Old dog new(ish) tricks!
In this post , I thought I would share with you some adaptations in work flow that have occurred for us in the last few years.
Some of them are extremely basic and applicable to most images, some are just a matter of preference, some may even be controversial! (well in a 1st world problem kind of way)
Hope you might pick up on something anyway!
1) Editing format: Many people ask us why we bother editing in LR, exporting as a 16 bit TIFF before working in photoshop instead of editing directly in photoshop. There are two main reasons we still do this. First of all, I consider our workflow in three separate phases .
- Phase 1 is the lightroom phase. Lightroom has been a life saver for us in terms of creating an easily searchable catalogue of images. It is also useful for ‘quick corrections of the basics like white balance , exposure and profile corrections . Within lightroom , an edit requiring more than 1 minute with sliders, I will leave to the finer controlsof photoshop. After this phase, images are ranked appropriately for future editing .
- Phase 2 is fine tuning the image in photoshop .This step often occurs literally years after being imported in lightroom!
- Phase 3 is output preparation.
The problem with our photoshop phase is that it can take quite some time depending on the image and in my current every day life, I can bet reasonable money on being interrupted at some stage either by work phone calls or children with various needs hence any work in progress in photoshop will need to be saved as an intermediary file anyway. We are comfortable with image quality as a 16 bit TIFF. The second reason is for organisation predominantly born out of our previous wedding experiences. Our habit is to bulk export a group of files into a ‘to edit’ folder and then coming back to them at some stage when we have a spare moment. If you have a similar interruption filled editing experience, perhaps doing something like this might help but otherwise, there is no compelling reason to just edit straight out of lightroom or ACR! Oh, and I know people won’t like reading this but we work in sRGB right throughout for various reasons which are entirely dependent on our main output and preferred printer.
2) Sharpening: Once again I consider that there are two ‘phases’ to sharpening an image.
- The first is ‘artistic’ sharpening which is what I apply to the working 16 bit TIFF file. This is not severe sharpening and the method of choice I use is high pass filter. The reason for using high pass filter is that it is a transparent layer which even when sitting at the top of your ‘layer stack’ allows other adjustment layers below (and above) to be seen. If unsharp mask or smart sharpen filter was used , other adjustment layers would need to be placed on top as it is an opaque layer. A typical setting I would use for a 22MP image is a radius of 1.5 and blend mode ‘overlay’ with appropriate masking.
- The second phase is ‘output’ sharpening. Typically for web output on an image 1024 pixels long edge, I would use smart sharpen with radius 0.2, 150%, lens blur. For print output , this is complicated and depends on print size, print medium and image type. For instance, stars need incredible degrees of sharpening to appear anything like stars on print media (vs faint white dust bunnies). For canvas prints, I like to take advantage of the textures it may produce and hence I tend to ‘excessively’ sharpen areas which have the appropriate texture.
Other tips for sharpening in general include minimising the sharpening of noise and minimising colour artefacts. Noise in dark areas can be accentuated by whatever sharpening process you use hence I either use the blend if slider (dragging in from the left mainly) or luminosity masks to exlude dark areas from the sharpening layer. In order to minimise colour artefacts, you can either work in Lab mode (which I haven’t done) or make sure your smart sharpen layer is in luminosity blend mode.
3) Correcting weird lens flares: I’ve found that oddly shaped lens flares can be made to look even weirder with cloning! Here’s a method I’ve had more success with lately.
- Duplicate your background layer and change the duplicate layer blend mode to ‘colour’ .
- Select the brush tool and select the colour on the image immediately adjacent to the flare in an unaffected part of the image.
- Brush away at the flare carefully with a low opacity until the colours are equalised.
- You can repeat the same process for luminosity of the affected area as well but having the duplicate layer in ‘luminosity’ blend mode and making sure your brush has colour selection is on the far left (with no ‘a’ or ‘b’ colour value).\
4) Light bleed: There are definitely way too many advanced tutorials on this subject for me to approach this in any detail. One crude method is as follows.
- Duplicate your background image and change the blend mode to screen.
- Introduce a gaussian blur to this layer (eg. 22 pixels for a 22 MP image) and then reduce the opacity until the bright areas are as blurred as you desire.
- Increase the contrast of that layer through a simple ‘brightness/contrast’ adjustment. Use a luminosity mask to select brights only and reduce the opacity of the layer until the ‘bleed’ is of the appropriate intensity.
- Now you can modify how you would like that bleed to occur whether it be through further gaussian blurring of the mask, radial zoom blur or hand brushing in or out other parts of the image you wish to include or exclude.
I hope that gives some pointers to people at any level!