My Photo Workflow

Turning over a leaf

Last week I shared an example of an edit that I did to highlight a blue canoe on a rather dreary, sleety day. In that post, I mentioned that quite often I do very little to adjust a photo. So in today’s post, I’ll detail my standard workflow.

Even though I do a lot of little adjustments in Lightroom for events, I only use Lightroom for print preparation. To get any image ready for print, I use Photoshop, as all my printer/paper profiles are available to me in Photoshop.

Let’s take a look at the steps that I used to process this image of a solitary leaf that I used as one of my test images to explore the Fuji X-T1.

Solitary Leaf

In Photoshop, my first step is to duplicate the background layer (Cmnd-J/Ctrl-J), as I don’t want to make any changes to the background layer that I might want to undo later. This also has the advantage of doing quick comparisons between layers.

Select this new layer, I will apply some amount of sharpening using the Unsharp Mask filter. My typical range of settings for the Unsharp Mask are:

  • Amount between 50-100% (note that too much sharpening will create some artifacts
  • Radius in the 2-4 range
  • Threshold in the 3-5 range

These values tend to work pretty well; for this specific image I used 70% with a radius and threshold of 3.

Next, I duplicate the Unsharp Mask layer and select the Soft Light blend mode for the new layer. Soft Light darkens or lightens the colors, depending on the blend color. The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened as if it were dodged. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. As the impact of the Soft Light blend mode can be pretty overwhelming, I tend to use an Opacity of 7-15% on this layer (it’s usually more than enough). The effect of using the Soft Light blend mode is to provide a subtle bit of saturation without overdoing it. I find this works better for me than using the Saturation adjustment.

Last step is to adjust the Brightness/Contrast to make sure that the brightness is right. Also, I make sure to use Contrast to ensure that the image is not overly muddy.

At this point, I save the Photoshop document and, if I want to create a cropped version of the image (quite often I don’t) that is a next step. There are times when I have a specific format in mind that I will crop for; if that’s the case, I save the cropped version as a separate Photoshop document.

That’s all there is to it! Hope that this was interesting to you, and feel free to ask questions, if you have any.