Non-destructive Layers

Non-destructive Layers

This video demonstrates Exposure’s brushing and layering system. It allows for application and control multiple effects at once. If you’re wanting to apply several layers without making trips back through Photoshop, learn how to use Exposure’s brushing and layering.

Photos: Anne Helene Gjelstad

This video will walk you through how to use Exposure’s advanced layering system. Layers are great way to get creative with your edits, and they’re non-destructive, so you can experiment as much as you like.

Think of a layer like a level in your image that contains a particular adjustment. You can stack as many layers as you like, enabling you to blend a theoretically endless amount of adjustments.

Most adjustments in Exposure can be assigned to a layer. This includes presets, basic edits, and special effects. Exposure’s brushing tools enable you to blend them all into your image. Exposure makes it easy to manage multiple layers, and it performs quickly even as you work with multiple layers.

Layers in Exposure

A layer in Exposure is made up of two things: a combination of adjustments and a mask.

Adjustments can be either the settings you make in Exposure’s editing panels or one or more presets that you apply from Exposure’s Presets panel.

Adjustments can affect your entire image, such as applying a preset to the image. Or they can affect selected areas of your image, being brushed on using Exposure’s Brushing panel.

In this image by Norwegian photographer Anne Helene Gjelstad, I have brushed on a Blue and Yellow preset over the leaves to desaturate them, without touching my subject in the center.

The mask determines the areas of the layer that will be affected by your adjustments.

The thumbnail of the mask helps you see which parts of your image your adjustments apply to. Lighter areas indicate the part of your image that is affected by the adjustments on your layer; while darker areas indicate the part that is unaffected. The effect is controlled by the brightness of the mask, with bright areas showing the effect more strongly, and dark areas showing less.

In this image, you can see that I’ve brushed my adjustments onto the leaves.

There’s also a thumbnail on the left, which displays the state of your image at that stage in the editing pipeline, and which displays a list of all your adjustments when you click it.

Each layer has its own Opacity slider. This enables you to blend the intensity of the layer into your image.

Before you begin working with layers, it’s helpful to know that base adjustments like spot healing, crop and rotate, and lens correction cannot be part of a layer. We suggest making these adjustments before you begin applying layers.

Creating Layers in Exposure

Now I’ll create additional layers to blend more adjustments.

First, I’ll enhance the eyes of my subject. I’ll click Add Layer to create a new layer, then click on the mask thumbnail to open Exposure’s Brushing panel. I’ll select Enhance Iris from the dropdown. I’ll adjust my flow and set it at 50 percent. Then I’ll brush the changes into my image. If I need to, I can reduce the opacity of the layer.

Notice that Exposure is smart enough to automatically create a new layer when I selected a new brush preset from the list.

You can disable this behavior by unchecking the on new layer box, but you’ll probably find it more helpful to keep it selected.

Now I want to subtly blur the leaves around my subject. So I’ll select the Blur brush preset.

In the new layer, I’ll adjust the brush settings and brush on the blur around my subject.

For my next layer, I’m going to apply a Kodachrome preset over my entire image. I click Add Layer, then apply the preset.

I’ll use the layer Opacity slider to dial down the effect.

Because I didn’t click on the layer mask thumbnail, and instead selected one of Exposure’s presets from the Presets panel, the adjustment applied to my entire image.

While you can apply different adjustments to your layers at any point in your editing process, it’s best to order your layers as follows: basic adjustments like exposure, contrast, clarity, and saturation at the bottom, then preset or presets, then brushing adjustments, and last grain and overlays like borders or light leaks.

This is because each layer applies its effect to the layers that are below it.

For the final layer I’ll add one last layer and apply a subtle vignette to focus attention on my subject.

Managing Layers in Exposure

Exposure gives you a lot of control with managing layers. Right-clicking on the elements in a layer gives you a series of options specific what you’ve selected: adjustments, mask, or the layer.

For example, I might choose to duplicate a layer and then invert the mask.

This would enable me to adjust just my subject in one layer, then edit everything except my subject in the other layer.

You can toggle layers on or off.

You can also work with layers on multiple images at the same time. You can select multiple images in the grid, and then complete the same types of layering work.

You can also duplicate a layer by dragging it to Add Layer.

Exposure’s History panel is another place to see every adjustment you’ve made, and to roll back your changes to a particular point.

Another great feature with layers is being able to save them as a custom preset. This lets you apply them to other images whenever you want. I’ll go ahead and save these layers as a custom preset.

Notice how Exposure let me choose which adjustments are saved for each layer. So I can save them all or leave out adjustments that are likely to be unique for each image.

Exposure performs quickly even with many layers applied. So you can experiment efficiently with all kinds of edits across multiple layers.