#1 MISTAKE you’re making with Lightroom Masks & how to FIX


If you are relying 100% on Lightroom's AI masking result, then the quality of your images are not as good as they could be.

If you don’t fix this mistake from the beginning, it will make the rest of your edits more difficult.

In this tutorial, I’ll share the mistake that occurs with Lightroom’s AI masks, and if you stay until the end, I’ll show you the quickest way to fix the problem.

Let’s examine the mistake and see what it looks like on three different images since it will affect some photos more than others.

Then, I’ll share how to fix it.

So, let’s look at this photo I created at the Superstition Mountains in Arizona on my last road trip.

I would like to edit by first applying my basic tonal adjustments here. So, let’s look at the original image straight out of the camera.

underexposed landscape from arizona final lightroom edit with masks
Once I make those global adjustments with these tonal values here, I will add masks to target the sky and landscape.

So here is the sky mask and the landscape mask.

At first glance, this image appears in good condition, but zoom in and examine the details along the edges.

This particular Saguaro is very dark on top, and if I turn that overlay back on, you can see that it’s targeting that area.

I applied a separate mask with a brush to remove the sky adjustments placed here.

Once they turn this back on, it will be much brighter than before.

So, the sky mask does not just select the sky; it selects more of the image, the landscape, and the saguaros.

Everything else in the foreground is being selected as well.

Not everything, but some of it and enough to lower the quality.

If we come back here on this side and look at this Saguaro, you can see that it’s very spotty in terms of detail.

There’s not a lot of detail in there, and that’s because we turn the mask back on. The mask is being applied in this area, and those details are being removed.

So, I have a lower-quality image because the edits that I am making to the sky here—negative 77.77 for exposure, lower highlights, temperature, clarity, and Dehaze—are being applied to the Saguaro and other parts of the image.

The rocks here are also being affected. It will provide a lower-quality image until you go in with a brush and paint that out so it’s not on the sky or part of the sky edit.

And if I turn this off, you’ll see there’s a little bit more detail in that Saguaro now, and that’s with the sky mask turned on.

Alright, so we need to remove the sky from those areas, but it’s hard to see exactly where the sky is also being applied in the rest of the image with our overlay here.

Now, by default, we have a red overlay, but because I want to see exactly where it is, I will come in here, click on this little square, and change the opacity of my overlay.

So I can see it better and adjust the color if need be.

Right now, red is in the tonal values or color values here in the mountains. Red is kind of hard to see until I come over here with blue, and then you can see that, actually.

Let’s come over here, and you can kind of see it right in this area here. Let’s go a little bit darker.

So, we may need to change colors to see it, but using any color is difficult.

So, if you don’t see this mistake, click on these three dots and select white on black.

And then once it converts, boom, there it is right there.

You can see some detail in the peak right here. And that is part of the sky selection.

So, the sky edits are being applied at the peak in this area and a little over here.

As we navigate around, I hold down my space bar to get this hand tool. Then, I can click and move around. These over here are all getting the sky edit.

We need to remove this from the sky before we go on to the next editing step.

And that is to right-click, select duplicate, and invert the mask.

This will then create a mask for the landscape.

But if you don’t fix it, the edits you want to apply in the landscape will not apply to these elements selected as part of the sky.

They are now being removed from the landscape mask.

So that’s why you want to fix this before you invert your masks to ensure the edits are applied exactly where you want them.

Now, before I show you that it’s really easy to do, we’ll come over here and take a look at another image. The color overlay is visible in this image.

Then, you can get an idea of where those edits will be applied. So, I’m going to go ahead and show the overlay.

Of course, the white on black is always going to show it better than a color mask, which is why I recommend going to white on black.

But now that I have this dark purple-blue color, you can see the overlay or edits being applied to different parts of this image I shot in New Mexico.

I believe this is the Beastie Badlands, but it is much easier to see where those edits or overlays are created and where they are not. So you can see all these little dots here.

So it’s not selecting the entire sky. Those edits are not being applied here.

That’s why it kind of looks pixelated in this area.

Now, in this next image, I don’t see any effects of the sky mask before fixing it.

So, some images will be affected more than others.

Now I can see that the sky came in here and made some selections of the landscape, but it’s not altering the edits as much as the other two images.

But I would still come in and fix it before inverting, so you don’t have to worry about doing both of those masks or a lot more editing after the fact.

This image, which I shot at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, affects the vermilion cliffs.

So, the sky edit alters the details and quality of these cliffs.

If I turn off the sky mask, you can see that those cliffs have more detail without it.

I’m lowering the quality of my image by not fixing the mask first and then inverting it.

Once I apply this landscape after the inversion, it does not alter or apply those edits in the cliffs because they are not included in that mask.

So the quickest way to fix it is to come in, go white on black, you’re going to select, subtract. Let’s make sure that that overlay is shown.

Then, you want to select your brush to remove that edit or that mask from this area.

In this case, the landscape.

We want to ensure we have the auto mask turned on. It will find the contrast edge on one side versus the other and keep that brush application on the side you click on.

So now I can just come in here with a big brush and paint over these areas, and it will quickly remove them.

Now, I’m keeping that inner circle inside the landscape.

So, on the cliffs, I don’t want it to go outside that line into the sky. Otherwise, I will start removing that mask from the sky.

It’s just a matter of coming through. Hold down your space bar, click and navigate to the other side, and then go through and adjust the mask accordingly.

And then you’re going to come in, and you’re going to right-click, duplicate and invert.

And then you don’t have to fix that second mask because you fixed it on the first.

Check out this playlist with more pro tips to continue elevating your legroom editing skills.

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