Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Introduction to Layers in PhotoDirector 7

The new Layers module is a powerful tool that allows you to do many special editing and compositing with your images. Plus, with the ability to save your project files in PhotoDirector proprietary format, you can make further adjustments and editing. First, let's get a basic understanding of what is a Layer.

Simply put, a Layer is stacking an image on top of another. Each image is like a transparency layer, you can adjust, reposition each image without effecting the others. Consider the following image, it looks like one flat image, but in fact, there are 3 images stacked on top of each other.

 If looking at the images sideways, there is a background layer of the forest and 2 layers (the ballerina and several images of the lamp) on top.

 As you can see, each layer is like a transparency. You can download the PHD file here to try to move around the top layers - the ballerina and the lamp.
Below is a tutorial, how this image is made.

Select a background image, which is the photo of the forest in this tutorial example, then click on the "Layers" Module.

The first image you select is the background layer. Note that the background later is the basic later and it can not be deleted. However, you can choose to preview/hide this layer, or make adjustments by clicking on the icons indicated below.
Next, click on the "Add new Layer" icon, a drop-down menu will appear where you have the option to add an empty layer or a photo layer. In this example, we will add a photo layer. (There will be other tutorials on using the empty layer.)

 A window browser will be opened and here you can select an image to add on top of the background. In this example we will select the image of the lamp.

 The image file of the lamp is in a PNG file format, meaning that the background is removed and transparent. So, we can simply reposition and resize the lamp on top of the background image of the forest.

Now, we will add more lamps by duplicating this layer and using the Move button to reposition and resize the lamp.

Repeat the last step a couple of times to add more lamps to the background.

Next, to add the image of the ballerina, click on the "Add Layer" button.

The ballerina photo was taken in the studio with a black background. Simply change the Blending Mode to "Lighten" and the black background is removed. This is an easy way to blend images together. (There is another detailed tutorial to explain more about the blending modes.) In this scenario, using the "Lighten" mode is the best option to blend the images.

The Lighten mode brings out any pixel in the background that is lighter than the blended image. In this scenario, the black studio background is darker than the forest, hence the studio background is hidden.

It is a good practice to rename layers, so once it becomes a long list, it will be easier to find. You can rename a layer by right-click on the layer or using the "Layer Option" button. In both situations a drop-down menu would appear, select the "Rename Layer" and in this tutorial, I will name it "Ballerina".

The following steps are for refining this image. Firstly, I think the background is too bright and blending into the image of the ballerina. By selecting the background image and clicking on the "Adjust Layer" button, a separate window will appear. This window contains a list of color and tonal adjustments. In this tutorial, I will only dial back the "Exposure" value.

Now that the background is darker to my preference, another problem arises - the ground of the studio is noticeable. Here we can use the brush tool (a small size, lower opacity and dark color brush), to simply brush over the studio ground and her shadows.

Notice how the white balance of the ballerina is too cool. To match with the tungsten lamps, click on the "Adjust Layer", change the temperature to add more warmth.

The lamps are at different distance, the ones in the front would be more clear and sharper than the ones further back. So for each lamp, adjust the "Opacity" value. The further away, the more transparent.

Further adjustments are made for each lamp, by changing its "Exposure" and "Sharpness" values to bring out the distances. Also, I moved the two lamps on the right side to enhance the composition.
When the work is done, you can save your project into PHI format, this is a PhotoDirector format that lets you revisit your work to make further adjustments. The PHI format will also be automatically imported into your library.

In the Adjustment Module, you can make further global or regional adjustment. But for this image, I think it looks good as is.

 And the final image:

If you are new to PhotoDirector, learn more and download a 30-day free trial here. For technical support, contact

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