Photo & Video > Photoshop > Curves And Levels > Adjustments Verses Adjustment Layers In Photoshop

Adjustments verses Adjustment Layers in Photoshop


Curves and Levels


Lesson Info

Adjustments verses Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

So this class is called curves and levels or levels and curves money how you like to say it and when I discussed with the powers that be a topic here I said you know to be honest with you I don't really use curves as much as I used to or levels for that matter because of things like light room and camera raw so we're going to talk about levels and curves we're also going to talk like we I mean you know me I'm going to talk about levels and curves and where camera fits in the picture certainly could do it enlightened as well but camera happens to have a nice connection directly to photo shop so the answer that most people are excuse me the question most people ask is which one should I use and the answer really is it depends it depends on which one you like what you're comfortable with, what you're trying to achieve and what kind of level of control you want levels is probably the one most will start with because it's very capable but it's a little easier to understand and curves a litt...

le more challenging and camera part of reasons my favorite is because there's more options all of which are very intuitive so if you're one of those people that's completely brand new to photo shop and making adjustments camera is actually a really great place to start because it's probably the most intuitive of any of the methods to make a justice the bottom line is there's nothing wrong with using any of them so there's no wrong answer to say, well, I'm using level should I not be that's perfectly fine, so you'll hear different opinions people say we should use curves well, no, you should use whatever you feel comfortable with and what gives you the result that you want the one thing I would say is, regardless of which choice you make levels or curves there's no question in my mind that one thing that doesn't change is you should not be accessing them from this menu here, and if you see my other sessions you that will not is not news to you because the worry I have when you use these adjustments under here is you're making a permanent adjustment that you may not be able to change your mind later or keep working on it, and I always want the opportunity to go back and revisit some think where at the moment that I made that adjustment, it might have made perfect sense. But now that I've done twenty more steps, I might want to go back say maybe I made a little too dark and I'd like that opportunity go backwards the problem with all of these is a soon as you make an adjustment and click ok that's now the new image now of course you could undo it right away or what some people do is they duplicate the background layer and work on a copy, which is it's better, but it still means you just end up with a layer that you can't go back and change. So for example, if I save this right now and I didn't have any other copy of this image that's my new photograph and I might love it at this moment in time but later on if I think oh, I wish I had well, it's kind of late now could you potentially recover it? Maybe with a lot of effort is just doesn't work very well, so the more that you do this and I'm going to keep doing bad things that you wouldn't normally do just to make a point if I keep going to levels and I'm just pressing the keyboard shortcut commander control hell to get to levels that hissed a gram that you see ideally should be a nice little hill in the middle and the lower it gets or that eventually you'll see spread out little lines that means you've done so much damage that there really is no going back on the on ly way of going back in this case would be I can revert to the way it was when I first started, but again, if I closed and save this, I'm done so I don't want to take that chance I don't wantto ever feel like I've painted myself into a corner that I can't get out of and as I talked about one of my other classes on good likeness was called break bad habits but was really about having good habits one of them is work non destructively because it gives you many many benefits not the least of which is be able to go back later and change your mind or refine your work or repurpose it so you've done an adjustment layer on one image you want to use another one you can so you have a couple of choices here I as a habit because we are creatures of habit I still go down to this bottom menu which is where all the adjustment layers live there also is a separate one which I have to go find where it is because I don't use it but that's because I didn't have it showing so here there is little icons that air the same is going down to that pop up menu so you'll see me going down to this menu I could also use these I will say one nice change every so often adobe makes a change which is a real help when this one first came out see how when I'm hovering over each icon the name changes in the first version didn't do that so you just kind of go the what's that for this one it was a crown await notes levels so now at least there's little things so you know which one they are, but again I don't tend to use though just out of habit, but you certainly could so when you do add adjustment here here's, what happens? I have my layers panel set up so that as soon as I add adjustment here, the properties panel appears immediately above it and that way I can see it the bottom what I'm doing is adding adjustment right above my background layer but then right above that is my levels of justin player and just to compare the difference if I went back to the one under this menu adjustments and levels you'll see it's a much bigger dialogue box it if you try and move it as far as you can there's a good chance you're still going to cover up part of your image so the reason I don't like using this anymore two reasons one is it just kind of obtrusive and gets in the way and it's annoying but more importantly is I saw a moment ago so as I clicked ok, I'm making a decision that I have to pretty much live with and that to me is just a dangerous road to go down, so I'd much rather use this approach it's exactly the same dialog box just smaller and off to the side so, you know, you'll always see your entire image, and this applies to any adjustment layer, not just levels, it always show up in this properties panel and give you all the controls, but the difference is when I make that over adjustment, there's no, ok button for me to say, make this permanent, it