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Betty,

Forgot that. In this method, ignore the Overlay, Soft/Hard Options. What I usually do is either leave alone (Normal), or of using a Levels layer, set to Luminosity, HSL (Saturation), etc. IE, the blend mode should be targeted to what the adjustment layer is trying to do. (adjust Lighting, adjust saturation and so on)

I would also add that once you have generated the B&W version of the image, you can do an Enhance, Adjust Lighting, Levels and tweak the midtones to push greys to a more solid black or white. This is the only time I use that "version" of levels and not bother to create a Levels Adjustment Layer. (Not that you couldn't but you would have to merge the two layers to get the copy/paste ability.

Also, I have occasionally resorted to a Threshold adjustment layer to force things to an absolute black or white, then and almost always with the threshold layer, use the gaussian blur filter to soften a little.

I talk about this with my photo buddy as gorilla mask making, when you get down and dirty with hacking out a mask.
John
Thanks for your further explanation, John.
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One of my favorite things about PS editing is experimenting with ideas. While still thinking about the basic contrast mask technique explained by Rusty (& Kimi), I decided to try clipping a levels adjustment layer to the inverted, desaturated copy of the backgound layer, & set it to soft light. I adjusted all the sliders in the clipped-on levels adjustment layer. Last, I added an additional levels adjustment layer & selected the auto levels option
Here is my result.
before:
Image
after
(I realize that the image would benefit from further adjustments (h/s, etc).
Betty
Win 8.1, PS CC, Canon bridge P&S
That's well done, Betty.

I think what John is describing, and what you just accomplished, using an inverted B&W as the mask, is a version of "Shadows Highlights" that gives you more control, and more options, than the basic Elements tool.

I am now in the process of working thru 150+ shots taken today; the keepers are destined for my church website. I'm using Shadows/Highlights on many of them. If I run across any that I think have the possibility of really "turning into something", I will then be inclined to spend the time working something exactly like what John explained.

Rusty
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa

www.prestophoto.com/photos/gallery/19932
Rusty wrote: -------- I'm using Shadows/Highlights on many of them. If I run across any that I think have the possibility of really "turning into something", I will then be inclined to spend the time working something exactly like what John explained.
Rusty


Rusty, it would be interesting to see your results & layers should you decide to use adjustments other than basic Elements "Shadows/Highlights", especially if you use different tweaks or variations.
It's helpful to know of various PS options that are possible, which can be added to adjustments made in the ACR basic panel for shadow & highlights, etc.

Thanks again for starting this thread, Rusty. It's great to have discussions about increasing dynamic range which do not require multiple exposures.
Betty
Win 8.1, PS CC, Canon bridge P&S
You all have peaked my interest. I hope i have time to join in.
Here's what I think is a lost cause; nothing seems to work. I was shooting inside a barn, no lights except windows on one wall and had to use 1/45th at f/1.8, ISO 800, just to get this muddy image.
DSC_2776 SOOC.jpg
DSC_2776 SOOC.jpg (59.71 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

I tried the "Kimi Contrast Mask" that was the original subject of this thread and I think that makes it worse.
DSC_2776 Overlay Inverted Mask.jpg
DSC_2776 Overlay Inverted Mask.jpg (72.22 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

Then I tried the basic PSE Shadows/Highlights adjustment.
DSC_2776 Shadows-Highlights.jpg
DSC_2776 Shadows-Highlights.jpg (69.13 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

And finally, a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer masked with an inverted B&W copy of the image.
DSC_2776 Levels & Contrast Mask.jpg
DSC_2776 Levels & Contrast Mask.jpg (132.34 KiB) Viewed 1590 times


If the photographer can't produce a good starting point, there isn't much you can do in Elements to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

The last one is probably the best of a bad lot and I think the levels adjustment has a lot to do with it. When you make your levels adjustment Do not use the default RGB setting. Use the drop-down menu and adjust each of the three color channels individually. I achieved excellent results on three of four other "barn photos" doing that.

Rusty
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa

www.prestophoto.com/photos/gallery/19932
Here's one with a lot more to work with. We were in a wagon, pulled by a tractor, on the way to the pumpkin patch where each child will search for that just perfect pumpkin to take home -- great fun!
DSC_2820 SOOC.jpg
DSC_2820 SOOC.jpg (80.29 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

I think the basic PSE Shadows/Highlight adjustment did a pretty good job.
DSC_2820 Shadows Highlights.jpg
DSC_2820 Shadows Highlights.jpg (75.62 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

A masked Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer did about the same thing, maybe just a little bit better.
DSC_2820 B&C with inverterd B&W mask.jpg
DSC_2820 B&C with inverterd B&W mask.jpg (77.4 KiB) Viewed 1590 times


Rusty.
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa

www.prestophoto.com/photos/gallery/19932
Finally, here's where I think using a mask on an adjustment layer was the clear winner.
DSC_2862 SOOC.jpg
DSC_2862 SOOC.jpg (127.66 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

The basic Shadows/Highlights adjustment didn't get the face where I wanted it.
DSC_2862 Shadows-Highlights.jpg
DSC_2862 Shadows-Highlights.jpg (120.19 KiB) Viewed 1590 times

Brightness/Contrast, masked, did the trick.
DSC_2862 Layer Mask.jpg
DSC_2862 Layer Mask.jpg (81.25 KiB) Viewed 1590 times


When I make my B&W conversion for use as a layer mask, I park that layer up at the top of the stack with the eyeball turned off. It's available for future use if I need it:
DSC_2862 Layer Mask How.jpg
DSC_2862 Layer Mask How.jpg (140.09 KiB) Viewed 1590 times


Rusty
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa

www.prestophoto.com/photos/gallery/19932
Your photos are fun to see as the children seemed to be enjoying a real special day.

Rusty, Thanks for the wonderful explanations & images of edits --- very interesting & helpful! You made this thread a real winner!
Betty
Win 8.1, PS CC, Canon bridge P&S
I also love the photos. Great seeing the difference in the results.
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