I'm a strong advocate for taking a non-destructive approach to optimizing your images in Photoshop. And when it comes to adjustments, changing the appearance of a photo, that largely means Adjustment Layers. Let's take a moment to review the basic use of Adjustment Layers in Photoshop. An Adjustment Layer contains instructions on how an image should be adjusted in terms of its appearance. I'll go ahead, for example, and add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Don't worry about what exactly I'm doing at the moment. Just realize that I'm changing the appearance of my photo. Not in a very appetizing way in this case, but a change, nevertheless. I've changed the photo, but I haven't actually changed the pixel values. If you take a look at the thumbnail for my Background Image layer. You'll see that I still have orange carrots with green tops. But I've added a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. That Adjustment Layer contains instructions about how to change the appearance of the image.
Specifically, you can see on the Properties panel, I've shifted the hue. This allows me to retain maximum flexibility and actually helps improve image quality. Because I'm not applying Cumulative Adjustmnets to my images. If I ever change my mind I can go back and alter my adjustment, and I can also remove the adjustment altogether, and there are a couple ways that I might approach that. One is to simply turn off the visibility of that Adjustment Layer. If I click on the Eye icon to the left of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment, the effect of that adjustment is turned off. I can no longer see the adjustment.
This allows me to get a Before and After view with the adjustment versus without. And then I can make a decision as to whether I like the adjustment or perhaps need to refine the adjustment. I'll go ahead and leave the adjustment turned on for the moment. And perhaps, I'll explore a different Hue Adjustment. But ultimately, let's assume I decide that this adjustment just isn't working. It's not something I need to do for this image. So, I want to get rid of the adjustment all together. To do that, I can simply drag my Adjustment Layer down to the trash can at the bottom of the Layers panel. That will remove the adjustment altogether.
Well, that gives us a sense of Adjustment Layers in general concept, but let's take a look at how we would actually approach our workflow in the context of Adjustment Layers. On the Adjustments panel, you'll find a variety of different adjustments available to you. These include Brightness, Contrast, Levels, Curves, and others. You can click on one of these buttons in order to add an Adjustment Layer. That will then take us to the Properties panel, and the Properties panel is where we'll find all of our adjustment settings. So if I have the Vibrance Adjustment layer selected, if it wasn't, I could just click on its thumbnail. Then I can adjust the Vibrance and Saturation sliders in this case. Each adjustment, of course, will have its own specific controls. And you can see that I can increase or decrease the overall saturation using Vibrance or the Saturation slider, which has a little bit of a stronger affect. On the Properties panel itself, I can also disable the Visibility of an adjustment.
And I can also Undo. So, let's assume that I had increased saturation a little bit too much, I can reset my controls for this adjustment by clicking the Reset button. That enables me to get back to square one and I can fine-tune my adjustments from there. As you can see, the basic process of working with adjustments is rather straightforward. We add an Adjustment Layer and we adjust the settings for that Adjustment Layer. At any time, we can turn the adjustment Off or On, and we can of course, go back to an adjustment to refine the settings that we've applied for that adjustment.
I encourage you to get familiar with the overall use of Adjustment Layers and to employ them whenever you want to change the appearance of your photos.
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