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Some of the most common adjustments to lighting and color can be applied either as a direct adjustment from the Enhance menu at the top of the Expert Edit workspace, or as an Adjustment Layer. I strongly suggest that you use an Adjustment Layers whenever you have a choice, because they're so flexible and they're nondestructive of the original photo. To show you what I mean, I've opened my Layers panel by clicking the Layers button in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. And here I have an image with two layers--the gray building is on the top layer, the brown building on the bottom layer.
I'd like to brighten and increase the contrast of the content of both layers, so I'll select the gray building layer, and I'm going to add an Adjustment Layer above that layer. To do that, I'll go up to the Create Adjustment Layer icon here at the top of the Layers panel, I'll click, and I'll move down to the brand of Adjustment Layer that I want. In this case I'm going to choose a simple Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer. That does two things: it creates a new Adjustment Layer above whichever layer was selected in Layers panel--in this case at the top of the layer stack--and, it opens the Adjustment panel to the controls for that kind of adjustment.
This is a floating panel, so if it's covering a part of my image, I can click on its title bar and move it to wherever I want it on my screen. Right now my Adjustment Layer isn't doing anything to the image. I'd like to brighten the image and increase the contrast, which means to increase the difference between the bright and dark areas, which often gives a photo more punch. So I'll drag this Brightness slider over to the right and I'll drag the Contrast slider over to the right too. Notice that that change is affecting both the gray building on its layer and the brown building on its layer, because by default an Adjustment Layer affects the content of all layers beneath it in the layer stack.
One of the major advantages of using an Adjustment Layer like this over a direct adjustment is that an Adjustment Layer is not destructive of the content of other layers. So whatever changes I make in this adjustment layer don't directly change the pixels in the gray building layer or the brown building layer below. And you can see if I make the Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment Layer invisible for a moment by clicking its eye icon, that those two layers are just as they were at the beginning. They haven't been directly changed by my Adjustment Layer, which I'm going to turn back on by clicking its eye icon again.
Another advantage of Adjustment Layers is that they're re-editable, which is not true of direct adjustments. So let's say that I close the Brightness/Contrast controls and I've selected another layer, I'm doing something else on it, and then I decide I really think this image is too bright now; I want to change the brightness. I can always go back and select my Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer, and then go to the left-most thumbnail the Layer thumbnail, and double-click that thumbnail. And that will reopen the panel with the Brightness/Contrast controls, and I can tweak those to taste.
I can reaccess the Adjustment Layer controls like this even after I close the image and reopen it, but--and this is important--as long as I saved it in a format that retains layers. That means in the PSD format or in the TIFF format, but not in the JPEG format or the PNG or GIF formats, because JPEG, PNG and GIF formats flatten all the layers in a file, so the Adjustment Layers would no longer be accessible. Adjustment Layers are more flexible than direct adjustments in other ways too. For example, I could get a before and after view of my adjustment by going to the Adjustment Layer and turning its eye icon on and off as you've seen me do.
Or, with an Adjustment Layer, I can reduce the strength of an adjustment I've made by selecting the Adjustment Layer and going up to the Opacity field at the top of the Layers panel and clicking on the Opacity layer and dragging over to the left. Now I mentioned that by default an Adjustment Layer affects the content of all layers below it, but like any layer I can move an Adjustment Layer up or down in the Layers panel and that will change which layers it's affecting. So if I click and drag the Brightness/ Contrast Adjustment Layer beneath the gray building layer, now my adjustment is not affecting the gray building because its layer is above the adjustment layer.
The Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer is just affecting the brown building on the layer below. And if I drag the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer back up to the top of the stack, it will again affect both layers below it in the layer stack. I can also limit the effect of an Adjustment Layer to a particular layer by using the clipping icon at the bottom of the Adjustment panel, which is down here. So with my Adjustment Layer selected in the Layers panel I'm going to click this clipping icon--and you can see the clipping icon now on the Adjustment Layer as well--and this means that my adjustment is affecting just the gray building layer right below it.
It is no longer affecting the brown building layer too. If I would like that adjustment to affect the brown building also, then I'll remove the clipping icon by going back down to be Adjustment panel and clicking the clipping icon again. I can also limit the content affected by an Adjustment Layer by painting on the layer mask that comes with every Adjustment Layer, and I'll show you how to do that in the later movie in this chapter. That should give you a taste of the power of flexible, re-editable, nondestructive Adjustment Layers. In the next movies I'm going to show you how to use some specific kinds of Adjustment Layers to control the color and the lighting in a photograph.
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