How Good Is the New Masking Tool in Adobe Lightroom?

Adobe has rolled out some impressive updates to Photoshop and Lightroom, particularly when it comes to automated tools. The new masking tool in Lightroom allows for automatic selections of skies and subjects, but how good is it?

I have never been, and likely will never be, a good landscape photographer. I am proficient, I understand the settings and theory, but it just isn't my genre, despite how much I enjoy other photographers' works in the area. Nevertheless, I have been a photographer for over a decade and have of course taken many landscapes. Like all photographers' early images, they have flaws and it can even be a little amusing to see the mistakes you made. However, when it comes to my landscape images created in the first few years of my owning a camera, they are plagued by the same issue.

The most common time for me to grab my camera and go out to take a landscape is when I noticed a fierce sunrise or sunset. I would find a location — usually an underwhelming one thanks to geography — and then snap away. I took some images I was reasonably pleased with, but I didn't love them. However, looking back, I hate them. I would use a gradient filter in Lightroom to edit the sky separately from the foreground, except for any trees or objects that clipped with the sky, they got edited too. It would often leave horrible final results.

Now, Adobe Lightroom has a tool that can select your sky for you and then auto-mask it, allowing you to make localized edits without the hassling of cutting out the sky yourself. I'm not sure quite how complex the selections can be, but in many cases, it does a good job.

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5 Comments
Adam Chandler's picture

So far it seems to work pretty well and is a great addition to Lightroom. That being said, Adobe still seems pretty far behind the feature set that Skylum will be introducing with Luminar NEO this winter. Not only that, unless it's recently changed, some of their neural filters are quite bad and also slow as seen in this great comparison video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kXlAtgCIHk

Nicole Jackson's picture

I used it last night on the phone app and it was surprisingly great. I was able to create some nice highlights on the tops of some trees and in the skyline in my landscape shot. Not to shabby.

Jack Vermillion's picture

The new PS is broken. It will not read 3rd party tiffs. The update to 22.5.1 version for PS 2021 also has the same problem. Many kinds of SW affected.

Barry Strawbridges's picture

I'm still on Photoshop 2020 for stability reasons. I ran into a couple of issues with 2021 and decided nothing was wrong with 2020. I wanted to test out 2022, but I'll wait a few months. Now everything is "With the power of AI, we bring you Sky Replacement and Skin Softening 2023"

David Greenberg's picture

Adam Chandler, I know it was an innocent typo, but you got me thinking. I love the concept of neural filters. Who would be authorized to sell them? Shrinks, I guess. I can imagine they'd be GREAT sales tools ...until they go the way of subliminal imagery on tv ads in the 50's.