In my last installment, I reviewed the “Dynamic Range With Luminosity Masks” tutorial created by Nick Page for Improve Photography Plus. In my goal to learn how to use luminosity masks in my workflow, I wanted to add an action panel. I ended up with Lumenzia. This is my review and first impressions of the panel.

In my last installment, I made a glaring omission. Awhile back, Brian Pex put up a great write up about luminosity masks here. If you are just starting out with luminosity masks, or want to know what they are, then you need to read Brian’s article.

Lumenzia Action Panel

Lumenzia Action Panel

BACKGROUND

I have had the habit of picking up post processing techniques pretty quick. Unfortunately, luminosity masks has been my Achilles’ Heel. Using Luminosity masks seemed like a logical step for me to take to enhance my post processing abilities.

Since going through the tutorial, I have been spending a lot of down time practicing with luminosity masks. Once I installed Lumenzia, I have spent even more time learning the capabilities of the panel.

ABOUT LUMENZIA

Lumenzia was created by Greg Benz. Lumenzia is available for purchase from Greg’s website for $39.99. That price is comparable to other panels that are on the market. For that price, the buyer receives the panel, a Basics panel that features several basic Photoshop functions at the click of a button, a Quick Start guide and over 2 hours of video tutorials.

Greg created a video about Lumenzia which you can view here:

One of the key features about Lumenzia is the way it creates the masks. Other panels create channels. Lumenzia does not. With channel creation, the file size will increase. To explain in simpler terms, when I open a file in Photoshop, my base file is 46MB. If I use a panel that creates channels, that file size jumps to almost 300MB. Since Lumenzia does not create channels, then the file size stays at it’s base size. This is beneficial for an older computer or one with less horsepower.

While I cannot attest to the level of support offered by other creators of action panels, Greg does a great job with support for Lumenzia. I have been in constant contact with Greg since I installed Lumenzia. Greg also runs groups on Facebook and Google Plus.

USER FRIENDLY?

Installation is quick and easy. Greg provides written instructions, along with video instructions. Once the purchase is made, the buyer receives a download link. Depending on the connection speed, the file is downloaded in a couple short minutes. The file comes in .zip form and requires extraction, which is simple enough.

For me, I have found Lumenzia to be very user friendly. While I have been working to bring myself up to speed, what I have learned so far has helped me speed up my knowledge. The key feature I like is having a preview of the mask on top of the image before I do anymore work. Basically all I have to do is click on one of the buttons, say L3, and it will show the mask. From there, if I like the selection, I click on SEL and that area is selected and I can get on with my adjustments.

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Lumenzia also comes with a PreBlend option. This allows the user several options. The first is to take one base image and have Lumenzia create several other images with different exposure values. This options also allows the user to use several images of differing exposures the same ability.

I have not had a chance to dive off into the murky depths of Lumenzia yet, but I like what I see. The ease in use to the support is great.

INTERVIEW WITH GREG BENZ

What was your main motivation for creating Lumenzia?

I started using HDR nearly a decade ago. I was thrilled with the results, but ultimately wanting more control to get the best results. Then a friend introduced me to the concept of luminosity masks. I was immediately intrigued, but also immediately frustrated. The process of working with channels was too cumbersome and confusing for me. It turned into a very cerebral (left brain) activity, instead of the creative (right brain) activity that I wanted it to be. I couldn’t find any good solution, so I just decided to create my own. I know that may sound extreme to spend nearly a year creating software to be able to sit down and edit photos. But it was more about freeing up my creativity than saving time.

How long did it take you to develop and have a working version of Lumenzia that you felt comfortable releasing to the public?

It took about 9 months to create the first release.

How often do you release updates to Lumenzia?

I’ve released 10 major feature updates since Lumenzia launched nearly two years ago. Since then, the panel has gotten even simpler to use, and gained lots of new functionality (options for 100% customization of any mask, color selection tools, tools to automatically select masks from the image, exposure blending, LAB color support, the Basics panel for users new to luminosity masks, etc). That pace has been pretty crazy, but it’s fun to see how much it’s advanced since it first launched.

Regarding updates, is Lumenzia is one time purchase, or are the updates available at an additional charge?

I don’t have an official policy on that, but I’ve never charged for an update and have no plans to do so. And that includes two panels (Lumenzia and the Basics panel), as well as several hours of video tutorials. The feedback I’ve received has been overwhelming, with many customers telling me I should charge more. But at the same time, I wouldn’t want to make a promise that might prevent me from being able to invest in developer support for a really big idea down the road. If I ever did charge for an upgrade, I’d offer upgrade pricing to existing customers, and free upgrades to anyone who had purchased recently.

Although I tend to pick up most post processing techniques pretty quick, Luminosity masking has been my Achille’s Heel. I started learning what could be considered the hard way, which was by manually creating the layers. Luminosity masking panels automates that process completely, saving time and effort. Using a panel has also helped me continue my education that might not have happened by continuing to go the “manual” route. Would you suggest that a beginner to luminosity masking learn how to do the process manually at first, or is there no detriment to jumping straight using an action panel such as Lumenzia?

I have some videos showing how to create masks manually. But I don’t think there’s any real benefit in learning how the masks are made, other than curiosity. It’s much more important to learn how to pick the right mask and how to use it. The most important advice I can offer for those who want to learn luminosity masks is to work on developing your vision. The people I find struggling the most to learn luminosity masking are the ones who don’t know what end result they would like to achieve. It’s not like HDR software, where you can move a handful of sliders back and forth to decide what you like best. The beauty of luminosity masking is that you can do practically anything. The challenge is that you have some idea of what you want to do.

I mentioned previously that one main feature of Lumenzia is the ability to keep the files small during the process, which the other panels do not do. What are the other features about Lumenzia that makes it stand apart from the other panels on the market?

My focus with Lumenzia has been to make it super easy to use luminosity masks, as well as highly flexible. I’ve kept the panel strictly focused on luminosity masks, so that it’s simple and powerful. Every mask you create in Lumenzia is a completely visual process. Everything is visual: you see the mask as you preview it. You can customize the mask any way you want by clicking and dragging on specific parts of the image to get the exact mask you want. And I’ve built it in JavaScript, so that it can take care of the complexity for you quietly in the background. For example, when you apply a dark luminosity mask on a curve, it automatically adjusts the curve to help you keep contrast in the shadows.

In closing, is there anything that you would like to add?

Luminosity masking is one of the most amazing tools I’ve ever encountered. The top ranked photos of sites like 500px are often created using luminosity masks. But it’s also easy to see those results and get frustrated when you first try. It takes some time, but it’s well worth the investment. Just start small, and keep on taking bigger challenges as you grow. Make some contrast adjustments. Try some dodging and burning. Pretty soon you’ll be blending exposures. And sooner than you might think, your photos will look more amazing than ever.

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Original Content provided by Improve Photography

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