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Photoshop - Perfecting your image, layer by layer

Jul 23, 2008
To capture a perfect image, a photographer needs to understand the delicate balance between the light conditions, the precise amount of exposure that his image needs and also the precise lenses and filters which will deliver him the final, flawless photograph. However, it so happens that despite these measures, the image does not always figure the way you imagined it to be. Re-shooting the image is not a very viable option, given the large investments in terms of time and money the process calls for. And hence we are lead to the art of editing. A device widely used by conventional and digital photographers, alike, editing software allows you to rework your image until you achieve the exact results you were aiming for. And as time and technology have advanced, many new kinds of software have been developed, of which Adobe Photoshop is undoubtedly one of the most prominent names.

Despite all the benefits that editing software has to offer, many photographers refrain from using this tool for anything more than a few basic touchups, for fear of compromising on the image quality. Adobe Photoshop does away with this challenge as it does not burn your changes onto the original image, like many other editing tools, but allows you to work on your image without altering your image itself. This remarkable feature is attained by the use of Layers, which, like transparencies, divide your image into different parts, each of which is overlaid on a layer. These layers, when stacked together, recreate the original image. Thus you can work on only specific parts of your image without altering the appearance of the remainder, as your effects will be limited to the specific layer you choose to apply them to.

This allows you to modify only specific parts of the image, where you can correct overexposure by building density and modifying the color until the anomaly is barely distinguishable. And if the final result is not quite what you imagined it to be, you can undo your effects in parts, stopping just where you want to instead of having to delete all you efforts away and then start right where you began. This is because, when you work with layers, you are not embedding the effects on the complete image, but only modifying the part which appears on the specific layer. The Multiple Undo option lets your imagination break free, as you can toy around as much as you like and stick with only the effects which augment your image.

If you make a complete mess of the image you are working on, don't panic! Photoshop lets you undo all the changes you have made and redo your image, after having learnt from the experience all this, without an iota of damage to the image quality. You can even pause to analyze the overall appeal of your image, even while you are working on it by simply turning off the visibility of the layer you are working on and then turn it back on, when you are ready to get back to work.

Photoshop lets you choose between two alternatives when it comes to creating your personalized layers. You can either start at the Layer Menu and choose an adjustment layer from the New Adjustment layer Sub-Menu or click on the Layer Palette icon which enables you to choose a layer adjustment type from the pop up menu. To save on time and effort in future, you can even save the layer adjustments to apply them on further images in future without having to worry about if you'll achieve the same results.

Labeling your layers with distinct names is also helpful as you can distinguish between layers and switch to and fro without any confusion. To name the layer you are working on, double click on the Layer, and enter the moniker you've chosen in the name field and then click on OK to save your preference. To make your task easier, you can also hide all the other layers except for the one you are working on, while will also help you focus better by clicking on the eye icon next to the layers you're not using. To bring them back on, click on the eye icon again and proceed to the next layer. This makes your task a lot easier and more organized, thus saving you a lot of time and patience.

You may also inundate yourself with more layers than you can handle in which case, you can easily deleted the unwanted ones, without disturbing the others that you need. You can even select a combination of layers and merge them together by choosing the Merge layers Option in the Layer Menu. As any Photoshop expert will tell you, if there's one tool you need to master when you learn Photoshop and make the most of it, it has got to be layers. So wait no further get to work on that image which you've always wanted to work on, but didn't for fear of ruining it you can never tell just what you might unmask!
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