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This is a really exciting chapter. It's all about how to correct your photos in Elements' Full Edit Workspace. In many of the movies in this chapter, I will be showing you how to apply various kinds of Adjustment layers. In this movie, I would like to explain what Adjustment layers are and why they are preferable to making direct adjustments on a photo. Notice in the Layers panel that I have two layers in this image. I have a photo on the top layer. I will hold down the Option key and click on the Eye icon on that layer to show you the content of the photo layer. And then I will hold the Option key and click on the Eye icon to the left of the frame layer to show you what's on that layer, the blue frame around the photo.
I will Option-Click that Eye icon on the frame layer one more time to bring back the photo layer. Now, I want to adjust the photo on the photo layer, making it a little brighter. I could do that directly on the photo layer by selecting the photo layer in the Layers panel and then going up to the Enhance menu, down to Adjust Lighting, and choosing one of the lighting commands here. I will try Brightness/Contrast. Here in the Brightness/Contrast dialog box, I might drag the Brightness slider over to the right to brighten up the entire photo, and then click OK.
But if I do it that way, I have made a permanent change to the photo, and that's something that I generally try to avoid. Instead of making permanent adjustments to image layers, I like to practice what's called nondestructive editing, where the photo or other image layers stay in their initial state and all corrections are done in a way that doesn't permanently alter the photo. A big part of a nondestructive editing workflow is to use Adjustment layers rather than direct adjustments, as I just did on this photo layer.
So I am going to undo by pressing Command+Z on my keyboard and the photo goes back to being a little bit dark. I can apply the same sort of adjustment, a Brightness/Contrast adjustment as an Adjustment layer, and here's how to do it. First, I will select the photo layer and then I will go down to the bottom of the Layers panel, and I am going to click this black and white circle icon to bring up a menu of Adjustment layers. One of those is Brightness/Contrast. I am going to select the Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment layer, but basically these other Adjustment layers work the same way.
That does two things. First, it adds a new Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment layer above the selected photo layer, and I will be making my changes to Brightness and Contrast in a separate Adjustment layer, and the changes will affect everything on both layers below, but they won't permanently change the pixels on the photo layer as the direct adjustment did. The other thing that adding this Adjustment layer did is that it opened the Adjustments panel, where I can make changes to Brightness and Contrast for this Adjustment layer.
So down here I am going to take the Brightness slider and drag to the right. I get an immediate preview in my image, so I can just place it where I think it should be subjectively looking at the document over here. Now that I have an Adjustment layer there, I want to tell you about the benefits of using an Adjustment layer. You have already heard about the first one, which is that an Adjustment layer is nondestructive of the actual image layer. Because this adjustment is on a separate layer, I could lower the Opacity of the Adjustment layer without affecting the image itself.
I could change the Blend mode of the Adjustment layer, which affects the way the adjustment blends with the photo. I am actually going to put that back to Normal. I could turn the adjustment on and off temporarily by clicking the Eye icon to the left of the layer. In other words, I could do almost everything to this Adjustment layer that I could do to a regular layer. If I decide I don't like the adjustment anymore, I can always delete the Adjustment layer by dragging it down to the Trash icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, like this.
I am going to put that Adjustment layer back on by going back to the Adjustment layer icon and again choosing Brightness/ Contrast, and in the Adjustments panel, dragging the Brightness slider to the right to increase brightness. So that's the first advantage of using an Adjustment layer. The second advantage is that at any time I can come back in and modify this adjustment. It's permanently editable as long as I save the file in a format like the .psd or Photoshop document format that honors layers. So even after I have saved and closed this file, and I reopen it, and let's say I am working on another layer, I can always reedit the Adjustment layer by going back and selecting it, and in the Adjustments panel tweaking the controls.
So I might use the Contrast slider to increase the contrast in the image a little too. By the way, contrast is the difference between the shadows and the highlights in an image, and a little boost to contrast often makes an image look better. The third reason to use an Adjustment layer as opposed to a direct adjustment is that every Adjustment layer comes with its own layer Mask, and I can use this layer Mask to hide the adjustment from some parts of the image. So in this case I think that most of the image looks great, but this bright area in the background is too bright and is drawing the viewer's eyes to a part of the image that's not important.
So I am going to hide the brightness increase and the contrast increase from this area by going over to the toolbar and selecting the Brush tool. Then I will take a look at my foreground and background colors. When I have the layer Mask on the Brightness/Contrast layer highlighted, as I currently do, the only colors that I will see in the foreground and background color boxes are black, white, or shades of gray, because a layer Mask is a grayscale item inherently. If black is not my foreground color, the quick way to get black as the foreground color is to press the D key on my keyboard for the default colors of white and black, and then the X key on my keyboard to switch those colors, so black is in the foreground.
Then I will move into the image. I am going to make my brush a little bit bigger by clicking the Right Bracket key on my keyboard. I will hold the Shift key and click the Left Bracket key on my keyboard, as you have heard me say before, to make the brush softer, and then I am going to paint with black in this area. Now, I am not painting directly on the image. I am painting on the layer Mask, hiding the brightness adjustment, and that's having the effect of putting this whole area back to its original brightness, which is darker than it is after the adjustment. Now, I see that I included a little bit of the stands here, and I didn't mean to do that, so this is another nice thing about using a layer Mask.
I can just paint back in this area with white to add the brightening adjustment back in right here. To do that, I will switch my foreground and background colors by pressing X on my keyboard, and then I will go back into the image. I am going to make this brush a little harder, so it doesn't have this soft edge, by holding the Shift key and pressing the Right Bracket key, and then I am going to paint over that area on the layer Mask with white. Now, let's take a look at the layer Mask. I am going to hold down the Option key and click on the layer Mask on the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer, so that you can see that where the layer Mask is white, the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment is enabled.
It's making the image brighter. Where the layer Mask is black, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is hidden. It's not affecting the layers below. And where there is some gray around the edges of that black, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is partially affecting the layers below. I am going to hold the Option key and click again on the layer Mask. I want to mention one more thing about an Adjustment layer like this. By default an Adjustment layer affects all of the layers below it in the layers panel, but I can limit the effect of the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer to just the photo layer beneath it.
The way to do that is to clip those two layers together. In Elements 8, the way to clip layers together is to select the topmost layer and then to go down to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and click this icon, the Clip icon. Now the frame is no longer brightened and more contrasty, but the photo is. The effect of the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer is limited to the photo layer only. You can see the signs that these two layers are clipped together. The Brightness/Contrast layer now has this bent arrow on the left, and the photo layer has an underline under the name of the layer, both indications that these are layers that are clipped together.
With the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer selected, there are a couple of other icons to show you at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. The second icon from the left, the Eye icon, is just like an Eye icon on the Layers panel. If I click that, it turns the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer off temporarily, making it invisible, and so you see no effect on the photo layer in the document window. I will click that icon again to make the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer visible once again. Finally, there is a Trashcan here at the bottom of the Adjustments panel that I can use to delete the selected Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer if I want to.
But I am not going to do that. I am going to leave things as they are. So that's a general look at how to apply an Adjustment layer and why to apply an Adjustment layer as opposed to a direct adjustment, because an Adjustment layer is nondestructive of the image layers beneath it, because it always can be reedited if you save the file in a format that retains layers, and because you can make use of the layer Mask that comes with every Adjustment layer to limit the area affected by an Adjustment layer. And finally, you can limit the layers that are affected by an Adjustment layer by clipping layers together.
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