.


  1.  Select an areas with the Lasso Tool (or whatever selection tool you wish to use).
  2. Set the Quick Mask options (by double clicking on the 2nd from the bottom icon on the Tool Bar) to show the Masked Area as you want the selected area or area to be changed not covered by the overlay and the Opacity to 100% . Then enter Quick Mask mode.
  3. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to a large amount to make a nice smooth transition between selection and other areas. Should be able to see the transition clearly. Click Enter to close filter.
  4. Press Q or press the icon again to exit Quick Mask.
  5. With selection active, open a Curves Adjustment Layer. Can now light or darken the layer mask or change the color of the layer. Remember that the Red, Green and Blue Color Channels can also be used to adjust the results.

Screenshot of the RAW file for Spanish Cay in the Bahamas
The above shows what the original image looked like as it brought in from Lightroom (just used Basic Panel corrections, cropping/straightening, and Lens Correction Panel). Duplicated the Background layer (always do this) and applied Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI (use this a lot now) set to Focus and Remove Blur 0.65 and Suppress Noise 0.20 – note that a layer mask was added as it definitely was too much sharpening for the soft clouds. I had decided that I wanted the small bush on the left to be brighter and the foreground to look more sandy than it did in the image. On another duplicated layer, the Lasso Tool was used to first select the bush. The the Quick Selection mode was used to select the areas that I DID NOT was to change. See the Screenshots below to see how the edges blend once opened in Quick Selection mode and the Gaussian Blur filter chosen and set to a Radius 52.4 pixels. By changing the radius size, the blending can be set they way you want. If you want to see some of the background, set the Opacity for Quick Mode lower than 100%. The Lasso Tool is really not that exact so if more accuracy is needed, just use the Paint Brush Tool to adjust the mask.
Screenshot of Gaussian Blur on bush
The image below shows how the blending looks with a larger area selected and a larger Radius size is used. Definitely have a much smoother transition. This time the Radius was set to 182.0 pixels, but Randy uses much larger sizes on his images. It definitely depends on the size of what you are blending and how large an image you have.
Screenshot of the foreground in Gaussian Blur for Spanish Cay image
Once the filter is applied, just click Q or the Quick Selection icon to exit and a selection will be available to apply to any type of Adjustment Layer, but with this workflow it usually involves the Curves Adjustment Layer. Of course a Levels Adjustment Layer could be used or some of the color Adjustment Layers could be used like Hue/Saturation. For the above two different Curves Adjustment Layers were used, one for each area selected. The last step was to add a Levels Adjustment Layer vignette (see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog).

Thought I would show you a couple images that also used this same technique. In the leaves image, by darkening the background, it actually created a very 3D effect. This time the large leaves in the foreground were selected with the Lasso Tool since I wanted to darken the background. Inside the Quick Selection Mode a Gaussian Blur Radius of 424.3 pixels was used to create a more subtle transition. Then back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to darken the area somewhat. The vignette was from Topaz Lens Effects’ preset Soft Olive Green and keeping the opacity low at 32.83.

Image of some pink and green Coleus Plants at the Magic Kingdom
My last example uses the Watercolor1 Mockup by Digital Florist. Just popped my Day Lily image with a butterfly and put on the drawing pad. The original mockup was very light, so by selecting the sketch pad, the background was darkened using this technique (Gaussian Blur Radius set to 355.2). This now draws the focus to the image and not all the painting supplies. (The crazy background was created using  Corel Particle Shop filter’s Expression and Spring Silk Ribbon brushes.)

Image of a Mockup showing my Day Lilies and a butterfly


There is another way to do this same technique without using the Quick Mask Mode and I will list the steps below. I like both ways of doing this, so give each one a try.

  1.  Add a black layer mask to your image.
  2. With a larger soft brush, switch to white and paint over the area you want changed. For the top image it would be the left bush or foreground area. Note, you have do this twice for the different areas if you want to use different setting in the Adjustment Layer for each.
  3. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer above the image and clip it to the layer (press the first icon at the bottom of the Curves Adjustment Layer Panel or CTRL+click between the Image and Adjustment Layer layers in Layers Panel. Otherwise the selection changes will apply to the whole image. Do your adjustments. Levels Adjustment Layer can be used here – sometimes it gives a little better result.
  4. Click on the Layer Mask of the image layer to bring up the Properties Panel – set the Feather to get the soft transition you want. To see it as if you were in the Quick Mask Mode, click the (\) key to see the overlay or ALT+click to see just the black and white mask. Also fine tune your Layer Mask with a brush at this point in case areas were missed.

Alternate Workflow Screenshot

Not sure which way is easier, but it gives similar results. I do believe the Gaussian Blur is a little easier to see the effect, but with the overlay in the Alternate Method, it is still pretty easy to see.

This technique can be used for just a subtle change which is what I like, especially in landscape images. Have a good one until next time!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

How to Use a Selection to Draw Focus in an Image
Using Curves Adjustment Layers to Get Rid of Shadows and Highlights

4 responses

  1. Ann Mackay

    I don’t know how we’d manage without Quick Mask! 🙂

    11/03/2019 at 1:39 am

  2. Pingback: DIGITAL LADY SYD’S BEST PHOTOSHOP TECHNIQUES FROM 2019 | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

  3. Pingback: JUST A LITTLE LANDSCAPE LOVE | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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