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In Photoshop Elements 9 Essential Training, Jan Kabili highlights the key features of this comprehensive image organization and photo enhancement application. She shows how to correct and enhance photographs, and how to organize a growing collection of digital photos. The course also explains how to use photos in creative projects like photo books, calendars, and greeting cards, and how to share work online and in print. Exercise files accompany the course.
The best way to correct the lighting or the color of a photo is to do that with an adjustment layer rather than a direct adjustment, and the reason is that an adjustment layer does not directly change a photo, and an adjustment layer can be edited at any time. So, I strongly recommend adjustment layers over the kind of direct adjustment that you can apply from the Enhance menu down here in the Adjust Lighting or the Adjust Color menus. Some of the corrections that you'll find in these menus alternatively can be applied as adjustment layers.
Those include a Brightness/Contrast adjustment, a Levels adjustment, and the Hue/Saturation adjustment. In this case, I'm going to apply a Brightness/Contrast adjustment. So, I'm going to exit out of these menus, and instead, I'm going to come over to the panels on the right. I know that I need more room to work here so I'm going to close the Effects and Content panel group by clicking the panel menu on that group and choosing Close Tab Group, and that gives me more room for my layers panel. I have three layers in this file.
The left layer contains that dark photograph on the left, the right layer has the adjusted photograph on the right, and then there's a background layer. So, it's the photo on the left layer that I want to adjust. I'll make sure that I have the left layer selected, so that the adjustment layer that I'm about to create will come into the layer stack above this layer. Then to apply an adjustment layer, I'll go to the bottom of the layers panel and I'll click on the black and white circle icon. That brings up a menu of fill layers in this section, and adjustment layers in the next three sections.
I'm going to choose the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer; that did several things. Up in the layers panel, it added this Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer above the layer that I had selected. An adjustment layer has two icons on it. It has the Adjustment icon on the left and then it has a layer Mask icon on the right, which I'll explain in the next movie. When I added this adjustment layer, a new panel opened, the Adjustments panel. Here, I can find the controls for whatever kind of adjustment layer I've applied; in this case, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer.
I'd like to increase Brightness, so I'll click on the Brightness slider in the Adjustments panel and I'm going to drag it over to the right. You can see in the Document Window that this adjustment has affected all of the layers in the image. It's brightened not only the photo on the left, but also the photo on the right and the background. That's because by default, an adjustment layer will affect all of the layers beneath it. Sometimes that's just what I want, but in this case, I want to limit this Brightness/Contrast adjustment to adjust the photo on the left layer.
Here's how I can do that. I'll make sure I have my Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer selected in the layers panel and then I'll go down to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and I'm going to click on the first icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. This is the clipping icon. When I click there, the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer has been clipped to the layer just below it, the left layer, and there are a couple of signals here that let me know that. First of all, I can see that in the image, because now the only part of the image that I've lightened is the photo on the left.
And in the layers panel, there is a curved arrow on the adjustment layer meaning that I have clipped the adjustment layer to another layer and the layer name on the left layer now has an underline, meaning that it's the layer to which the adjustment layer has been clipped. One of the advantages of using an adjustment layer is that I can come back to an adjustment layer at any time and make changes to it. That's true even if I save the image and close it and then reopen it, as long as I've saved in a format that retains layers, like the Photoshop document format .PSD or the TIF format.
But remember that a JPEG flattens all the layers. So if I save in JPEG format, I won't be able to come back in and tweak an adjustment layer. But now, I can make a change to this adjustment layer. So, let's pretend that I've gone ahead and done something else to the image, maybe I've selected the right layer and then gotten the Burn tool from the toolbar, and I've come in and made a change over here in the photo on the right. And then I take a look at the photo on the left and I decide that it needs more of an adjustment to brightness and to contrast.
I can come back and click on the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer in the layers panel and that brings back the controls for this specific adjustment layer, and then I could tweak the Brightness slider and the Contrast slider as well. I'm going to increase the Contrast in order to give some more punch to that photo on the left. This also gives me the opportunity to show you some more icons down at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. We already took a look at the first one, the clipping icon. The next icon there is a visibility icon.
With the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer selected in the layers panel, if I click this visibility icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel, the adjustment layer becomes invisible, and you can see that it no longer has an eye icon to the left of it. And the effect of the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer is now invisible in the image, so the photo on the left is dark again. If I click that visibility icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel again, I'll see the effects of my adjustment layer and there is an eye icon to the left of the adjustment layer in the layers panel again.
So, by toggling this visibility icon on and off, I can get a before and an after view to compare how the image looks with the adjustment. The next icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel is a preview icon. If I click-and-hold that icon, I can see how the image looked before I made this last set of adjustments, where I came in and tweaked the Brightness and added a Contrast adjustment. So, this is how the image looked with my first Brightness adjustment, and if I release my mouse, I see how it looks with my latest Brightness and Contrast adjustments.
The next icon doesn't just preview; it actually resets the sliders in the Adjustments panel. Right now, it's showing just half of a red arrow. When it's set like that, if I click once on this reset icon, that resets the last thing that I did, and you may remember that that was to increase the Contrast slider. Well, that's now been reset back to its default of 0. But the rest of the adjustments that I made haven't been affected. And now the Reset icon has changed to show a full-curved symbol.
So, if I click it now, I go all the way back to the beginning before I had made any Brightness or Contrast adjustments. If I want to bring back my latest Brightness and Contrast adjustments, I'll have to go up to the Application bar and click the Undo button there, and that undoes that reset. And finally, there is a Trash icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. If I click this, it will totally delete my adjustment layer, something I don't want to do right now. Another way to delete the adjustment layer would be to select it in the layers panel and click the Trash icon at the bottom of the layers panel.
But I want to leave that adjustment layer here for now, because I want to show you a couple more things about it. Another advantage of using an adjustment layer is that it acts like other kinds of layers. So, I can reduce the Opacity of the adjustment layer, which will reduce its effect or its strength by going to the layer Opacity field here and dragging to the left, or dragging back to the right to put its Opacity back to 100. I also can change the Blend mode of an adjustment layer just like I can change the Blend mode of any layer.
So, I might click here and choose the Multiply Blend mode, which darkens the effect of this adjustment layer. I'll put that back to Normal for now. By the way, these Blend modes are formulas that affect the way that the content of one layer is blended with the content of the layers below. So that's an overview of how adjustment layers work. They really are the most flexible way to correct the color or lighting of an image. They're nondestructive of the original photo, they can be reedited at any time, and every adjustment layer comes with its own layer mask, which you can use to limit the area that's affected by that adjustment as I'm going to show you in the very next movie.
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