October 26, 2021

Masking, Metadata and much more

The latest update to the Creative Cloud and Lightroom from Adobe gives new masking capability and more to the photographer and videographer

In 2013 when Adobe announced that it was moving to a subscription model, there were cries of derision that the giant would slowly raise prices. Here we are eight years on and still paying precisely the same fee as launch day. If you’re smart and buy annual licences on Amazon Prime Day, you can even get it cheaper! As well as not fleecing photographers in the pocket, Adobe has also provided some superb developments to enhance the usability of the software. Usually, once a year, there is a super update that includes something special and today’s update (26 October) brings us a new development to Lightroom – masking.

We’ll look at how this new functionality can help reduce the number of times you need to dip into Photoshop later. However, with a little less trumpeting, Adobe has also added two more products to the Photographer Package.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express is a fantastic mobile editing tool that Instagrammers are going to love. Take photos on your mobile phone, and then apply any number of creative edits available in the app. You can add overlays, stickers and much more, then re-size for social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  You can even set up a link between Photoshop Express and Photoshop on your computer and seamlessly switch between the two. I’ve only used it for 10 minutes and achieved a pretty cool result – I’ll do a longer blog post in a couple of weeks with a more detailed review.

Adobe Premiere Rush

The second new tool made available this month is Premiere Rush. Adobe already has a world-class video editing program, Premiere. It’s packed full of functionality, but it’s also pretty tricky to get your head around. I find that people tend to either be a photographer or a videographer but rarely both. For that reason, most photographers will be somewhat reluctant to spend the extra £16 a month to buy high-featured software that they’ll hardly ever use but needs time investment just to get basic results. That’s where Adobe Premiere Rush fills a gap.

It is nowhere near as powerful as the full Adobe Premiere app, but it does have most of the features that an occasional videographer might need. You can trim clips, join clips together, add text and titles and even improve the sound quality. All this is done on your mobile or through the desktop app. For someone looking to edit the occasional movie, maybe for social media, it’s a great little additional tool in the Creative Cloud package.


Both these tools are available through the App store of your mobile phone. Some features in Adobe Photoshop Express are only available on iPhones. Adobe seems to take a few months to update the Android version of the apps for some reason. There is also a desktop version of Adobe Premiere Rush added to your Creative Cloud subscription. Now tell me that Creative Cloud isn’t a bargain!

What’s new in Lightroom?

Adobe trailed their most significant change in this update about a week ago, and I have just had a chance to try out the tools. I’ve got to say it has blown me away, and I can hardly see the need to dip into Photoshop too often unless I need to clone something out of the shot. You’ll remember I made this plea to Adobe a few weeks ago – let’s not wait another 12 months to have clone stamp and spot removal in Lightroom!

The three big things available to use are masking, selecting sky or subject and improvements to how we can see and use metadata. I can see practical uses for all three of these changes, and to me, that means that Adobe has got this update spot on!


So far, in previous versions of Lightroom, we have been able to apply different types of filters, selectively editing parts of the image. The gradient filter could act like a graduated filter. The radial filter could select areas in a round or oval shape, and the adjustment brush meant that we could paint onto the image where we would want to make localised changes.

The buttons at the top of the Develop module have disappeared and consolidated into one button that opens up a more powerful sub-menu.

The three ‘old’ filters are still there, but there’s also a couple of extra tools that we can use to mask areas of the photo and then apply changes, Colour Range and Luminance Range. The great thing about the new functionality is that you can combine the various masks to be highly selective when masking. As an example, in the image below, I want to darken the grassy areas at the bottom of the scene and then make the yellow leaves pop a little more. I’ll also add lots of structure to the concrete wall.

I start by adding a gradient filter from the bottom left corner toward the centre and dragging it toward the middle of the scene. It’s always worth having the Show Overlay checkbox ticked when setting up your mask.

I want to add the same amount of filter to the grass on the right of the image. Click on Add and then take the option to Add to mask with Linear Gradient. The masking has selected the areas I want to darken, and I can use the controls to apply any changes specified by the mask.

Next, I will apply a different mask that will affect only the yellow leaves in the trees. To do this, I am going to use a Color Range. Click on the Create New Mask button and select Color Range.  Use the eyedropper to click anywhere on the image that includes the colour you wish to choose. I can then saturate the yellow leaves and warm up the masked area to make them seriously pop!

I can do the same thing with the stone wall by creating a new mask and selecting the grey areas of the image. By sliding the Refine Bar in the side menu, you can determine how alike the chosen area needs to be in the masking process.


Selecting subjects and skies

You may have spotted another two items in the new mask menu. We can now select either a person (or an animal) or a sky and apply changes to the masked area. To show how these work, I am going to use this portrait from a recent shoot. The conditions were changing quite quickly, and in this shot, the flashlight wasn’t enough, so I want to brighten the subject. In hindsight, I’d also like a more blurred effect behind, and I want the sky to pop a little more.

Click on the Mask menu and this time, take the option Select Subject. Lightroom automatically detects the man in the scene and creates a mask. Look how well it identifies every single hair flying in the wind! I can now add about ¾’s of a stop of extra light.

We’re now going to blur the background by creating a new mask and selecting the same subject. By the side of Subject 1 in the mask panel, click on the three dots (or ellipses) and take the option Invert. We have now selected everything except the man. I can reduce the Texture and Clarity to create a blurry effect behind.

Finally, I will apply a third mask and, this time, take the option Select Sky. Lightroom does a brilliant job selecting the sky, even with all the foliage on the bottom-right of the photo. I can apply a slight increase in the exposure and saturate the blue to give the impression of a bright sunny day!

Metadata Management

The last change I will highlight is an improved way to manage metadata. Like many editorial photographers, I do 90% of my metadata management in a tool called Photo Mechanic. However, now and again, I may want to update caption information or headlines while in the Library module of Lightroom. In the previous version, it was doable but messy as the fields I wanted to update were in different sections of the Metadata panel.

Now Lightroom has given the capability to decide which fields are visible in the metadata panel and the order they are shown. To do this, select the ‘Default’ group of metadata, and there is a new ‘customize’ button to click.

I can select the fields that I want to include. Clicking on the Arrange button at the bottom opens a further menu that allows me to drag the fields into the order that streamlines my workflow as much as possible.

Download today

All this new functionality has been added from today (26 October) to Creative Cloud. If you already subscribe, open the Creative Cloud app and check for updates. There is an Update All button that makes the job even easier. There are some other ‘under-the-hood’ changes to improve speed and update the supported cameras. Experiment and you’ll find lots of great functionality in this latest update.

Give us your feedback

If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them below. You can sign up for the Edinburgh Photography Workshop monthly newsletter, where you’ll get regular updates on exciting things happening in photography and some great tips. Sign up by clicking here.

About the author

As well as running Edinburgh Photography Workshop, Rich Dyson is a professional photographer. His photographs are regularly used in newspapers such as The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. He also had two solo exhibitions as well as being featured in a members sponsored exhibition in the Scottish Parliament. You can see and buy his photography at richdysonphotography.com

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