just means, really, that you're leaving at this way. So if I collapse the properties panel, it looks like if you just look at the image, it looks like I've made a significant change, but in the layers panel, you're still seeing background, image adjusting player, so that means I can turn it on or off. Just compare the difference, and aiken double click on it to remind myself what setting said, I used to see how it didn't redraw the history, graham I just said, this is where you left the sliders. So that's, why across the board, anything we talk about, we're going to use adjustment layers versus things under the image adjustment menu, whether it's levels or curves in this discussion or any other adjustment layer the on ly exceptions to that would be, for example, if I scanned in an old photo, I was going to restore, and it just was something wrong with it? And I knew I was never going to be remotely have a chance reverting back to the original image in a case like that. Frankly, I might use levels right on the image itself, but, you know, even though I say that, I probably wouldn't I probably would still use and justin leonard, just because that little voice in my head is like, do you really want to do that? You know, so, uh, the good news about these justin harris's, you can add multiples of the same one, so if you wanted to do levels for the sky and then levels for the grass and levels for the tree, you could do that by combining the adjustment layer itself and the mask that comes with it. We'll talk about that as we go along here, but just to give you an idea here, throw this away for one second just to make a comparison previous to adjust in layers, if I wanted to adjust on lee the grass as an example, what I would have had to do is take some selection tool and select that area. And then when I pressed the shortcut for levels which has decided see, it doesn't even want me to do it because it's saying no, you can't do it because of a program marriages, because it's really telling you should really do it that way, but if I could get it to work, you would see that it would on leah just that one area that's how people used to do it now what we do instead is I can still make that selection and use a levels adjustment layer. And now, as you'll see, when I start to make the difference, see how it's on ly affecting the bottom area that's because when you start with a selection, it automatically turns that selection to amass that tells that on ly adjust this particular area so this way I could now say, well, you know what? Now that I've done that let's, do this, make it into a selection and let me clarify what I did there. So when I made my selection, I added the a just layer which created the layer mask as soon as you have a layer mask and photoshopped that really is a selection shown in a different way, so if I want to re select the same area, I hold down commander, control key and click on the layer masking it loads it as a selection. Now if I jews select inverse is going to select the opposite area, so now I could add a different second level's adjustment for that area and make whatever kind of adjustment I wanted there, so that's quite common is to look and see that well you've got two levels of justin layers why would you do that? Because I'm adjusting to different areas because sometimes you look at a photograph and you do say yes overall I just need to adjust this image because it's pretty close to what I want but I find quite often you also then look a little deeper go left you some selective editing where just this role of trees here I'd like to have a little more detail in the mid tones or whatever it might be so if you think in that manner of being able to add multiple adjustment layers and then to determining which area that adjust players affecting by making a selection and or mask that means I guess the other way the alternate way looking at is compared to the alternative which is trying to in one shot where would be almost impossible because the adjustment layer is going toe by nature affect the entire layer so if you're trying to affect the sky and the grass differently how is that even possible with one adjustment it isn't it would adjust the global photographed so some photographs you will be able to adjust globally others you have to do this kind of and we'll look at some other examples as we go for now I'm going to just go back without anything selected delete the layer mask and make an adjustment so with levels the way that we work with that there's a couple of different options. The reason many people like levels is because it gives you feedback and that's the history. Graham when you open curves the first time all you get is a diagonal line and one of my colleagues just say it's, almost like I dare you start moving things around and see what happens because it's like there's, no indication of what you should do other than you kind of knowing where should I move a curve, whereas the history graham when I opened a history, graham that looks like this, and I see this big gap right here that tells me there's no pixels in this photograph that are as dark as they probably should be. Now you may decide aesthetically that you're okay with that, but ideally, every photograph should have a nice black point and white point in mid tone in it and that's what these three triangles and the numbers equate to is that so if you ever open a photograph and has a big gap but either or both ends, one of the simplest things to do is just move that triangle in. So you start to get almost where the bulk of it starts. You see, I move that it quite far, but if I turn that on or off, you can see it's already made a fairly significant difference because now I've said I have a little more contrast there in this case, I don't have to do anything at the highlight and because you can see there's a big spike there that tells me there's pretty good highlights already. So in the early days of photo shop a lot he would say always move both ends in x amount and I'd say, well, how how do you know that? Because not every photograph unless you're talking about my scanner when we used to scan in our photographs every single time I have this same problem, but with today's cameras, there's a pretty good chance overall, it'll be pretty good and you're just doing some tweaking, so if you open a photograph and you see that it's got this nice bell curve hissed a gram that evenly goes out to both ends, then that's pretty much telling you you're pretty good starting point. You have to do a whole lot so way also have down the bottom output levels and this I don't worry about it as much as