Using a Check Layer for Retouching in Shadows or Highlight Areas

When retouching your images, are you using a check layer to see what might not be seen in the shadows and the highlight areas of the photo? If not, you may be overlooking some areas that need work.

In this video, automotive photographer Andrew Link shares how he uses a check layer or helper layer in his work. In one of his speed edit videos, a few people questioned the purpose of a layer he adds that gives his image a weird effect. This "cheater layer" as Link calls it, is an "M" curved layer which he uses to help see into the dark shadows or the highlights of the image to see what needs to be corrected. Throughout the video, he shares what it was used on in a few different images and what are some of the areas that needed to be corrected. This helper layer can be useful when blending multiple exposures together, especially when you have different shadows in multiple images as Link shows in his last example.

When I retouch portraits, I use a few helper adjustment layers to aid in seeing what areas of the skin need to be retouched, but I don't often use one to check the shadows and highlights. What other types of helper layers do you use in your work? 

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Joel Gale's picture

This is actually commonly known as a Solar Curve. It can be used on any image. It’s great for helping see sensor dust and other blemishes that need to be cloned out.

Brandon Goodyear's picture

Following up & adding to what Joel said.
It’s primarily useful when your end deliverable is print or any other ultra high resolution delivery where people will be viewing at a really close distance. I utilized it on a product shoot last year to identify small blemishes in the surfaces of the bottles. There are also alternate versions of check layers for different purposes, piximperfect has a YouTube video walking through all of them in detail.

Christian Berens's picture

I’ve used it when cloning out distractions in my portraiture work as well to make sure there’s clean transitions.

In particular i shot in the Las Vegas desert last February and there was a crowd of people in the background, i cloned them out then did the solar curve and saw i had some splotches to clean up

Christian Berens's picture

I think i taught Andrew about this LOL
Just kidding, but this is seriously a great tool I’ve used for a while too!