Guest article by Joel Wolfson

Beyond Realism: From Real to Surreal in 10 StepsAbout the author: Joel is published internationally and his roster of notable clients include Newsweek, Elle, Seventeen, Houghton Mifflin, and corporate clients such as Apple, AT&T, 3M, United Airlines and Pillsbury. His technical articles on digital imaging have been translated for use in more than 30 countries. Yet he is best known for his artistic images and unexpected views of everyday places around the globe.

Normally I go to great lengths to capture and present my subject as I saw it. This approach is based on realism when communicating the experience; whether the awe of a beautiful landscape, the intrigue of ancient architecture, or conveying the essence of a person in a portrait.

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GUIDE (1)Sure, you can apply a preset or photo effect to your entire image, but why would you want to do that? There are certain instances when applying an effect globally will only hurt the image rather than make it better.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to apply a blemish removal filter found in Topaz Clean to the entire image. If you own a copy of Photoshop, there is a valuable tool you must start using now if you haven’t already. This feature is called layer masks.

In his book, The Digital Photographer’s New Guide to Photoshop Plug-Ins, author Scott Stulberg refers to layer masks as the “best kept secret in Photoshop.” By using layer masks with plugins, you are granted more control in the editing process as you can selectively apply adjustments to your image, while leaving other areas untouched.

So are you ready to have complete control in your editing workflow? Whether new or experienced with layer masks, read on for some tricks on how to use layer masking with plugins.

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