I used to before the internet. Yes, there was a day if you remember where we used to do things on paper, not online all the time, I would always talk to my printer because if I had areas on my photographs that were pure white that meant no ink and a printer never wants areas was absolutely no link. They want a little tiny bit of think so that there's full coverage on the paper. So my printer has always tell me, change your output levels two, three and two fifty two so that means at the black it's not one hundred percent pure black and white it's not a harvest and pure wife, but that prince better so it's a habit every time we open a photograph for prints, I would always do that. In fact, I changed my defaults to do that. Now I don't because monitors are very different. Mona's it's perfectly fine to have nice black and nice white point. The only thing you need to be conscious off as my losing detail in those areas if they just suddenly look and there's a big white sky with nothing in it at all, that means that it doesn't look is good unless, again, we have to always measure this with a sense of is that what I was going for or my ok with that? So I'm I want to talk today about kind of guidelines of ways to make improvements, but the underlying theme is you may well have chosen that you really wanted a backlit sky that's pure white does have a lick of color in it at all. That's your choice the history rams going to make it look like while you need to adjust that dramatically but you may choose not to so let's talk about some of the ways different ways we can start to make an adjustment using levels and then we'll talk about kurzem also talked about camera on how they all kind of mixed together so using the history graham is a great idea but as I start to move this triangle in I'm not exactly sure what areas all I know is some of the dark areas are being moved to the point where there's shadows and some areas are being ignored so one of the things that you can do is figure out what pixel areas are really being affected as I move that triangle in and there's a couple of ways of doing it the quickest way is hold down option or ault and keep it held down so I got my thumb holding the option all key as soon as I start to move in this triangle see how the image goes completely white because the history graham has nothing there that means all this part I don't expect to see anything appear as soon as I move a little further then all of a sudden we'll start to see little areas appears to have those areas were sneaking in there those air telling me those the darkest areas of the image that you're now ignoring so for example, in this photograph, I know that that was in the area, the tree lines, and I don't know that I'm really care that there's darker shadows and there but for example, if this was a portrait of someone's face, and as you move that suddenly you were seeing that the first part that appeared was the whole shadow of their face, then you have to side do I really want to make that part so much of a shadow? So that's part of what this is for, what I tend to do with it is pulled it down, drag it into sort of see what it looks like, and then let go and then put it back against that way can kind of see in the context of my color photograph where the areas are that I'm affecting, if I kept moving it, see how if I going further there's now, no detail in that line of trees in the middle at all, and if I held down option, all that would you could see that's exactly what's happening. All of those trees have no details, so you want to be conscious of that and make decisions on a case by case basis to say that, what point am I ok with cutting that? Shadow to the point where and sometimes like in this case I had to move it quite far, but I think it looks okay because the party was affecting with small little details here and there inside the trees and the other part of it is I'm not going to stop there and say, well, now I'm finished that's just sort of the first step is take a look at the shadows you can do the same thing on the highlight end and you can see in this photograph assumes I mean moved the triangle and I'm just hauling down option role that's telling me there's a whole bunch of the sky that's already is white as it can possibly be, so if I move that in which I wouldn't certainly do, I'd be the point where I'm now in effect blowing out the entire sky. So there's hardly any detail on this guy at all, so the history graham is still your best friend because that's, the thing that tells you I already knew without even looking at that using that often all key that there's that spike of information where this is useful is when you have a history ram where it kind of tells off on each end and you feel like you need to move each and a little bit so the middle triangle is the mid tone information, so because I was moving that black point triangle in and I was losing some detail I can potentially get it back if I move the mid tones to the left it's lightening up the mid tone areas which will help out the shadows a little bit. So if we look at the dear friends, see, it looks like there if you look there, there's some dark areas now that weren't there before, but it's, you can still tell their trees it doesn't something look like just some massive called we have no idea what it is, so my belief is that there's a lot of people that want to know every single technical aspect of it functions like levels and curves and where they should clicking everything else to me, it's so dependent on your photograph, you can't lose that you can't lose the fact that as I move the things I want to stop and look at my photograph, turn it off, turn it back on again. I also have a strong belief that if you stare it anything too long, you'll just after a while not be able to make decisions. So I would at a certain point, saying, you know what? I'm not one hundred percent sure I know what I want to do. I'm gonna save. This file is a psd foul, so it keeps that adjustment layer move onto something else and look at it two hours later and see if I with fresh eyes kind of go. Oh, that actually looks ok.

Class Description

What is the best way to adjust your image? In Curves and Levels, Dave Cross will edit images using Levels, Curves, Camera Raw, and Lightroom to demonstrate the differences between each approach.

You’ll look at the advantages of each technique and learn when you should use each method. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how these important techniques work and how to decide which tool to use for the job.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.2.2