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Chapter 9. The Digital Darkroom: Photogr... > Why Use Adjustment Layers?

Why Use Adjustment Layers?

Whenever you apply a Curves or Levels tweak (or even a Hue/Saturation adjustment) to an image, you're degrading it a little by throwing away some image data. Once that data is gone, you can't get it back. In the digital darkroom, this degradation is no longer an issue because you make edits to layers above the image rather than to the image itself.

If you're a photographer, think of it this way: Your raw image is like a negative that you can print through many different filter pack combinations on many different contrast grades of paper. You can make huge changes from print to print, but the negative itself doesn't change. If the raw image is analogous to a negative, adjustment layers are like enlarger filter packs on steroids. You can change the color balance as you would with a filter pack, but you can also change the contrast and do local, selective editing akin to dodging and burning. However, unlike their analog counterparts, you can always undo digital dodging and burning.


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