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Lesson 4. Fixing Exposure Problems > Project 3: Using adjustment layers to edit...

Project 3: Using adjustment layers to edit images

If you reopened one of the files from the previous project that used the Adjust Lighting submenu, you’d see that the values you entered in those dialog boxes no longer appeared. Instead, the starting point of the options would have shifted, so you could only guess at how to undo those and get back to your original starting point. This change took place as soon as you clicked OK in those dialog boxes, before you closed the file.

Sometimes that won’t do. Sometimes, you need to go back and tweak your settings after the first adjustment, or even during a much later work session. Adjustment layers are a way of applying changes to layers that you can edit in a later work session.

Creating adjustment layers for lighting

In this project, you’ll use a badly underexposed photograph of some flowering plants. It’s hard to imagine that this picture could ever be useful, but Photoshop Elements can rescue many an otherwise hopelessly bad picture.

Before you begin, make sure that Photoshop Elements is open in Standard Edit mode and that the Layers palette is available in the Palette Bin.

1.
Using the File Browser (File > Browse Folders), find and open the 04_03.jpg file. Or, switch to Organizer, find the only file with both the Lesson 4 and Project 3 tags; then click Edit () on the shortcuts bar and choose Go To Standard Edit.

2.
Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast, or click Create Adjustment Layer () on the Layers palette and choose Brightness/Contrast on the pop-up menu.

If a New Layer dialog box appears, click OK to accept the default name, Brightness/Contrast 1.

3.
In the Brightness/Contrast dialog box, drag the sliders so that Brightness is 60 and Contrast is 30, and then click OK.

4.
Repeat Step 2, but this time choose Levels (instead of Brightness/Contrast), so that the new layer will automatically be named Levels 1.

5.
In the Levels dialog box, drag the black, white, and gray arrows that are under the graph to the left or right until the balance of dark and light areas looks right to you. (Our example uses values of 30, 1.2, and 155.)

6.
Click OK to close the Levels dialog box.

The beauty of adjustment layers is that you can revert to earlier settings, even in later work sessions, as long as you save the file in Photoshop (PSD) format (the default). For example, if you double-click the Layer thumbnail for the Brightness/Contrast 1 layer, your original settings (+60 and +30) still appear in the Brightness/Contrast dialog box.

Ultimately, you can revert to the original, uncorrected image by either hiding or deleting the adjustment layers.

Applying an adjustment layer to a limited area

Although the adjustment layers do a fine job of bringing out the colors and details of the dark original, the orange-colored blossoms are now so vivid that they border on the garish. You’ll see how you can compensate for this by adding a new adjustment layer that addresses color rather than lighting.

1.
In the toolbox, select the Magic Wand tool (). In the tool options bar, type 48 for Tolerance, and make sure that New Selection () and Contiguous are selected.

2.
Click one of the two extremely bright blossoms in the upper area of the image. A selection marquee appears around most of the flower.

3.
In the tool options bar, select Add To Selection ().

4.
Click the second bright blossom to add it to the selection. If necessary, click again to add any unselected patches of color within the two blossom areas.

5.
Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Click OK to accept the default name, Hue/Saturation 1. (You’ll notice that the selection marquee disappears in the image window, but don’t worry, because it’s already done its job.)

6.
Leave the Hue setting unchanged, but drag the Saturation slider to -20 and the Lightness setting to +5. Adjust the sliders again, if needed, and then click OK.



Notice that the changes affect only the two selected blossoms, not the rest of the picture.

7.
Choose File > Save. In the Save As dialog box, save the file in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder, and name the file 04_02_Work.psd, accepting Photoshop (PSD) as the Format. If Save In Version Set With Original is selected, be sure to deselect it before you click Save.

Even at its best, you probably wouldn’t choose to hang this picture in your living room. But it does demonstrate both the flexibility and the dramatic improvements you can apply and use with Photoshop Elements 3.0.

For complex selections, you can usekeyboard shortcuts with selection tools instead of tool options bar icons to temporarily switch between New, Add, or Subtract selection modes. Hold down Shift to add or Alt to subtract as you click or drag the selection tool.



Comparing results of adjustment layers and auto fixes

You’re almost finished with this project.

1.
Using the File Browser, open the Autofix_04_03.jpg file in the Lessons\My CIB Work folder. Then close the File Browser.

This is one of the files you fixed by applying the Auto Fix options at the beginning of the lesson. (See “Getting started” on page 138 if you have not done that procedure.)

2.
Choose Window > Images > Tile to arrange the files in the work area.

3.
Examine each image and decide which one you prefer.

4.
Choose File > Close All.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully completed another project.

In this project, you’ve experienced the power and versatility of adjustment layers. You’ve learned how to alter lighting and color settings in a way that is 100% reversible, even after you save and close the PSD file.

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