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Adobe's New AI Masking Is a Game-Changer

Prepare to be wowed. Up until this point, Adobe has been pretty mum on the capabilities of the new AI masking coming to Lightroom and Camera Raw, except for a single “sneak peek” video that didn’t go into very much detail.
I assume that people are extremely excited about this next update, as it will usher in a significant change in the way people use Adobe’s photo-editing software. The term “game-changing” is being bandied about and for very good reason. 

In this video by Piet Van den Eynde, we finally get a more detailed look at the AI-masking technology behind this major update. Piet is able to show us in real-time the layout of the new masking toolbar as well as how to create masks and manipulate them. To keep track of your masks, there is a new “Masks” window, which looks increasingly similar to the layers palette from Photoshop. 

Piet makes the point that perhaps gone are the days of multiple nondescript pinpoints scattered throughout the image, depending on which local adjustment you chose to use. Now, every local adjustment will have a mask associated with it, which you are free to name and keep organized in the new window. 

He also shows off the ability to mix and refine masks, like intersecting an AI-created mask with another, or refining it with a color or luminance range mask, or even adding and subtracting gradients, allowing for extremely specific masking that frankly isn't that easy, even in Photoshop!

I, for one, had my jaw agape the entire video. The possibilities are literally endless. Couple that with the fact that since this is built into the Camera Raw plugin, it can be used in all the photo-editing programs Adobe offers, including the cloud version of Lightroom, which is pretty exciting all by itself. Kudos to Adobe for being able to push this update across all platforms. Remember that what you are seeing is effectively layers for Camera Raw. This means that they are permanently customizable in the interface you start in, and at least theoretically, can be written to .XMP. How exciting is that? 

The Adobe Max conference is October 26 through the 28, and I think after that, everyone will get a clearer picture of the inner workings of this truly remarkable update. 

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Barry Strawbridges's picture

Says he doesn't want to use the word game changer, but then proceeds to use it several times.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

1. No, he said he doesn't like to use that word that often because he thinks it's over used.

2. His use of it in this case has merit.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

If I were a LR user and do portraits/people photos, I'd be ecstatic. This a really handy feature. I wish Capture One had it.

Scott Donschikowski's picture

This is obviously going to be great for Portraits. Piet is portrait photographer so its natural for him to be showing off the capabilities in this way.
But the real test is going to see all the ways it can be used in landscape photography as well. So many people use the range masking features and I cant wait to get my hands on it and try out all the new ways this can work!

Nick Rains's picture

I'm surprised to see this video - there is an embargo on showing detailed features like this until the release date.

Scott Donschikowski's picture

I was surprised to see it too. Apparently Adobe cleared it.

MC G's picture

Thanks for pointing that out. I shall be informing adobe legal post haste and forthwith.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Actually, Adobe showed it on Sep 28, 2021:

Ian Spencer's picture

As a recent adoptee of Lightroom, I'm glad I learned about masking using the simple system. Though I'd used Photoshop Express, I found Layers baffling and struggled to do masking in it, even following tutorials, e.g. for a classic details in shadows uplift mask. It didn't take long to grasp Lightroom masking and achieve what I struggled with in PSE - it was quite discoverable.

If this has the ease of Lightroom masking, and the accuracy of AI masking, I can think of a number of photos that I look forward to re-polishing.

I also suspect I will be glad that I bought a new PC recently.

Scott Donschikowski's picture

So true Ian!

I am Fish's picture

Well, game changing, unless you already made the switch to capture one. In which case it's just yesterday's jam.