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Improving photos with adjustment layers

From: Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11

Video: Improving photos with adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are special kinds of layers that contain instructions about how an image should look. When you want to correct a photo in the Expert Edit workspace, I suggest you do that with Adjustment layers. Let me show you what Adjustment layers are and how you can use them in the Expert Edit workspace, on this image, which I'll select in the Organizer and bring into the Editor by clicking the Editor icon in the Organizer. Here in the Expert Edit workspace in the Layers panel, you can see that there is only one layer in this photo, the Background layer. I'd like to adjust this photo, making it a little bit lighter.

Improving photos with adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are special kinds of layers that contain instructions about how an image should look. When you want to correct a photo in the Expert Edit workspace, I suggest you do that with Adjustment layers. Let me show you what Adjustment layers are and how you can use them in the Expert Edit workspace, on this image, which I'll select in the Organizer and bring into the Editor by clicking the Editor icon in the Organizer. Here in the Expert Edit workspace in the Layers panel, you can see that there is only one layer in this photo, the Background layer. I'd like to adjust this photo, making it a little bit lighter.

Now I could do that directly on the Background layer by going up to the Enhance menu, going down to Adjust Lighting and choosing a Brightness/Contrast adjustment. But if I did that, I would be changing the pixels on the photo itself. So instead of that I'm going to add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. To do that, I'll go to the top of the Layers panel and I'll click this icon with the black and white circle and from the menu that appears, I'll choose the Brightness/Contrast flavor of adjustment layer. That caused two things to happen. Notice that there's now a brand-new layer above the Background photo layer, that layer is a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer.

That also opened the Adjustments panel to the Brightness/Contrast controls. Right now this adjustment layer isn't doing anything to the photo; it's just floating there above the actual photo layer. But, if I come into the Adjustments panel and I drag the Brightness slider to the right, you can see a change in the photo here in the document window. That's because an Adjustment layer affects the content of all the layers below it, in this case just this single Background layer. And what I really like is that this Adjustment layer is changing the photo without actually changing any pixels on that Background layer.

I am going to close the Adjustments panel now to show you another nice thing about Adjustment layers and that is that you can go back and reopen the Adjustments panel at any time to tweak an Adjustment layer. So let's say I had another layer selected like the Background layer and I was doing something else here and then I decided that I think that this adjustment is too light. I can go back to this Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment layer and double-click the layer thumbnail, the icon on the left side of this Adjustment layer. And when I do that, it reopens the Brightness/Contrast controls and I can tweak them.

So maybe I'll lower the amount of the Brightness adjustment a bit. And then I can close the Adjustments panel again. And I can come back and do that as many times as I like even after I've closed and saved the image as long as I saved it in a format that retains layers like the PSD or Photoshop document format. By the way, if you save an image as a JPEG, that will flatten the layers so you no longer be able to access individual Adjustment layers. You can have more than one Adjustment layer on an image. So let's say I'd like to make another adjustment here, I'd like to adjust the intensity of the color in this image.

To do that, I'll go back up to the top of the Layers panel, I'll click the Adjustment layer icon again and this time I'll choose a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. That adds a second Adjustment layer here at the top of the Layers panel and it opens the Adjustments panel, this time with the Hue/Saturation controls. If I'd like to desaturate the image, make the colors less intense, I'll go to the Saturation slider and I'll drag it to the left. I can impact the saturation of specific colors by going to this channel menu and choosing one of the colors here.

There's a lot of yellow in the foreground of this image so I'll choose the Yellows channel and let's say I want to make the Yellows more saturated, I'll drag the Saturation slider to the right and you can see the grass getting more saturated in the photo. I am going to close the Hue/ Saturation controls in the Adjustments panel by clicking this X on the panel. One more advantage of Adjustment layers is that each one comes with a layer mask that you can use to limit the area that's affected by an adjustment. For example, if I select the Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment layer that I added, I can use this icon which represents the layer mask on this adjustment layer to hide the brightness adjustment from the sky, because I think that Brightness adjustment is blowing out some of these gorgeous clouds.

To do that, I'm going to get the Brush tool in the toolbar, I'll make sure that the foreground color in the toolbox is black and I'll make sure that the layer Mask icon on the Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment layer is selected. And I am going to paint on this layer mask with black paint. Now I am not painting on the photo itself, I am painting on the layer mask. And when you add black paint to a layer mask, that hides whatever is on that layer. What is on this layer, the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment, and so I'm hiding that adjustment where I've painted with black on this layer mask.

I'll show you the layer mask by holding the Alt key--that's the Option key on the Mac--and clicking on that layer Mask icon. So where I've added black paint here, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is hidden or not effective. And where I've left the layer mask white, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is effective. In between, there is a little bit of gray from the soft edge of my brush and in that area the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is partially showing through, so that there is a little bit of a gradual edge there rather than an abrupt transition in brightness. I am going to hold the Alt key--the Option key on the Mac--and click again on that layer Mask thumbnail to hide the layer mask.

Now showing and hiding the layer mask is just a teaching tool, it's not something you have to do when you're applying the technique that I'm showing you here. Now apart from the fact that Adjustment layers are re-editable and come with their own layer mask, they really act like regular layers in other ways. So let's say for example I decide I don't like that Hue/Saturation adjustment, I can select the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and then click and drag it up to the Trash icon at the top of the Layers panel and release my mouse and that will delete that layer altogether. So that's a look at Adjustment layers.

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This video is part of

Image for Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11
Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11

39 video lessons · 6308 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 9m 19s
    1. Welcome
      58s
    2. What is Elements?
      2m 36s
    3. Getting acquainted with Elements workspaces
      5m 45s
  2. 19m 37s
    1. Working with catalogs
      4m 22s
    2. Importing and using the exercise files
      3m 41s
    3. Importing photos from your computer
      2m 49s
    4. Importing photos from your camera
      4m 50s
    5. Importing photos from iPhoto (Mac only)
      3m 55s
  3. 11m 9s
    1. Cropping in Photo Fix
      4m 52s
    2. Applying one-click adjustments in Photo Fix
      4m 27s
    3. Fixing red-eye in Photo Fix
      1m 50s
  4. 27m 6s
    1. Working in Quick Edit
      6m 8s
    2. Adjusting lighting
      3m 41s
    3. Adjusting color
      4m 4s
    4. Making selective adjustments
      4m 33s
    5. Retouching with the Healing Brush tools
      4m 53s
    6. Saving edited images
      3m 47s
  5. 8m 46s
    1. Working in Guided Edit
      2m 56s
    2. Correcting skin tones in Guided Edit
      2m 44s
    3. Applying a vignette in Guided Edit
      3m 6s
  6. 32m 46s
    1. Touring the Expert Edit interface
      4m 49s
    2. Working with layers
      8m 55s
    3. Working with selections
      6m 18s
    4. Improving photos with adjustment layers
      5m 37s
    5. Editing automatically with actions
      2m 34s
    6. Adding text
      4m 33s
  7. 36m 37s
    1. Touring the Organizer
      4m 30s
    2. Managing files and folders
      4m 35s
    3. Organizing using People
      8m 43s
    4. Organizing using Places
      5m 1s
    5. Organizing using Events
      3m 28s
    6. Keyword tagging
      4m 12s
    7. Grouping photos into albums
      6m 8s
  8. 10m 1s
    1. Making a photo creation
      7m 39s
    2. Outputting a photo creation
      2m 22s
  9. 11m 6s
    1. Sending photos by email
      4m 49s
    2. Sharing photos to Facebook
      3m 9s
    3. Exporting photos
      3m 8s
  10. 21s
    1. Goodbye
      21s

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