How I Fixed A Filter Problem Using The Lightroom Select Objects Tool

by Jan 19, 2024Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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​How I Fixed A Filter Problem Using Lightroom’s Select Objects Tool

Do you like to use Neutral Density Graduated filters for landscape photography? Have you been frustrated when the filter darkens objects above the horizon, but you don’t want it to? Well, I’ve found an easy fix using the Lightroom Select Objects tool now.

Look at the following example photo.

Example of a problem caused by using filters to darken the sky when photographing the landscape

The unedited RAW file above illustrates a common problem when using Graduated ND filters in landscape photography. We place these filters over the sky to darken it, but the lower part of the filter is clear. While it’s darkened the sky to ensure better exposure of the foreground, look at what it’s done to the rock on the left. It’s now black with no detail.

This is a remarkably common problem when an object cuts above the horizon and into the sky. While capturing multiple exposures and using techniques like exposure blending can correct this, not everyone wants to or knows how.

I don’t mind sharing that I almost didn’t bother taking this shot because of the rock, but then I realised I could fix the problem in Lightroom using the Select Objects tool.

The Lightroom Select Objects Tool

The Select Objects tool is part of the Lightroom Masking tools and was introduced in Lightroom version 12 in October 2022. You will see it when you click the icon for the Masking in the Lightroom Develop module, as shown below.

How to access Lightroom Select Objects in the Masking tools

When you click the Masking icon, which looks like a dotted circle, it displays a set of selection tools to choose from. Click the Objects option to select it.

You should then see a new Mask added in the Masks panel. The Select Object tool’s controls also appear as indicated in the screenshot below.

Activating the Select Objects tool in Lightroom adds a new mask

Here, we can see a new mask in the Masks panel. Notice that this is completely black, indicating nothing has been selected yet. Then, below the histogram, we have two icons we can use to change the Mode of the tool. The left icon is for the brush mode, while the right is for the area mode.

Use the area mode when you can draw a rectangle around the object you want to select, as in this example.

Selecting the Object

With the area mode selected, I can position my mouse pointer to one corner of the object I want to select. Then I click, and while holding the mouse button, drag with the pointer.

You will see a rectangle appear as you drag with the mouse pointer. Release the mouse button when this surrounds the object you want to select.

Lightroom will now evaluate the selected area to identify the object, creating a selection. You will see the selection indicated by a red overlay covering part of the image. The black mask in the Masks panel is also updated to show the selection.

Lightroom has identified the rocks and selected them using the Select Objects tool

Whilst this looks like a great selection, it isn’t. As with most AI selection tools, the selection has a soft edge to it. You can see this in the following screenshot if you look closely. It shows a magnified area of the selected rocks.

The selection has a soft edge which causes a halo when we try to adjust the rocks to make them lighter

If we try to fix the exposure of the selected rocks, this soft edge causes a halo around them.

Fixing the Soft Selection Edge

The problem is caused by the AI model used in Lightroom adding a soft edge. You will also see this problem when using other AI selection tools and it’s this we can use to fix our problem.

If we were now to create a selection of the Sky, you would see the opposite. The sky is selected but has a feathered edge that spills over into the rocks.

The sky selection mask created by the Lightroom Select Sky feature also has a soft edge

We can use this to our advantage by removing it from the selection of the rocks to produce a clean edge.

To do this, click the Subtract button in the Masks panel. This is found below the mask you want to adjust as shown below.

Subtracting a Sky selectionm from the Objects selection

You can then click the Select Sky option, which generates a sky selection. As we have used the Subtract button, the sky selection is removed from the existing mask, cleaning up the feathered edge.

Here’s a comparison to show the difference.

showing the cleaned up mask and the effect of the Exposure adjustment on the rocks

The image on the left shows the soft edge, while the centre image shows the feather removed. The image on the right shows the Exposure adjustment doesn’t produce a halo.

Correcting the Exposure

It’s now time to correct the exposure of the rocks to lighten them. You can do this by moving the Exposure adjustment for the selection to the right. As you do this, try to balance the exposure of the rocks with the lower part of the image.

Here’s the result of my adjustment.

Further adjustment problems that need to be corrected

As you can see, the Exposure problem caused by the filter isn’t entirely fixed. The top part of the rock is still very dark.

An easy way to fix this is to create a selection of the top part of the rocks. This can also be done using the Lightroom Select Objects tool but in the paintbrush mode. You can see the complete process in the following video.

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And here’s the finished image when the editing is complete.


Finished image after editing with the Lightroom Select Objects Tool


The selection and masking tools in Lightroom are now extremely powerful. They can easily be used to apply selective adjustments and fixes to photos in all kinds of situations. To learn more about using them and creating complex masks, see my book Mastering Selections & Masks in Lightroom Classic. It will give you all the tools you need to produce some fantastic editing.

More Lightroom Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Lightroom Tutorials page.

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