Don’t de­stroy it, edit it

Ge­orge Cairns shows how to tweak an im­age with­out al­ter­ing the orig­i­nal file

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

Make changes to a JPEG in El­e­ments with­out de­stroy­ing your orig­i­nal file by us­ing ad­just­ment lay­ers

Pho­to­shop El­e­ments’ im­age ad­just­ing tools and com­mands are great for over­com­ing prob­lems caused by your cam­era. This is just as well be­cause most pho­tos ben­e­fit from post-pro­duc­tion tweak­ing to im­prove colour and tone – a cam­era isn’t as adept at deal­ing with high­con­trast sit­u­a­tions as the hu­man eye.

For ex­am­ple, when shoot­ing a land­scape your cam­era may strug­gle to get a bal­anced ex­po­sure due to the con­trast between the bright sky and the ground. Its auto me­ter­ing mode may set the aper­ture and shut­ter speed to cap­ture de­tail in the darker ground, but this will cause the high­lights in the sky to over-ex­pose and lose de­tail. On the other hand, if the cam­era tries to cap­ture bright sky de­tail, it can turn the land­scape into an un­der-ex­posed sil­hou­ette.

You could use a grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity fil­ter in this sort of sit­u­a­tion, but if you don’t have one you can fix the shot later. El­e­ments’ main menu has a handy En­hance sec­tion that gives you ac­cess to tone-tweak­ing tools such as the Lev­els com­mand. Th­ese com­mands can do a good job of claw­ing back miss­ing shadow de­tail. How­ever, once you’ve changed the colours and tones of an im­age then

you’re stuck with the re­sults, es­pe­cially if you re­place the orig­i­nal file with the edited ver­sion when you save it.

For­tu­nately, you can ap­ply many of the main menu com­mands as ad­just­ment lay­ers. Th­ese im­age-edit­ing lay­ers float above the orig­i­nal photo layer in the Lay­ers panel. Ad­just­ment lay­ers are very ver­sa­tile. You can make changes to them, then turn them on and off to com­pare the edited shot with the orig­i­nal.

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