Photoshop for beginners - Professional Photoshop Workflow Secrets

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Using Photoshop in a haphazard way is just about the worst thing you can do. Do what the professionals do and follow a logical workflow that takes you from the camera image to your final creative result in the easiest and quickest way. Here I share with you my ‘Professional Photoshop Workflow Secrets’.

Professional Photoshop Workflow:

Step #1 - Rotate and straighten the image

It takes time and patience, and a tripod, to create a perfectly level image in the camera and since the majority of people hand-hold their cameras the majority of photographs have tilted horizons or buildings. Therefore the first step of my professional Photoshop workflow is to straighten the image.

Step #2 - Cropping for composition and efficiency

Once the image has been straightened the next step is to crop the image to the shape you want. This has two positive aspects: it allows you to cut off anything around the main subject that doesn’t add to the impact of the photo, and it reduces the file size which makes Photoshop work faster.

Step #3 - Removing marks and dust bunnies

Now we can get rid of any irritating dust marks (known as dust bunnies), especially obvious in blue skies, and remove any unwanted detail in the image such as litter on the floor. We do this using a combination of the Healing brush and the Clone Stamp tools.

Step #4 - Saving the initial image

At this point we have a clean image and it is a very good idea to save the image now using Save As… and give the clean image a meaningful name. This will maintain the original photo intact and give you your clean image with a useful filename.

Step #5 - Basic and intermediate level tone control/adjustment

Now you have a clean image it is time to check the overall tonal values to determine if the image needs tonal adjustments. This is where we correct any exposure problems and also any lighting contrast issues.

Step #6 - Basic and intermediate level colour control/adjustment

At this point we can see if the image has any unwanted dominant colour and remove it using the colour correction tools. Since most camera users will be using the auto white balance, it is likely that the photo will have a colour cast that needs to be removed. At this point, save the image again!

Step #7 - Advanced tone and colour control/adjustment

In step #6 we removed a dominant colour cast and now we need to use the more advanced Photoshop colour tools to fine-tune the colour balance of the image. For example, this is where we would make sure the skin colour of a portrait was just right.

Step #7 - Selective adjustment methods using layer masks

Now we get more creative and start to analyse the image to determine which areas within the photo will benefit from further adjustments to the tones and colours. To make local corrections we use selections and layer masks. A very useful technique is to use density masks for ultimate control. At this point our image correction is complete and we can save the image ready for further use.

Step #8 - Sharpening for different purposes

Now we have our completed image we need to apply sharpening either for making a print or for sending the image to a webpage. Sharpening an image often causes concern and a whole ‘secret science’ seems to have built up around the topic. To keep things simple follow these rules: A) for the web, resize the image first and sharpen after. If it looks good on your monitor it should be fine (watch out for haloes which indicate too much sharpening). B) For making a print you can apply more sharpening than your monitor indicates because the printer uses much higher resolution. Make the image look a bit ‘crunchy’ on screen and it should be fine in the print.

Step #9 - Saving the work for different purposes

This is something many people don’t think about. Always have a master copy of your original untouched image (in case you ever want to start afresh) and a master copy of your fully corrected image with a unique name. Now from the fully corrected version do any resizing and sharpening for a specific purpose, such as for a web gallery, and then save the image to a new file. This is very important; have separate files for each type of use you want the image to have e.g. web gallery, inkjet print, email, thumbnail, blog, etc.

There you have it! The secrets of a professional workflow which you can use to speed up your image editing and save time in the process. This will also make you much more efficient!

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Photoshop for beginners - Professional Photoshop Workflow Secrets.

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