Creative Edit #8 – Blending With Infinity Mask (The Double Masks Technique)

I mentioned infinity mask in a few of the images I posted on Flickr lately.

In case you haven’t heard of it:

Infinity mask is a system that creates highly versatile luminosity masks with more flexibility to target the selection you want in Photoshop. It has all the other features of luminosity mask.

It was created by Tony Kuyper, who is also the pioneer of luminosity mask 10 years ago.

You might be asking:

How does it relate to monochrome photography (a.k.a. black and white) and how do you blend infinity mask?

Great question!

In this post, I’m going to show you how I created the monochrome image above with this technique.

Utilize Monochrome Photography To Revive Dead Image

By dead image, I mean images that are flat and uninteresting you wouldn’t think it has any potential at all.

Like most of us, I used to pack my gear away, give up and blame the weather.

But as I read more and observe the work of other photographers, I realized that weather doesn’t deter a good photographer from getting images.

It’s the mindset.

“I won’t get any good images in the rain” – is probably what goes through the mind in most of us. Also, we don’t want to get our expensive gear wet.

Despite all of that, I’ve long told myself to just embrace the weather, in whatever form it is on the day.

However, that’s easier to say than done.

After a few trial and error, I’ve learned something new.

You can turn an image taken in poor weather into a piece of art by simply converting it to monochrome.

Image Selection Is Important

The trick is:

You can’t just transform any poor weather image by resolving it to monochrome photography.

Having the right image is one of the keys to a successful monochrome image.

So far, I’m choosing my image based on my instinct. But if you have a system, rules or something, do share it with me 🙂

The Infinity Mask

I won’t bore you with the details of Infinity Mask. But if you like to learn more, you can visit Tony’s website. I’m by no means affiliated with him, just a fan of his work and, of course, luminosity mask.

Don’t forget, it’s a Photoshop plugin so you do need to have a basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop. I highly recommend Photoshop 101- 301 if you’re serious about learning how to use the software to post-process your images.

The infinity mask panel customizes luminosity mask with four controls: tone, range, focus and strength. By selecting a mask to work on and changing these variables, you can generate almost a limitless number of luminosity mask, which is the true beauty of the system.

A feature of the new panel (that I like) is the ability to convert a luminosity mask into a pixel layer. This means you can turn a mask into a layer and subsequently a monochrome image.

This opens up a whole new world of possibilities with monochrome photography. For a blending enthusiast like me, I can use different luminosity masks to target different areas of an image, output the masks as pixel layers and blend it together to form the final image.

Let me explain.

The Raw Image

What’s your first impression?

Boring? Dull? That’s what I thought.

It was drizzling and windy. I didn’t want to give up because I won’t be coming back the next day. Even if I do, the forecast wasn’t optimistic for the next few days.

I didn’t know what kind of image I was going for. I figured, if I get the composition right, I could think about what to do with it in post-processing.

Getting a good exposure wasn’t difficult considering the sky was overcast. The challenging part was keeping the front of the lens dry during shooting.

If you like to know the camera settings, here it is: 22mm @ ISO 400, f/10 and 1/60 sec, tripod, no remote release, no filter.


I uploaded the images to a new folder in Lightroom. After checking the box for Enable Profile Correction (lens profile) and Remove Chromatic Aberration, I opened it in Photoshop.

After clone stamping, tonal and color adjustments, I opened up the infinity mask panel.

Pixel Layers Targeting Different Parts of The Image

infinity mask panel

Step 1: I used the picker to click on the area that I want to use to create a luminosity mask. Once I clicked, it turned into a greyscale image with the area I picked in bright.

Step 2: Tone is the tonal range (0-255), using the spot I picked as the reference point. Range sets the radius of the tones. Focus sets the amount of feathering from bright to dark. Strength sets the brightness of the mask.

Step 3: Once I’m done with the adjustments, I clicked Pixels as my output layer. This converts the luminosity mask into a monochrome layer.

I used these steps to create four separate layers targeting the waterfall, the sky, the rock and that tiny foliage in the foreground.

The pixel layer targeting the waterfall
The pixel layer targeting the sky
The pixel layer targeting the rock in the foreground
The pixel layer targeting the foliage in the foreground

Blending The Layers

Blending all the layers together wasn’t difficult.

For the sky, I used luminosity mask to create the selection. I chose a bright luminosity mask generated based on the first monochrome image (targeting the waterfall) because there’s a very clear boundary between the sky and the waterfall + cliff.

Then, I stacked the third monochrome image (targeting the rock) on top, added a black layer mask and painted on the rock with a soft, white brush.

For the foliage, I did the same. Stacked the layer on top of the rest, added a black layer mask and painted with a soft, white brush.

You could argue that I could have selectively brightened up the third layer to make the foliage brighter. You’re absolutely right! There’s no one way to do things and that’s just the way I did it 🙂

Final Adjustments

After merging all visible layers, I opened Nik Silver Efex in Photoshop and added a split toning layer. This adds a tinge of blue to the shadows.

Once I saved it, Photoshop automatically reimports the image back into Lightroom as an edited image.

The final step involves sharpening and highlighting the waterfall and the foreground with the radial filter.

Before and After

That’s all to it.

A new and simple technique of creating a striking monochrome image in Photoshop.

One thing I like in particular is the ultra dark tones in the shadows that is almost black, and shiny. I also like the gradual transition of tones away from the waterfall in the cliffs.

Do you think this could have been recreated with any software or plugins for black and white conversion? You can share you view in the comments below.

For more tutorials on blending, please check out the exposure blending resource page!