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Thread: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

  1. #1

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    Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Hello,
    I have a question which might sound basic for many, but I’m blocked here, grateful if somebody brings me some light:
    What is the advantage of using layers in processing parts of a photo in PSE (PS)?
    Let’s say you want to apply some simple adjustments (sharpening, etc) on what you consider subject of your photo, then you want other adjustments on the background (blur, etc). First, you must select the subject – the most time consuming part. Then, you must apply adjustments - and you can do it in 2 ways:

    1: apply adjustments on selected subject, then inverse selection and apply the other adjustments on the background,

    or

    2: create 2 different layers (“subject” and ”background”), apply different adjustments to each of the layers, then (probably) “collapse” the layers and obtain the final picture.

    Finally: what is the advantage of the second method (using layers) over the first (inverse selection), as the second – layers - is the most complicated of the two?

    Thanks in advance,
    Gabriel

  2. #2
    dje's Avatar
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    Dave Ellis

    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Hi Gabriel

    Everyone has their own preferences with PS workflow but I prefer to use adjustment layers irrespective of whether I'm working on the whole image or a selection. This is simply because it gives me a record of what I have done and the option of changing these settings at a later date if I decide to do further editing on the image. Note however that this is only possible if you save the "unflattened" file as a PSD. I prefer to save as a PSD anyway because with this approach you are avoiding an extra jpeg compression every time you re-edit. It takes more space on your hard drive of course but space is cheap these days.

    Cheers Dave

  3. #3
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Hi Gabriel! If you are doing as one-shot adjustment and not going back then for me, either method is effective.

    Owing to the flexibility, I prefer to use multiple Adjustment Layers for different parts of the image so I can go back after I see how all the adustments fit together. Often I go back to fine tune multiple adjustments. I also usually treat sky, background, foreground, and subject (and sometimes more) separately. Does that help?

  4. #4

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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    In many instances, it depends on how much you have to refine the layer you are inverting. If it is a tight edit, I tend to work with multiple layers, refining each edge as needed then combining at the end, but only after I have feathered and futzed with each layer so the edits appear seamless.

    There is another method I occasionally use when I have a clearly defined selection area and that is to define the area, then do a control J to copy that selection to a new layer. This allows me to work each layer but only as two layers and not a background, then two additional layers atop that..the less layering the smaller the file. This tends to work best with object with very defined edges - boxes, walls, etc.

    I really think it comes down to what you are most comfortable with...

  5. #5
    The Blue Boy's Avatar
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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Hi Gabriel,

    Not entirely sure as to what you are trying to achieve so I'll hazard a few guesses; Are you trying to get more of a blurred background around a subject? Lighten a foreground? Darken a sky? Give us a clue?

    There are so many advantages to layers that there are books on the subject.

    Duplicate layers. Work on them. If you mess up, bin it. Same with adjustment layers. And selections copied to new layers and so on and so forth.

    Now, you mention selections and inverse selections. I'd advise that you look into how to create masks. Far easier and quicker.

    But again, having no idea of what you're trying to achieve mate, it's hard to give advice. Stick an image up and we'll try to help.

  6. #6
    PhotomanJohn's Avatar
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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Gabriel - I agree making selections sometimes can be a pain but gets better with practice and some of the tools like selecting by color and such. Most of the time when I want to do something selectively to one part of the photo and not another I use a soft paint brush to enable the edit in the area I want it (painting white on a black mask). It's quick and allows to blend the affects in as you want.

    John

  7. #7

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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Thank you for the answers.

    I was referring to various adjustments to the background – blurring, lightning or darkening, then some opposite processing for the main subject, such as colors adjustment, micro contrast, sharpening (eventually on selective areas of the subject). I use to apply the adjustments is successive operations on the main picture by playing with selections and inverse selections wit no use of layers (I call it “barbarian” method) and I’m trying to assess what the more sophisticated method with layers can bring within the process.

    I understand that layers give more flexibility, more freedom to create and also offer a way to store the adjustments for a later undo, change or further processing, if needed; by contras, directly editing on selections on the original (no layers) appears to be more time effective for faster processing, but at the expense sacrificing the topics listed as advantages for layers.

    I also took the idea of masks – I have no clue what is it about, I’ll test it (hope it exists in PP Elements).

    Gabriel

  8. #8
    dje's Avatar
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    Re: Photoshop: layers vs. inverse selections

    Gabriel masks do exist in Elements. There are various ways to set them up and I suggest you do a Google search to find tutorials on this.

    Actually if you do a selection on the main layer and then create an adjustment layer above this, you automatically create a layer mask which resticts your adjustments to the selection shown in the mask. Make sure that the Layers palette is selected under Window so that you can see what is happening with the layers and can select different layers.

    Cheers Dave

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