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Often when you're shooting landscapes, you'll end up with a photo like this that looks good in one area, but that needs an adjustment in another. Here I'm happy with the exposure of the sky. There is lots of beautiful detail in these clouds. But I think the foreground looks kind of dull, and it really needs some more contrast. So I'll use a Levels adjustment layer to add contrast to the foreground. I'm going to show you how you can limit that adjustment so it doesn't affect the sky part of this image. To do that, I'll go up to the Create Adjustment Layer icon at the top of the Layers panel, and I'll choose Levels.
That adds a new Levels Adjustment Layer, and it opens the Levels controls. As I showed you in an earlier movie about using a Levels Adjustment layer, I can increase contrast by setting a new black point, and a new white point. I'm going to take the Blacks slider, and I'm going to drag it in under this mound of black pixels. I'll take the Whites Slider, and I'll do the same thing. Then, I might adjust the midpoint by dragging that slightly over to the left to lighten the photo. I really like what that's doing in the foreground of the photo.
But look what's happened to the clouds. I've now lost all that beautiful detail in the brightest parts of the clouds. So let's limit this adjustment to just the foreground of the image. I can close my Levels dialog box, and I'm going to come up to the Levels Adjustment Layer. I'll make sure that I have the white layer mask on that layer surrounded in blue-- which means that it's highlighted-- and I'm going to add black paint to this layer mask to hide part of the adjustment from the image. There are three ways to add black paint here. I could go over to the toolbox, get the Brush tool, make sure that my foreground color is set to black, and then start painting on the Layer Mask.
And wherever I'm painting on the layer mask with black paint, I'm hiding my Levels Adjustment. That would work well if I just had a small area to cover, but I want to cover the whole sky here. So, I'm looking for a faster method. I can see that there is a good edge between the sky and the mountains, so I'm going to try to select the sky and then fill the selected area with black on this layer mask. I'll get the Quick Selection tool from the Toolbox. I'll come into the image, and I'm just going to click-and-drag over the sky. I can see that I've included a bit of the mountains in the selection too.
So as I showed you how to do in an earlier movie about the Quick Selection tool, I'll go down to the options for the Quick Selection tool at the bottom of the workspace, and I'll choose Subtract from Selection. And then I'll come in and run my cursor over the areas that I want to subtract from the initial selection. If I go too far and mistakenly remove part of the sky from the selection, I'll go back to the Add to Selection option, and I'll paint the selection back over that area of sky. Now that I have the sky selected, I'll make sure that I still have the Layer Mask on the Levels Adjustment Layer selected, and I'll fill that selection with black by going up to the Edit Menu, and choosing Fill Selection.
In the Fill Layer dialog box that opens, I'll go to the Use Menu, and I'm going to use Black and click OK. Now, if you take a look at that Layer Mask, you can see that it's filled in with black in the area of the selection. And that black paint on the Layer Mask is hiding my Levels Adjustment from the sky. So now the only part of the image that's being affected by that Levels Adjustment is the foreground. I'm going to press Ctrl+D on my keyboard-- that's Command+D on a Mac keyboard--to deselect, and there is the resulting image.
To compare a before and after view, I'll click the eye icon on the Levels Adjustment Layer. So that's where I started, and that's where I am now with just the foreground adjusted. Now there is one more way to add black paint to a Layer Mask like this. If I wanted to soften the edge between the part of the adjustment that's applied in the part that's hidden, I could use a Black to White Gradient. To show you that, I'll undo: pressing Ctrl+Z--Command+Z on the Mac-- several times until I no longer have a selection in the sky.
Now my Layer Mask will look white. This time, I'm going to go to the toolbox and get the Gradient tool. I'll make sure that the Foreground color box is set to black, and the background color box to white in the toolbar. Then I'll take a look at the options for the Gradient tool. I should see a Black to White Gradient here in this Gradient field in the options. If you don't see that, then click inside of the Gradient, and that will open the Gradient Editor, and choose this first preset, the Foreground to Background preset, and click OK. Now I'm going to come into the image, and starting at the top, I'm going to drag down to add a Black to White Gradient to the Layer Mask on the Levels Adjustment Layer.
If I don't like the result, I can just draw that again. This time maybe I'll drag the line longer. The height and the direction of the line that I draw determines where this adjustment is going to be hidden, and where it's going to appear in the image. Just to show you what the gradient looks like on that Layer Mask, I'm going to hold the Alt key--that's the Option key on the Mac--and that will reveal the gradient here in the document window. So where the gradient is black I'm hiding my Levels Adjustment, and then the Levels Adjustment is gradually appearing until it's completely displayed down here in the area of the mountains.
I'll Alt or Option+Click again on that Layer Mask thumbnail to bring us back to the original view of the image. So, that's how you can use the Layer Mask that comes with every adjustment layer to limit the part of a photo to which an adjustment is applied.
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