In your Digital Toolbox column (Save Those JPEGS, March 2007) you describe a way to adjust certain areas of a photo. You say "paint the mask." Nowhere do you describe how to do that! I am brand new to Photoshop and am trying to demystify it. I think you pros all think we novices know as much as you do!
I tried just doing things hoping the mask would "paint itself" and I could figure out what I did. No luck. Please describe in detail how to get the mask painted so I can proceed.
Sorry to hear that you got confused. I certainly don't expect you to know as much as me, though some of my columns are aimed at users who've been working with Photoshop for a little while, and aren't completely new at it. Nonetheless, I think I can help you.
You are probably on the right track, but you just can't see the mask working because the change you made to your image in step 2 is fairly subtle. To really see your mask working, start again at step 2, but make it extreme. Pull that curve down until your image looks really ugly and very different from the way it looked to begin with. Then proceed according to the steps, and see if the masking idea makes a little more sense.
Remember, a mask isn't something you can see, it's more like a window on top of your adjustment layer. Once you've filled the mask with black (as you did in step 4) you won't be able to see the changes that you made in your adjustment layer (steps 1 & 2).
Think of filling the mask with black (step 4) as covering that window with invisible dirt. Since you only want to see the changes in some spots, use some window cleaner (aka brushed-on white) to reveal them (step 6). As long as your mask is selected and you paint onto your image with white, it's like you're wiping away the dirt and letting your changes shine through. The way you'll be able to see it working is that you'll notice that where you paint with white, your image looks different -- it looks the way it did after step 2.
Good luck, and I hope that helps,