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Thread: Really basic intro to layers please

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    Ausphotography Veteran Geoff79's Avatar
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    Really basic intro to layers please

    Hi all,

    I have recently told myself that I really want to learn about layers in Photoshop. After reading a post from Dylan yesterday I had an interesting session adjusting the sky without effecting the foreground and then vice versa. Only problem, is the end result had a massive while line along the horizon, a clear line of separation from sky and foreground.

    I've looked at a heap of tutorials, even a really "basic" one here by Kym but I just don't "get it," still. Steps seem to continuously get taken for granted, leaving me thinking how on earth did all that just happen? lol. I know I must just be really dumb for this not to click, when everyone else seems to use it as an essential of post processing. But is there a tutorial out there which just covers the extreme basics of layers?

    All I really want to be able to do - on seascape shots only at the moment - is adjust the sky and foreground separately, and merge the two together naturally, without a big line across the photo? Is this as hard as it seems to me?

    And the technique I was using was to use two big rectangles to play with sky first and then another rectangle layer foreground. Only problem here was if I darkened the sky, a headland, or top of a rock, for instance, in the distance would be blackened too. Is it easy to create non-straight layers to cater for rocks etc? Or is this just an invite to create haloing?

    Anyway, these are all probably really stupid questions, but if someone could point me to the most basic of basic intro to layers I'd be most appreciative.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Think of layers as overhead transparency sheets (do you remember those..before powerpoint). For this post I will call them OTS

    Your photo is the first sheet you put on the overhead transparency projector. Then you want to say increase saturation, you add another OTS that sits on top of your photo and increases saturation. Then you want to sharpen, you add another OTS on top of the other two, to sharpen your photo. Now you look at your photo and realise the reds are too saturated, so you go to the saturation OTS and erase/modify the red channel (this can be done in a huge variety of ways) to a percentage that makes the reds look good again, You then sit all your OTS back down and you will see the reds look good now.

    That is the basic idea behind layers. Each layer is independant of the others, and can be edited at any time, but each one can affect those 'on top' of it, so by adjusting the red on your saturation OTS, it does not affect the sharpening one, cause its a different OTS editing sheet. But the colours from the saturation OTS come through the sharpening one.

    Some OTS sheets let all the light through, some block out certain aspects/parts of all the sheets below them (layer masking), etc

    Make sense. I hope so!
    Last edited by ricktas; 26-02-2012 at 10:03am.
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    I am the same Geoff - the concept is easy the application of the concept seems harder. I was doing exactly as you have described and getting the same results with the obvious lines etc.

    For me the turning point was understanding layer masks. That is where the real power of layers lies.

    Grab a mag that has an article on layer masks or search online. Once you get the masking right the things that are frustrating you become easier to manage.

    I was amazed what creating a layer mask can do.

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    Geoff,
    I had the same problem with layers (I use PS Elements 9) until I bought a book written by "Scott Kelby" called the Photoshop Elements 9 book. By following the simple steps in his excellent book I have learned how to use Layers and Masks.
    Scott writes guide books for many versions of Photo Shop so look for one that covers the version you use. Being able to work slowly through the steps of using Layers, while reading the book, makes it easy to learn the processes.
    Have fun with your processing and I'm looking forward to seeing your results.
    Cheers
    Darey

    Nikon user, Thick skinned and wanting to improve, genuine C & C welcomed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darey View Post
    Geoff,
    I had the same problem with layers (I use PS Elements 9) until I bought a book written by "Scott Kelby" called the Photoshop Elements 9 book. By following the simple steps in his excellent book I have learned how to use Layers and Masks.
    Scott writes guide books for many versions of Photo Shop so look for one that covers the version you use. Being able to work slowly through the steps of using Layers, while reading the book, makes it easy to learn the processes.
    Have fun with your processing and I'm looking forward to seeing your results.
    Thanks guys. Darey, just bought this book for $33.05 inc. postage, so I'm happy and excited! Thanks mate.

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    Shore Crawler Dylan & Marianne's Avatar
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    Sorry geoff - I think I made too many presumption in that post!
    if you want to separate sky and land with a layer mask try the following (from the original image without any layers)

    1. Click on the RGB channels tab
    2. Select the blue channel only (that seems to be the one I use the most for this ) - it should be a black and white looking picture now
    3. Duplicate the blue channel and have that layer visible only (using the 'eye' logo on the left of the panel)
    4. In the layer, adjust the levels or curves so that there is massive contrast - ie sky is white, land is black as possible
    5. Click B for brush and select the brush mode to overlay instead of normal
    6. Whiten up the sky further and darken the rest of the image using the brush
    7. Once you're happy that you have a sharp demarcation between sky and land , what you see in black and white is effectively going to be your 'layer mask'
    8. Still in the RGB tab, at the bottom, there should be a button which says load channel as selection (or something like that!) - click it
    9. Now go back to the layers tab and create a new levels or curves layer
    10. Make your adjustments and and it should only give its effects to the sky!

    Will try to blog this later on but I hope that gives a reasonable start
    Call me Dylan! www.everlookphotography.com | www.everlookphotography.wordpress.com | www.flickr.com/photos/dmtoh
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    Perpetually Bewildered
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    Geoff, further to Dylan's post maybe check out the links in this earlier post by Xenedis.

    Something else to consider is the "Feather" value when you make a selection (e.g. with the Rectangular Marquee tool). A high feather value will give your selection a more gradual transition at the edge of the selection. While obviously not as accurate as a 'proper' mask, in some situations it is a quick way to get 'good enough' results.


    Cheers.
    Phil.

    Some Nikon stuff. I shoot Mirrorless and Mirrorlessless.


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    Shore Crawler Dylan & Marianne's Avatar
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    thanks for that phil - that was the post I was referring to -
    unfortunately I haven't been able to get Brent's pages to load ! or is it just work computers playing up (I can't get wordpress either here at work)

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    Member napsview's Avatar
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    That's pretty clear. I have been trying to get my thick head around this for a few days.
    Thanks for the step by step approach.

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    Thanks for your great explanation Ricktas. That has helped to make layers make sense.
    Last edited by frogvision; 15-05-2012 at 11:04pm. Reason: forgot name

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    Member fadiya's Avatar
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    just learn about layering, thanks God I find this post, now lets put all of the advises into practice. Thanks all
    Last edited by fadiya; 18-09-2013 at 9:48am.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Hey, Layers? Heck! It took me ages. Don't be surprised if it doesn't fall into place all at one. My ideas are still falling into a heap anyway!!!
    m.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    Hey, Layers? Heck! It took me ages. Don't be surprised if it doesn't fall into place all at one. My ideas are still falling into a heap anyway!!!
    m.
    Layers and Masks will be the biggest advance you make in post-processing.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Warbler, I know what you mean.

    [zorro]m[/zorro]

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