Adjustment Layers, the Backbone of my Photoshop Editing (Part 1)

By Zack Schnepf

This is an introduction to my Adjustment Layers series.  Adjustment layers are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop for enhancing your photos.  When used in conjunction with their masks, adjustment layers can be used to make targeted adjustments that can enhance one area of an image and not another.  I use this technique with virtually every image I process and find it one of the most invaluable techniques.

In the old days of Photoshop these did not exist, you had to make adjustments to the image layer itself and they were baked in, meaning you couldn’t edit them after the fact, or not very easily anyway.  With adjustment layers you can re-edit the adjustment at anytime, even if you save, close, and re-open it at a later time.  CS4 has made it even easier by adding an adjustments palette that lets you edit and create new adjustment layers easily.

Adjustment layers are incredibly versatile, you can stack a huge number of them on top of each other turning many subtle adjustments into one dramatic effect.  Whether I’m combining exposures, applying luminosity masks, or any other complicated Photoshop technique, I’ll always end up using adjustment layers in the process.  They are the backbone of my Photoshop editing.

You can see the dramatic effect adjustment layers had on this image.  This was the only technique I used on this image.  I’ll go into detail on how I used adjustment layers to enhance this image later in this series.

Before adjustment layers

After a series of adjustment layers


~ by photocascadia on March 3, 2010.

2 Responses to “Adjustment Layers, the Backbone of my Photoshop Editing (Part 1)”

  1. Very interesting, Zach – I look forward to the continuation of this series.

  2. Agree with Ned, looking forward to the series.

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