Textures and overlays are a great tool for adding oomph to a photo, hiding distractions, and even adding atmospheric effects.  You can get much more out of your textures if you know how to modify them to suit your needs.

My daughter was being a real champ at posing a couple of weeks ago, and I got this shot of her pondering the big blue sky.  Or maybe she was thinking about the cookie I bribed her with.  Regardless, I got this shot:

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This is one of those shots where you just can’t capture the blue sky and get good exposure on your subject’s face.  I underexposed her face just a bit, thinking it might help get just a bit of blue, but I would have had to underexpose a lot more to make that work.

Usually, I don’t mind blown out sky in situations like this, but this time, I decided to repair it in Photoshop Elements.

To begin the edit, I added a levels adjustment layer with midtones moved over to 1.31 to correct the underexposed face.  And I moved blacks up to 19 to remove some of the haze.

Next, I added a texture called Sky from Kaleidoscope’s Eternal Collection.  It looked about right with an opacity of 50% and blend mode of Darker Color.

Why Darker Color?  In this blend mode, the texture only is visible where it is darker than the underlying colors.  That means it shows up over the blown-out sky, but blends nicely with the trees and my cutie.

To finish modifying this texture, I used the gradient tool to gradually mask out the texture in the upper right corner where the sun is.  It wouldn’t have looked normal for this big bright spot to have a blue tint, and I wanted the sky to look natural.

The real sky appears lighter near the sun and darkens as you look away.  I used the gradient tool to replicate that effect on the texture.  I also masked out some blue that was spilling over into hot spots on her face.
At this point, the photo looks like this:

Not bad, but the color of the sky isn’t quite right for this photo.  So I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above it.  I wanted to change the hue of the blue in the sky without altering the hue of my daughter or the trees.  So I clipped this Hue/Sat layer to the texture layer.

To clip a layer, highlight the upper layer (Hue/Saturation in this case) and type Control or Command G.  Or, you can hover your mouse on the line between the 2 layers to be clipped together, hold down your alt or option key, and click the mouse when the cursor changes to a chain link.

You’ll know when you’ve successfully clipped a layer to the one below it because it will have an arrow on its left side pointing down to the arrow below it.  See the screen shot of my layers palette below.

Now that Hue/Sat is clipped to the texture, when I adjust the Hue slider it only affects the Hue of that layer.  I moved the Hue slider to the right until I got a deeper blue in the sky.


Now the photo looks like this, and I’m happy.
And here is my final layers palette:


So these are the modifications to consider when using textures:

Would you like some homework to practice this?  Go find some textures. (Kaleidoscope is a great source, or you might find free ones on Flickr.)  Practice modifying this texture in Photoshop Elements until it’s perfect for your photo.  And enjoy!