'Psychotic' Photographer Edits All His Photos on the Background Layer

'Psychotic' Photographer Edits All His Photos on the Background Layer

Tallahassee, Florida: In a move that's left the digital art world reeling with horror, local photographer Benny "One Layer" Johnson has confessed to a practice that's nothing short of digital heresy: he edits all his photos exclusively on the background layer in Photoshop.

Johnson, whose stunning landscapes and portraits have won him mild fame, dropped this bombshell during a recent workshop. "Layers are for cakes, not art," he joked, as he boldly adjusted the brightness, contrast, and even did spot removals, all on the original, irreversible background layer. His method involves making all adjustments – from color correction to cloning and even frequency separation – directly on the original, unalterable background layer, a practice akin to walking a tightrope without a net.

When questioned, Johnson stood his ground with a smirk, offering a bold statement that sums up his philosophy: "In this art form, your confidence is everything. If you're not daring enough to commit your vision to the background layer, then perhaps you're playing it too safe. To me, the background layer isn't just a canvas; it's a testament to the artist's confidence and conviction. Why hide behind layers and masks? True art, like true courage, lies in making that irreversible stroke of genius."

Despite the widespread panic in digital art communities, Johnson's work, particularly his "One Layer Wonders" series, has garnered acclaim for its raw, unfiltered beauty. "Who needs layers when you've got guts?" Johnson remarked, as he daringly merged a new adjustment directly onto his only layer, sending shivers down the spines of Photoshop enthusiasts everywhere.

This cavalier approach has horrified photographers and editors alike. "It's like a surgeon using a chainsaw," gasped one seasoned Photoshop expert. Another commented, "Watching him work is like witnessing someone defuse a bomb with a hammer. It's terrifying, yet you can't look away." Despite the collective anxiety he's causing, Johnson's "One Layer Wonders" have become a topic of grudging admiration. "There's a fine line between genius and madness, and I'm not sure which side he's on," confessed a Photoshop instructor.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

I think promoting monsters like this (I won't even say his name) is highly problematic, as it gives them publicity and could inspire copycat "Layer Deniers." Is it really worth the risk for a few clicks?

You're absolutely right. I'm going to revise our editorial policies and think carefully about writing stories like this in the future.

Where are the supporting pics for this piece? You can't deny us the visuals of the One Layer Wonder series...

How many (safety) levels did Michelangelo use to create the "David" from a unique, one-of-a-kind block of marble? How many CMD/CTRL+Z did he need to create this unique work of art? Those who can rely on their skills know what they can do and what they do. Everyone else is an apprentice.

Oh, I guess this is supposed to be a humorous, fake article. ???

obvious satire..

What are layers? I only do global adjustments. I don't use Photoshop or Lightroom either.

Wait, this was supposed to be a joke? Oh.

lol... that's funny... but... true. At least for me. I am not a pro and am not trying to impress people. ! rarely composite images. The background layer obviously in not my only copy of the image so I mess around with no fear at all. It's not like the image has disappeared from my hard drive as soon as it loaded in my app. When I am satisfied, I export and Save As. Leaving the original safely intact. I once talked to a young fellow sharing how in high school art he was using photoshop to create an image. His big wow moment came when he stated he had used 90 plus layers. Whoo boy was I impressed... uumm , no. I did not express how underwhelmed I was but just nodded my head and said Thats cool. Occasionally I will blend a couple layers to achieve a greater dynamic range or do the rare composite. Like when I added my sister to a family picture. I put her in the back row where she fit right in. I do believe it is standard practice for new learners to be told in training videos to always use an adjustment layer so you can work without risking damage to the original. This is so laughable to me. But then I am not, I suppose , a serious photo shopper. Don't get me wrong , I understand layers are fantastic and absolutely necessary in many cases. Just not all the time.

Great fun read Alex.... Peace

While I look at it as a form of advertisement, I remember the days without history panel, meaning you could only go back once. The hardest thing was really to remember to save often due to frequent crashes. I wouldn't want to go back to those days for sure.

Most likely just done on backup copies of the original photos, not that big of deal, but could be a waste of time if you aren't good at photo editing.

The man is a genius! One layer to rule them all - and in the darkness of the program, bind them!

My comment is about photos, not graphic creations which benefit greatly from layered editing.

