MASKING SERVICE FOR FINE-ART PHOTOGRAPHERS

 

Creating masks in Photoshop for fine-art photography post-processing is often different from creating masks for other genres in photography. In fine-art photography and especially in B&W fine-art photography, many photographers like to push the envelope in terms of post-processing and go with extreme contrast adjustments, for example, for specific effect. This requires very accurate masks that are fine-tuned for that type of processing to avoid fringing and make it look natural. I wrote an article on that here.

As these types of masks aren’t always easy or time-consuming to create I’ve teamed up with ProImageEditors to create a new masking-service specifically for fine-art photography. 

WHY

The accurate creation of masks for controlled photography post-processing is a critical but often also time-consuming and technical part of the processing workflow.
My objective has always been to take the obstacle of learning technical Photoshop skills out of the post-processing workflow and make it more artistic and intuitive. Therefore more in tune with the creative mindset of artistic photographers, instead of being the exclusive playground for the tech-savvy photographer or PS guru.
It’s for that reason that I’ve created the B&W Artisan Pro X panel, to do B&W post-processing in a less technical way, however, still leaving the obstacle of creating masks to be overcome. The Quick Mask Pro panel for creating hard masks that I’m also offering is a great tool that will help you create accurate masks, but can’t cover all masking situations as it is based on the availability of contrasts in a photo.

WHEN

Sometimes there’s not enough contrast in the photo, or there aren’t enough uniquely separating colors, or objects are so small and intricate, like trees and hair, that masking becomes a very frustrating and almost impossible activity. Or perhaps you just don’t have the time or technical knowledge to create good masks.

HOW

For reasons like these, I have teamed up with ProImageEditors (PIE) who are one of the largest and most reputable postproduction services in the world. They have created a new masking service, in consultation with me, specifically targeted at B&W (and color) fine-art photographers who like to push the envelope, technically and artistically. Since it’s manual work done by expertly skilled humans, they will get the work done, even when the software fails. It then becomes a matter of using your eyes and common sense with one’s artistic-technical sensibilities and that human factor beats any algorithm.

WHAT MAKES THIS MASKING SERVICE DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS?

Masking services aren’t new. The difference with other existing masking services is that in my style of B&W fine-art photography, it’s usual to push the contrasts really hard for specific dramatic and visual effect. This increases chances of halos or other fringing even if the masks are near perfect. The trick is in creating ‘hard masks’ that have variable soft edges. Read my article on masks for more background info on this problem in fine-art photography masking.
PIE has been instructed by me personally to not only create near-perfect masks (the perfect mask doesn’t exist) but also to soften the edges in a specific way for this type of photography to minimize fringing. And I’ll be doing random quality checks to ensure you’ll get the best masks for your type of post-processing.

 

MASKING EXAMPLE ERASMUS BRIDGE BY PIE

 

Erasmus bridge Rotterdam 2013 – color version as provided to PIE for masking

Erasmus bridge Rotterdam B&W version – as can be seen, this style of B&W processing requires the intricate cables to be selected accurately so I could create a specific light effect on the cables. The same applies to the sky and the background with the skyline that needed to be ‘de-contrasted’.

The bridge structure with its iconic swan like shape is superbly masked with a soft edge to avoid fringing when the contrasts are ‘pushed’.

Even though there was hardly any contrast in the color original, the PIE team succeeded in creating a mask for the cables that was so accurate, that no correction to eliminate fringing was needed.

MASKING EXAMPLE GEHRY BUILDINGS DUSSELDORF

 

Gehry Buildings Dusseldorf 2019 – color version as provided to PIE for masking

The hardly visible fence with almost no contrast and color, was masked by the PIE team so accurately and with just the right decisions when parts needed to be ‘guessed’, that it reveals that they know and feel what artists/photographers need and prefer. It’s an artistic-technical sensibility that takes years of practice to acquire this level of craftsmanship.

A close-up of part of the fence. It is impossible to exceed this level of dedication and accuracy. Personally, if I had to mask this myself, I wouldn’t even have considered masking it, because it’s too laborious and too time-consuming. I would have treated the bottom part as 1 whole. But now, this gives me more artistic options when processing the photo to Black and White.

A close-up of another part of the site with the parasols in front of the main Gehry building in the center of the image. The parasols needed to be masked so I could create an interesting contrast with the lighter building. The craftsmanship of the mask is beyond any doubt.

USING THE MASKING SERVICE

The procedure of how to have your masks created by ProImageEditors and other relevant details are explained on the ProImageEditors website or have a look at the video for a quick explanation.

A FOCUS ON THE CREATIVE ASPECTS, LESS ON TECHNICAL ASPECTS

With this new masking service offering and the B&W Artisan Pro X panel, B&W and fine-art processing become entirely an activity that will be predominantly artistic, needing only very limited knowledge of purely technical skills. And if you’re already very proficient at masking, then you can save on average 8 hours for creating the masks for one image with this level of quality and accuracy, sometimes, even more, depending on the complexity of the image and masks.

 

PRICE RANGE

Depending on the complexity of the photograph and the number of masks, the average price will be around €40 or $45. But if you have a request for a relatively simple mask, the price can be much lower. Ask for a quote with no strings attached!

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