Photoshop Workflow and Recommended Plug-ins
by Jeffrey Sward
 

   
Phase V - Current
   
             

1 (manual)
Crop black edge
Dust
Make masks

2 (manual)
Fix halos: clone 70% tree clone 100% sky
Fix wires: pattern stamp gray scale fibers2 or paper crepe
[If no masks are involved #2 will be absent, as would #4b]

 

4a (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Noiseware
Convert to cmyk when for publication
Manual level r-g-b or c-m-y-k - use eye dropper for gray
Nik Tonal Contrast +10+20+30 sat +15
Selective color
Curves (optional)
Nik pro contrast
Nik white neutralizer
manual levels
Convert to 8 bit
Save

 

 

4b sky masked (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Noiseware
Convert to cmyk when for publication
Channel mixer r+60 g+80 b+100(con+15)
or Channel mixer c+110(con+15) m+80 y-60(con-50)
Nik white neutralizer
Levels
Save

 

5 (action 1)
Select bottom mask
Border 3
Gauss blur 2.2
Deselect
(action 2)
Perspective
(manual)
Final Crop

5w500 or 5h400 (select auto button)
Convert to srgb
Saturation +3
Brightness -2 contrast +2
Smart sharpen 75%

             

 

 

xx00naNf1
       
         
xx
  Subject area
00
  Negative number
n
  Suffix number for duplicate negative numbers
a
  Scan version alpha
N
  Edit cycle version numeric
f
  Constant "f" or "q"
1
  Step number
     
 

 

Workflow Notes

Have Jeffrey Sward address your group about technical subjects, or photographic style, or selected examples of photographic style.

“Save As” new file after each phase

Wacom tablet makes tedious jobs such as dust removal much easier.

Photographs are generally printed on photographic paper by labs at 300 pixels to the inch. Multiply the desired print size by 300 to obtain the needed number of pixels. Example: 8x10 print is 2400x3000 pixels. Scan negatives and slides to a size slightly larger than the desired size. Larger images may always be resampled to a smaller size .

Recommended plug-ins

Color Efex Pro, and Sharpener Pro from Nik at http://www.nikmultimedia.com/ . Tests with the latest version of Sharpener Pro indicate that for lab prints the default setting produce optimum results for print viewing. Always make a separate file for the lab using "save as." Do not be dismayed by the harsh appear on the print file on the monitor. This is caused by the monitor resolution of 72dpi compare to lab prints 300dpi.

Sho professional and Gem professional from ASF, now part of the jolly yellow giant at http://www.asf.com/

Genuine Fractals from http://www.ononesoftware.com/ is useful for enlarging images.

If the annoyance of masking is needed, Mask Pro may be useful, also from http://www.ononesoftware.com/ . However, often masks are more easily drawn by hand alternating the pencil and paint bucket tools. Also, the new Quick Selection Tool often works better and faster than Mask Pro.

Two good noise reduction products are Noiseware from Imagenomic and Noise Ninja from Picture Code .

Not a plug-in, but an extremely useful thumbnail viewer, with configurable color profile viewing is Thumbs Plus at http://www.cerious.com/ .

 
This page is http://www.jeffreysward.com/editorials/pswf.htm
 

 

Making Your Own Custom Photoshop Workflow

Some objectives for setting up a custom workflow:

  1. Best possible picture quality.
  2. Minimize labor (effort hours).
  3. Minimize duration (elapsed time).
  4. Be able to return to any point in the edit cycle and revise the edits.
  5. Be able to identify changes made to images at a later date.
  6. Be able to use tools with no adjustment layer available such as plug-ins or filters at any point in the process.
  7. Be able to apply any edit, plug-in, or filter against any selection or applied mask at any point in the process.
  8. Procedures are repeatable, predictable, and leave an audit trail.

These objectives are contradictory. For example, the best possible picture will inevitably use the most amount of time. Since there will be inevitable trade-offs in any workflow, the goal should be a set a compromises which is best suited to the nature of the images, end results desired, and limitations of time and money.

Here are some relatively uncontroversial steps which have mostly benefits:

  • Have and use a consistent naming structure for directories. Directories are often named by subject, job, or date.
  • Have and use a consistent naming structure for the photographic files. Often a suffix is useful to identify iterations.
  • Save all working copies in a lossless format such as psd.
  • Only crop when making "final" images for web or prints.
  • Keep at least two backups of all files.
  • When performing the same commands in the same sequence in the workflow, set up the sequences with an action. Action can be flagged to allow operator intervention. Even with operator intervention on every step in the action, time will be saved by avoiding invoking the steps through menus.
  • Always show the histogram. After each step or action, check the histogram. When a blob appears on the left, detail has been lost in the shadows. When a blob appears on the right, details has been lost in the highlights. This loss of detail is call clipping. Avoid clipping shadows or highlights.

