Layers of Goodness

I was asked “why do we still need (Photoshop/Lightroom) if we have (Lightroom/Photoshop)?”  The bottom line is that while both are incredibly powerful software tools, they really have very different uses.  There are some definite overlaps, but the programs are really designed to be complementary, and fully integrated into your workflow. As a reminder Lightroom (LR) is first and foremost a tool for photographers.  It helps you manage your images, and non-destructively edit and print them. LR always has a complete record of your image and what you have done to it. Photoshop (PS) is a full-featured pixel based imagery program.  You can create graphics, add text, manipulate and combine images.  PS will let you completely destroy your original image and, if you are not careful, you will lose all trace of the original.  It does provide you a complete range of compositional tools, creative effects and exceptionally precise control over every single element of your finished image.

This blog is the first of a series on some of the features that help make PS so powerful and to many, so confusing.  The basic structure of Photoshop is based on the concept of layers.  Layers are stacks of information that, when seen from the viewer’s perspective, reveals the final image.  As the creator, you have control over what information is on each layer, how the layer interacts with the ones above and below it.  You can make the layers fully transparent or fully opaque; add textures, and you can choose to hide or mask parts within each layer.

The layers palate keeps track and allows you to navigate among them all.  As you create new layers, it is a really good practice to take the time and name them.  Just double click on the  text to the right of the layer icon and give it a good descriptive name.  Believe me it is much easier to find the “facial skin tones adjustments” layer than it is trying to remember was that on Layer 15 or Layer 17, especially, when it might me weeks or months later when you come back to it.

One of the most important keyboard shortcuts to remember is the “Create New Layer”.  Use Ctrl-j or Command-j for a Mac.   Well, that is enough to get us off to a good start.