Fine-Tune / Reflection

 

The Fine-tune tab sheet from the Shadows/Highlights modes and the Reflection tab sheets from the Virtual Studio modes are identical. The only difference is that the mask that is adjusted with the Fine-tune tab sheet separate the shadows and highlights whereas the Reflection tab sheet controls the shape the spot lights. The adjustments of the Fine-tune tab sheet in Shadows/Highlights (Pro) mode can be useful in Virtual Studio (Pro) mode and vice versa. LightMachine automatically carries them over when switching modes.

 

N, P, S, H

If one of these four buttons is activated you will see the mask that is used for the correction in the preview. The N button shows a negative view of the mask, the P buttons shows the positive version of the mask. The S buttons shows only the shadow areas, spot areas or selected color areas depending on which mode you are currently using. The H button shows the highlight or background areas.

If you have Split View and the Multiple check box active, you can use these four buttons to display the processed image side by side with the mask.

 

Method

The Method combo box offers four choices for creating a shadows/highlight mask or reflection mask. The first three options are simpler methods whereas the fourth "Light Mask" method is a combination of the previous three methods. When using the Auto Mask tab sheet the Method feature is automatically switched to"Light Mask".

The Contrast Mask method was already used in the pre-digital days in photo labs. There are some Photoshop tutorials on the web about it, but LightMachine uses a different and more effective technique that is closer related to the non-digital method. An advantages of Contrast Mask is the good shadow recovery, but it tends to produce halo effects and also brighten highlights. The Brightness Mask method works similar to the Shadow/Highlight tool from Photoshop. It's biggest advantage is that no halos are produced at all. On the other hand it offers a less effective shadow recovery and brightens highlights, too. The B/W Mask method, which is also used by some other plugins, offers the best shadow recovery and doesn't brighten highlights, but like Contrast Mask it also tends to produce halo effects.

The Light Mask combines the advantages of the above mentioned methods. It features a very good shadow recovery, doesn't brighten highlights and allows you to suppress halos. It also offers more features for flexibly adjusting the mask to the image.

 

Stretch

The Stretch check box is activated by default, because it usually creates a stronger brightness correction by increasing the contrast of the mask. Deactivating the Stretch check box can sometimes help when you use very high Radius sliders. However, readjusting the Radius slider is sometimes the better alternative.

 

Threshold

The Threshold slider lets you define the border between shadows and highlights in terms of brightness values from 0 to 255. If you split the brightness range into shadows, midtones and highlights, the shadows would run from 0 to 85 (255 / 3 = 85). So the Threshold value would have to be set to 85. This value works very nicely for many images. However, if an image has deeper shadows, a value of 43 (which is approx. half of 85) may produce better results. If an image has weaker shadows, a value of 128 may work even better. Only in few cases a value of 21 or 170 will work best.

Please remember, if you use a Threshold value of 85, the highlights will run from 86 to 255. If you only want lift the shadows that value will be fine. If you want to adjust the shadows and highlights, a value of 128 may work better. If you only want to target the highlights and leave the shadows untouched, you can also use a value of 170 or higher.

 

Range

If the Light Mask method is used, setting the Range slider to zero will keep the shadows and highlight areas separate from each other. Higher values gradually blend the shadow and highlight areas together. With a value of 100 the shadows and highlights will both be affected by the controls from the Shadows and Highlight (or Selected and Back) tab sheets. Non-zero values are only recommended for images that have soft brightness graduations. This type of image looks better if shadows and highlights aren't corrected separately.

For the Contrast Mask and Brightness Mask methods you should try keep the Range slider in the middle of the value range, e.g. at 50. Higher or lower values usually have an adverse effect on the correction.

 

Shift

The Shift slider lets you shrink the shadow areas and enlarge the highlight area in the mask. It can be used to reduce halos or to adjust the size of the shadows and highlight areas. A value of 100 will remove the shadows areas from the mask.

 

Anti-Halo

As the name says the Anti-Halo slider is mainly intended for removing halos. A value of 1 already has quite some effect. Values above 50 aren't really recommended, as they can weaken the correction.

 

Radius

The Radius slider smoothens the transition between shadow and highlight areas. Its maximum value changes from image to image, because it is set according to the size of the image. Too high values will blend the shadow and highlight areas too much. Too low values can produce hard edges. The Radius slider also determines the size of halos along high contrast borders in the image. Nevertheless, it is recommended to lower its values. It is usually better to use the Shift or Anti-Halo sliders. Using a very high radius value may also make halos less visible.

Lower Radius values are recommended for images with small and contrasty details. However, too high Radius values can sometimes make a correction look unnatural. So you often have to choose the best compromise when setting the Radius value.

 

Color Filter

The Color Filter slider lets you choose the color which shall be excluded from the shadows and added to the highlights. If you want to add image areas with a certain color to the shadows, you have to select the antagonistic color with the Color Filter slider. For Red that would be Cyan, for Green it would be Magenta, for Blue it would be Yellow and vice versa.