Editing to help separate from surrounding brush - landscape

2/16/24 Update: I tried various edits but there are at least two areas of the image that continue to be distracting, at least for me: the purplish brush mass below the tree and the cluster of blue-green evergreen branches in upper left.
I explored all the suggestions and learned more about Photoshop. I think I’ll look for a different composition and image. Thanks everyone.

Marsh Morning image: my goal is to increase visual separation of the alder’s fine bare branches and trunk from the brushy surroundings. What are your techniques for such a situation? So far I’ve tried reducing clarity and sharpness in selected areas in Lightroom CC. I do have Photoshop also but am novice. I realize also that the sunlit areas on the subject need to be reduced in intensity. All suggestions welcome.

Hi Meredith, I think you forgot to attach the photo, you can either edit your original post by clicking the pencil icon, or just reply with the photo attached. I also moved this to discussions as it’s more fitting here.

Thanks, it’s now added to my post.


Hi Meredith
I am assuming that the alder is the star and you wish the background to be darker and maybe less saturated.
The idea would be to select the alder so it can be processed separately. Luminosity masks are one way or channels but given you are a novice that may not work. There is a luminosity mask setting in both LR and PS via ACR that may work. As the branches are lighter than the main branch this will most likely require two separate masks
Alternatively you could try a colour selection of the background as that’s different. Photoshop now has the object selection tool so it may find the alder so you could mask that for separate processing.
It is difficult to give advice without understanding a persons understanding of the programs. Cheers Mark

Hi Meredith

There is a lot of texture in the image - all those textures are quite nice. But if you are trying to have one of them stand out - you may need to reduce some of the others. You mentioned reducing clarity and sharpness. I don’t think you want to lose sharpness and clarity may not achieve what you are hoping for. Have you tried reducing texture? That might work nicely.

When confronted with similar problems, I try to make each mass a little less pronounced. I typically will reduce the brightest highlights within that mass (which is often glare) and will also bring up the darkest darks. The goal to create something that reads as once mass - especially if you squint your eyes.

Squinting is something I learned as a painter - it helps reduce a scene (or image) to more basic tonal elements and can help you see compositions and deal with issues such as this.

At the same time - within those masses, you don’t want to lose the details - so increasing the contrast within a narrow tonal range can help.

For a lot of this, I have moved to Photoshop - but I think with selective masking, working with the shadow and highlights sliders and perhaps the blacks and whites as well (in Lightroom) - you may be able to achieve what you are trying to accomplish.

Good luck!

Great suggestions, I will look further into the techniques. I do understand the concepts of luminosity and channels, and NPN has some procedural steps on luminosity masks in Photoshop – plus, there are videos out there. The color selection is an interesting idea.


Thanks, Bill.

Really helpful suggestion to see areas as a mass and adjust. I’m already trying the painterly squint. I did want to convey the textures of the marsh but they do visually compete with each other. This image will be a good learning project on identifying what I want to accomplish as well as how to go about it.


Hi Meredith. In my experience, masking in PS is better than in LR, in that you can make more targeted selections based on color or luminosity. For this image, I think using color masks would work well. One mask could be for the evergreens in the background and one for the purplish bushes near the bottom of the tree. I use the TK panels in PS for selections.

That being said, this is be a difficult one to mask, especially closer to the bottom of the trunk. The spindly branches in the lower half are of similar luminosity and color to the background bushes, so they get caught up in the mask.

As an aside (although you didn’t ask), I think the bottom of the frame isn’t adding to your idea of showcasing the lovely alder branches against the dark background. Here’s my idea. If this isn’t your vision for your photo, please ignore my crop!

I made the edits in PS.
Screen Shot 2024-02-14 at 10.11.16 AM

Thank you Bonnie. I’ll add in your suggestions with the others and get to work, trying them out. This is very helpful.


Here is version 2 with edits. I chose a slightly different foreground in my series of shots to work with. I did do some training on Photoshop masks, layers and channels but it’ll take more time. So I reverted to Lightroom CC tools for this edit. Did a lot of clean up of cross-cutting twigs and selectively adjusted luminance areas. Your comments are welcome.

Hi there, you could also try selective coloring? Once you do that, saturate the tree a little, and darken the background that will be b/w. I know exactly what you mean, I sometimes just want one thing to stand out in my photo that is otherwise “busy”……I can frustrate myself. Good luck!

Hi, just wanted to acknowledge your comments and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to learn and try out your suggestion. Many thanks. I’m always learning,

I love selective coloring when I want to isolate something in a busy picture. It’s quite easy to do also, if I can help you with anything, please reach out. Jhastings@cebridge.net