Mastering Adjustment Layers – A Photographer’s Guide
In Photoshop, adjustment layers allow you to make nondestructive edits. They’re much more flexible than standard layer edits, as you can tweak them after implementation.
Learn how to use this powerful tool in your photography workflow! From product to landscape, portraits to food photography, master adjustment layers for rich, detailed edits.
Black & White
Every time you click on a photo effect, it affects your photograph’s appearance, including black and white. It can impact shape, structure, and tone and may even change your photograph’s overall mood or atmosphere.
Knowing how to manipulate these non-colors can make the difference between a picture with a lot going on and one that speaks to the viewer. Black-and-white photography can convey universal themes in a way that color images cannot, and it is especially well-suited for subjects like portraits and still lifes.
An excellent black-and-white photo requires a greater emphasis on composition to convey the image’s message without distraction. Learning from Meg Bitton how light reflects off shapes and how that translates to the range of tones in grayscale will help you compose stronger black-and-white photographs. Then, you can create a style that transcends trends and keeps your work relevant for years.
Hue is the primary color that your photograph starts as. Moving the hue slider in a clockwise direction will change the colors in your picture to ones closer to that color on the wheel, like red turning into yellow and then green. A counterclockwise motion will cause the colors to move away from that color toward blues and violets.
Saturation (also called intensity, chroma, and purity) determines how pure or vivid the hue is. Vivid primary colors are highly saturated, while pastels are unsaturated. Saturation is also affected by the other colors surrounding it. For example, a saturated yellow next to a dark gray will appear duller than if it were next to a light green.
Finally, lightness or luminosity is how light or dark a specific color is. Dragging the Lightness slider up increases the luminosity; dragging it down decreases it. Combining all three sliders will create your image’s overall look and feel.
When working with images, you must manipulate the brightness and color of individual pixels. Luckily, the curves tool is one of the most influential and interactive ways to do this.
Curves are a graph with a diagonal line and black and white points. Moving the points gives you minute control over pixel brightness and color.
Dragging a point on the curve makes things brighter, and dragging it down makes them darker. You can also add multiple control points to the curve, making tweaking specific tonal areas possible.
Another cool feature is the ability to work in layers, which allows you to make changes and re-edit them later. You can also use an image mask to apply the adjustments to specific areas of your picture selectively. You can even invert the layer mask (press Ctrl+i) to hide any adjustments completely. This is a great way to preserve the original photograph and apply only the desired effects.
A level is a device used to establish true vertical or true horizontal. It consists of a sealed glass tube containing alcohol or some other liquid and a bubble in the center; the device is fixed horizontally to a base, which can be adjusted until the bubble centers between two guidelines drawn on the body’s surface.
The levels tool moves and stretches the location of complete black, white, and mid tones on an image’s histogram. It’s best to avoid performing levels on a color histogram, as it can easily lead to posterization (making the image appear too bright or dark).
Levels should be employed only when necessary to represent tones in an image properly. Also, excessive use of the levels tool can cause images to become “flat” and unappealing. It’s best to keep this tool in your arsenal for situations requiring minimal adjustment, such as when photographing subjects in fog, haze, or very soft light.