As any pro who's worked in darkrooms knows, the print IS the only layer; the base layer. If one effs it up, they do it again from the original frame. I find that digital layers can be used to the extreme in that the final "photograph" can be modified beyond reality...and AI is taking us into fantasy land. It's simple: Use a program that automatically saves the original when editing and go for it. You can always start over.

Articles like this will cost FStoppers their advertisers. Boomers like myself not only do it in one layer, we convert to BMP and use MS Paint from Windows 3.1. What's this Photoshop thing everyone's talking about? How about an article on it?

Haha...we all did that until Photoshop 4.0 introduced the mindboggling concept of layers. No big deal!

I do the same thing, since PS 5.0

Of course I realize this article is written in jest, and as such it is masterfully and hilariously written!

But on a serious note, I am actually "that guy" that the article is about. I have never used "layers" in Photoshop. Why? Because I can not figure out how to make layers. I have watched countless tutorials about it on YouTube. I have had people on another photography forum write detailed instructions to me about how to create layers. I have had a guy at my regional photo club explain it to me verbally. And I even purchased and watched a tutorial from Brooke Shaden about "layers for dummies" or some such title.

But try as I might, I have never succeeded in creating a layer and then integrating it with the original layer.

Hence, everything I have done in Photoshop has been on the original layer. So yeah, I'm the guy this article is about. But it's not because I think it's better to do things on one base layer. It is because I can not figure out how to make any other layers.

Switch to Capture One. Yeah, it's more expensive but it will solve your layers conundrum.

Your photoshop is broken. You need it towed for repairs.

Hahaha! I think my Photoshop is fine, it is my brain that is broken because I can not focus and concentrate and follow step-by-step instructions the way other people can.

In a sort of kinda way, reminds me of some photographers back in the day, would always flatten their images after adding an adjustment layer. Even when doing high-end retouching. When viewers asked why, their responses were similar: they are used to only 1 layer; or, bunch of layers confuses them; or, they like it simple.

I figured it was so, so I checked: This article hits 89% chance of being AI generated (EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE) on GPTZero. Ok Fstoppers, will this continue?

It's not, and AI detectors are effectively worthless: https://arxiv.org/abs/2303.11156

That's *just* what an AI would say...

Beep boop!


Highly intelligent humor and satire are things that I doubt AI has figured out.


I do hope this isn't merely satirical; i really hope that Benny J works in this way and upsets "established" theory, excellence.

Ignoring functionality of a software isn't genius, it's just ignorant. Besides frequency separation isn't even possible with just one layer.


What do you mean by "frequency separation"?


so those who use manual settings on their cameras and ignore all the great automatic settings are just ignorant??

I do not understand your question in this context. I'm afraid it is non-sequitur.

You replied directly to my comment, but perhaps you meant to quote the comment above mine, that Uneternal Van de Dood wrote?

I am still looking for Uneternal Van de Dood to answer about frequency separation.

I was replying to you. You suppose ignorance in those who do not use the functionality of photo software. I mainly only use the software to adjust lighting and composition. I ignore much of the functionality of the software. So... I figure you must think people who dont use all the functionality of their cameras must be ignorant also. Even though a lot of folks love to work in manual mode or even in raw. Imagine a camera that processes images automatically from raw to jpg but so many people ignore that functionality and do that processing themselves. They must be ignorant and not geniuses. After all a genius would not ignore functionality.


You have made assumptions about what I think that simply aren't true. I DO NOT suppose ignorance in those who do not use the functionality of photo editing software. How in the world did you jump to that incorrect conclusion about what I suppose?

Personally, I am ignorant of how to use photo software, and that is why I don't use it to its potential. But I most certainly do not suppose that others are ignorant about it like I am.

You really need to base your replies to me on what I actually write, and not on what you assume that I mean. Please do not ever infer anything - if I have something to say, I will come right out and say it without masking it behind implications.


The comment of mine that you were responding to was me asking someone what "frequency separation" means. I was asking a question, not making statements about who is ignorant. I still have no idea what frequency separation means, and would like someone to explain what it is, in this context.


Brings back memories of working in Photoshop 2.0 before Adobe added layers. <shudders>

I became the expert with using channel operations and applying them between two copies of the photos — assuming my poor little Mac didn't run out of memory.