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Adjustment layers are a nondestructive way to make adjustments in Photoshop. You can see that we have an Adjustments panel dedicated to them, and each one of these little icons is a different Adjustment layer. As we roll over the icon, we can either see a tool tip if we hover, or you'll notice that the name changes right up here. So I don't want you to be confused with the adjustments that are found under the Image menu. When you select Image>Adjustments, although a lot of the same names and the same adjustments are listed here, these are going to be permanent changes.
So, for example, if I decide to do something like change the levels in my image, and I'll explain what this dialog box does in a minute, but any change that I make here, when I click OK, the pixels in my image have been changed. The only way to get back to where they were before is either to select Undo right now, Cmd+ or Ctrl+Z or revert the file. So it's a very destructive way of editing, and I prefer to use the Adjustment layers because then I can always change my mind later.
Not only can I change my mind, I can toggle them on and off, so I can make them visible or hide them, I can decrease their strength, I can mask them, and I can even blend them with other layers. So I'm going to add an Adjustment layer using the Adjustment panel and we'll choose the Levels Adjustment. Now, the Level Adjustment looks very similar to the histogram in Adobe Camera RAW, and in fact they are one and the same, and that this histogram right here is a visual representation of all of the pixel values in the image.
The darker values are on the left, and it goes to the lighter values on the right. So I can immediately tell that this image does not have pixels that covers the entire dynamic range. There are no true black pixels in this image, and there are no true white pixels in this image. If I want to extend the dynamic range of the image, I click on the triangle and move it to the right until it's just under where that first pixel shows up on the histogram. Then, I can do the same thing for my white point. I'll click-and-drag until that little slider is right underneath the first pixel in my image.
There's an additional slider in the center. This will change the Gamma of the image. If I move it to the left, my whole image gets lighter. If I move it to the right, the image gets darker. You can see that by just making that small change in Levels, the image is really popping because we've got a bigger dynamic range, and we've added contrast to our image. In fact, let's toggle on and off this adjustment layer by clicking on the Eye Icon next to the Adjustment layer in the Layers panel. Now, if I were to save out this image, if I were to revisit it tomorrow or the next day or next week, I can always come back in here and make additional changes.
So let's say for example that I feel that I've made the image too dark. If I double-click on the Adjustment layer icon, that will automatically display my Properties panel. Now, I can make my adjustment by moving the slider to the left to lighten it up a bit. I'll click on the Properties Tab in order to automatically hide that panel. There are other things that I can change about this Adjustment layer. For example, I could back off on the Opacity a little bit if I thought it was too strong. I could change the Blend modes which we talked about in another video, or I could paint in the mask so that the adjustment only occurs or is only visible in part of the image.
And if I decide at any point in time that I don't like the adjustment, all I need to do is select that layer in the Layers panel, tap the Delete key to delete it. So you can see that Adjustment layers, because they're nondestructive, and because you can go back and re-edit them at any time, they are much, much more powerful than using the destructive edits underneath the Image>Adjustments menu. So we'll stay away from here, and instead, we'll use our Adjustment panel.
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