Sometimes you capture an image where the subject is right and the composition is just what you were hoping for but the exposure is off or the color saturation is not what it could be.  With post-processing the image is not lost.  In the photo below I was very happy with the subject and with a little cropping the composition was what I had intended.  However, the coloring of the photographer was very dull.  The cloudy sky and the snow covered building and trees made the whole image very gray and dark.  By using the quick mask feature of Adobe Photoshop CS4 I was able to select the sky and make a few digital enhancements.

Image before any post-processing work

The first instinct in Photoshop may be to use one of the selection tools from the tools menu such as the magic wand or one of the lasso tools.  But in this particular photo’s case the magic wand tool selects much more than just the sky because everything is so similar in tone (see image at the right).  And the lasso tools are more difficult to use because of all the non-uniform edges of the trees.

This makes the quick mask tool a great alternative.  I feel that it allows for more control over the area you are selecting.

Before getting into the quick mask tool I opened the image in camera RAW and made some basic adjustments to white balance and exposure to brighten the image overall.  But the image was still too monotone.

1) The Quick Mask tool can be found at the bottom of the tools menu.

2) Double click it to get started and the Quick Mask Options window will open.  Select the “Selected Areas” option and the opacity can be left at the default 50%.  Click OK.

3) Now select your paint brush and set the brush size to something appropriate for paining in the area you want to select.

4) Then trace an outline around the area to be selected.  You will notice this method is much more forgiving than the lasso selection tools.  It will look like you are painting your image pink, but don’t worry this will go away.

5) Next you need to fill in the area inside of your outline.  You can either do this with your paint brush or with the paint bucket tool.  The resulting image should have your selection in pink as shown below.

6) Now turn the quick mask off by clicking the same button you used to turn it on.  Your painted area will turn to a selection as indicated by the flashing dotted lines.

7) From the Layer menu select New Adjustment Layer and then select the adjustment you want to make to the selected area.  In the case of my overly dull sky I selected a color balance adjustment, but play around with it to find the effect you like.

8 ) Make your adjustments and save your image.  I over did the coloring on this image to emphasize the effect, but you can go as subtle or as wild as you want.

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