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Outback Photo Handbook: Workflow Basics

The Importance of a Proper Workflow

by Mac Holbert


In the traditional darkroom workflow is critical. Without paying attention to proper formula, temperature, exposure and sequence creating a predictable print was near impossible. By following a careful workflow the myriad of variables could be harmoniously managed and an accurate print could be created.

Digital optimization requires the same attention to detail to create a predictable print. Ignoring proper sequence in digital optimization will unlikely share the same disastrous effect it would have in the darkroom but it can have an adverse affect on the final output. By creating a flexible workflow that reflects individual needs one can avoid unnecessary image degradation and insure the quality of data that goes to the printer.

Important Considerations in Creating an Appropriate Workflow

• Work on large problems first (Noise Reduction, Shadow & Highlight Adjustments)
• Determine your “destination” and work towards it.
• Don’t add another adjustment layer if an existing one can properly do the job
• Make Global Adjustments prior to Regional Adjustments (those using a mask)
• Adjust Exposure (Tonal balance) prior to Color
• Adjust Hue before Saturation
• Keep a well-annotated, organized layer stack
• Use blending modes to accurately target adjustments
         • Luminosity mode for tonal adjustments
         • Color mode for Color adjustments (Hue & Saturation)
         • Hue mode for Hue adjustments
         • Saturation mode for Saturation adjustments
• Keep all image elements together at the bottom of your layer stack
• Use Groups to organize adjustments and share masks
• Throw away unused masks
• Always work in a non-destructive manner – keep your layer stack intact
• Sharpen as a last step.

Remember: Proper sharpening is a substrate and size dependent process – one size does not fit all!

Following a well-conceived workflow will create consistency and efficiency in your work. It will provide the flexibility to revisit and adjust the optimization decisions without having to start over.



Mac Holbert (co-founder of Nash Editions) is a master printer and will be our special guest instructor (special focus on printing) at the Digital Fine Art Summit this fall in Zion National Park together with Uwe Steinmueller and Alain Briot.  A detailed description of the Summit, together with information on registration, is available at this link.





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