Precision Edits: Adjustment Brush
The final step in this workflow is to make a precise mask over randomly shaped objects, like the two boulders next to the waterfall. This allows us to modify only the pixels within that precise shape, and nothing else. For this photo, I wanted to highlight some of the interesting colors and details on the two boulders immediately to the right of the waterfalls (see Figure 9). They have an interesting texture, which also provides a contrast with the smooth waterfalls.
Figure 9 The boulders near the waterfall are a good example of objects with a specific shape that need to be precisely masked by the Adjustment Brush.
To activate the Adjustment Brush, click the rightmost icon in the Toolbar, or press K. Again, all prior filter widgets will be hidden, and the various controls will appear in the panel area. Additionally, you will see some parameters for controlling the Adjustment Brush itself (Size, Feather, Flow, and Density) at the bottom of the panel.
For the Adjustment Brush workflow, I created a single adjustment for both boulders (see Figure 10), and made sure to turn the Auto Mask feature on before I started. This helps to create more accurate mask edges. Lightroom identifies high contrast tone or color boundaries as you brush along an edge, and as long as you’re not using too large a brush or feather value, it will prevent the mask from “bleeding over” onto the other side of the object.
Figure 10 The Adjustment Brush makes it easy to isolate specific objects or shapes in your photos.
As with the two filters we discussed, pins are created when you generate Adjustment Brush masks. Options for displaying those pins and the mask overlay itself are available beneath the preview area as well. As you’re brushing the mask onto an object, don’t worry if there are a couple small spots where there is some “bleed over.” The Auto Mask usually prevents it but when it doesn’t, you can hold down the Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) key to invoke the “Erase brush.” This brush can have its own Size and Feather, and as you brush over the mask with it, the overlay will be removed from those pixels.
Once you’re satisfied with your adjustment mask, you can turn the Mask Overlay off by unchecking the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” option beneath the preview. From here, you can begin to experiment with tone or color changes, or start modifying the details. For this shot, I warmed up the colors by increasing the Temperature value and adding Saturation. I also decreased the Exposure a bit, and consequently added a bit of extra Noise Reduction (which references the settings in the Detail panel along with the Sharpness setting).
Finally, I added a substantial amount of Clarity to improve the details on the rocks and make the edges of the leaves stand out a bit more (see Figure 11).
Figure 11 The Adjustment Brush makes it easy to enhance the color and detail within specific objects in the scene.
After making a few additional color tweaks and using the Advanced Spot Removal Tool, the final image is shown in Figure 12, before (top) and after (below).
Figure 12 The final output.