These suggestions are somewhat more controversial:

  • Place early in the workflow extremely tedious but vital steps, especially if they are unlikely to be redone. Dust and/or digital artifact removal is the obvious item in this category.
  • All edits are sequentially applied. Each edit affects all subsequent edits. This makes ordering of operations extremely important. For example, if edits are saved in adjustment layers, and the adjustment layers are reordered by dragging, different results are achieved. Therefore, segment edits into groups, with a "save as" with a new file name between each group. For example, fix dust first, save as, fix levels next, save as, fix color and luminescence next, etc. Refer to the paragraph below on the great "adjustment layers vs. save as" debate.
  • Sharpening must be applied after each resize. Alternatively, do not sharpen the original image ever, but only sharpen "final" resized images for web or print use.
  • Whenever possible, scan and/or start with an image which contains far more pixels than the final result requires. Perform all edits and corrections on the large image. After the large image is edited, perform a "save as" for the desired size, resize, and sharpen. For example, an 8x10 print at 300 dpi requires 2400x3000 pixels. Much better results are achieved by editing a 4000x6000 pixel file and resampling, than working with 2400x3000 pixels throughout the process.
  • The trade-off between speed and quality becomes extreme when publishing "digital proofs," especially for web use. The best results are achieved with a full scale edit of each image, followed by a resize. However, this involves a tremendous amount of time, especially since a "final" result will likely not be needed for each proof. It is much faster to resize a set of original files to a smaller size and perform quick edits, often with the assistance of Photoshop batched commands. However, any time spent on proofing is that much less time which can be spent on the ultimate images. No easy answer here.

There appears to be an amusing growing controversy about the techniques used to archive these objectives (from the list above):

  1. Be able to return to any point in the edit cycle and revise the edits
  2. Be able to identify changes made to images at a later date
  3. Be able to use tools with no adjustment layer available such as plug-ins or filters at any point in the process.
  4. Be able to apply any edit, plug-in, or filter against any selection or applied mask at any point in the process.
  5. Procedures are repeatable, predictable, and leave an audit trail

Achieving these objectives has created the "save as" camp and the "adjustment layer" camp. These two approaches are summarized in the chart below:

 
Item "save as" camp "adjustment layer" camp
Basic strategy
Group edits into repeatable blocks. Edit the main background image. Perform a "save as" with a new file name between each group. The history list is used for redos between saves.
Never change the background image. All edits are performed with new adjustment layers. There is generally only one master file per picture.
Redo of edit technique
Open the file in the sequence which is one step before the edits which need to be redone. Perform a "save as" with a new file from this point forward.
Make changes to the selected adjustment layer. If the adjustment layer is early in the sequence, a cascading effect may be caused which will make it necessary to change subsequent adjustment layers also.
Advantages
  • Avoids the complexity of multiple layers, especially when many edits are performed.
  • Plug-ins or filters which must operate on the entire image at once and cannot be isolated to their own adjustment layer can be used at any point in the process.
  • Each file version also acts as an additional backup.
  • A visual history of the change sequence is visible simultaneously in a thumbnail tool such as Thumbs Plus by viewing the saved files.
  • Each adjustment can be changed at any time by changing the layer.
  • Each adjustment can be completely activated or deactivated at any time by making the layer visible or invisible.
  • History of changes is apparent from inspection of each adjustment layer.
  • There is only one master file, a simplification.
  • A visual history of the change sequence is visible sequentially by making adjustment layers visible and invisible directly in Photoshop.
Disadvantages
  • Interpretation of the file naming convention and/or a separate document is necessary to determine which edits were performed on which file version.
  • A particular edit cannot be individually post-adjusted. Only groups of edits can be post-adjusted.
  • Any change to adjustments early in the process requires the recreation of all subsequent edit files in all cases, a labor load.
  • Disk space is wasted with multiple file versions.
  • Many plug-ins and filters must act on a complete image and cannot be isolated to an adjustment layer. Therefore, some scheme of intermediate copy layers is necessary. However, once an intermediate copy layer is created, the ability to have changes to early adjustment layers apply to all subsequent layers is lost.
  • Management of many layers introduces complexity.
  • A cascading effect may be caused by a change to an adjustment layer early in the sequence, resulting in the need to change subsequent adjustment layers. It is questionable whether effort or elapsed time is saved under these circumstances.
  • Disk space is wasted by the creation of layers, especially duplicate image layers.
  • A loss of the one master file loses all versions of the image.
 

   
Phase IV - Historical
   
             

1 (manual)
Crop black edge
Dust
Make masks

2 (manual)
Fix halos: clone 70% tree clone 100% sky
Fix wires: pattern stamp gray scale fibers2 or paper crepe
[If no masks are involved #2 may be absent, as would #4b]

 

4a (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Manual level r-g-b - use eye dropper for gray
sat +5 to +10
Noiseware
Shadow - highlight mid & high (optional)
Curves (optional)
Nik Tonal Contrast (optional)
Selective color
Nik pro contrast
Nik white neutralizer
manual levels
Convert to 8 bit
Save

 

 

4b sky masked (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Gem
Manual level r-g-b
sat +6
Manual Levels red-- and green- high output down
Curves
Selective color
Nik white neutralizer
Manual levels
Gem unconditional coarse 50 50 radius 8
Convert to 8 bit
Smart blur only for gradient skies check mask edges

 

5 (action 1)
Select bottom mask
Border 3
Gauss blur 1.3
Deselect
(action 2)
Perspective
(manual)
Final Crop

5w500 or 5h400 (select auto button)
Convert to srgb
Saturation +3
Brightness -2 contrast +2
Smart sharpen 75%

             
 
 

xx
   
Phase III - Historical
   
             

1 (manual)
Crop black edge
Dust
Make masks

2 (manual)
[Only if mass change otherwise leave size]
Fix halos: clone 70% tree clone 100% sky
Fix wires: pattern stamp gray scale fibers2 or paper crepe
[If no masks are involved and entire series for web, #2 may be absent]

 

4a (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Manual level r-g-b - use eye dropper for gray
sat +5 to +10
Noiseware
Shadow - highlight mid & high
Selective color
Save
Curves
Nik pro contrast
Nik white neutralizer
manual levels
Convert to 8 bit
Save

 

 

4b sky masked (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Gem
Manual level r-g-b
sat +6
Manual Levels red-- and green- high output down
Selective color
Curves
Nik white neutralizer
Manual levels
Gem unconditional coarse 50 50 radius 8
Convert to 8 bit
Smart blur only for gradient skies check mask edges

 

5 (action 1)
Select bottom mask
Border 3
Gauss blur 1.3
Deselect
(action 2)
Perspective
(manual)
Final Crop

5w500 or 5h400 (select auto button)
Convert to srgb
Saturation +3
Brightness -2 contrast +2
Smart sharpen 75%

     
 

   
Phase II - Historical
   
             

1 (manual)
Crop black edge
Dust
Make masks

2 (manual)
[Only if mass change otherwise leave size]
Fix halos: clone 70% tree clone 100% sky
Fix wires: pattern stamp gray scale fibers2 or paper crepe
[If no masks are involved and entire series for web, #2 may be absent]

 

3 (mixed)
(manual)
Manual level r-g-b
Curves darken snow highlights
(auto button Dfine + sat)
Dfine blue (buttons 25-50-75-100)
sat +6

 

 

4a (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Gem
Sho shadows
Shadow - highlight mid & high
Curves - use eye dropper for gray
Selective color
Manual levels - use eye dropper for gray
Save
Curves - use eye dropper for gray
Convert to 8 bit
Nik pro contrast
Dfine luminescence
Nik white neutralizer (optional snow)
manual levels

4b sky masked (action with these steps with manual override)
Convert to 16 bit
Gem
Nik polarization
Manual Levels red-- and green- high output down
Hue saturation
Selective color
Curves
Nik white neutralizer
Manual levels - remove pink cast
Gem unconditional coarse 50 50 radius 8
Convert to 8 bit
Smart blur only for gradient skies check mask edges

 

5 (manual)
Select bottom mask
Border 3
Blur more
Perspective
Final Crop

5w500 or 5h400 (select auto button)
Convert to srgb
Saturation +3
Brightness -2 contrast +2
w500 + unsharp (100-0.5-2)
or
h400 + unsharp (100-0.5-2)

             
 

 
     
 
Phase I Historical
 
             

1
Dust
Crop black edges
Make masks

2
Fix mask halo clone 50-70

3a
Color shifts all
Gem or noise IF
Manual level R-G-B
Dfine remove blue cast
Roc
Manual level R-G-B
Use masks individually

 

3b
Color shifts Sky
Smart blur or Gem
Manual level R-G-B
Channel mixer
Hue +15 sat +
Brightness - contrast +
Manual level R-G-B
-- Less center red
-- Less center green
Selective color
-- blue m+ c+ y-
-- white + middle -
Check smart blur
  3c
Color shifts regular
Manual level R-G-B
-- less center blue
Auto Level
Auto Contrast
White balance
Auto Color
Hue + Sat
Selective Color
Replace Color
 

4
Tonal Shifts
Shadow - highlight
Sho
Dfine counter light
Dfine luminescence
Curves
Lighten 30%

5
Perspective
Final Crop

5p00x00
To Print Size
Sharpen

            end
 

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