Creative workflow #3 / 11 comments + post
online tutorials

In this series of tutorials we take the creative process as our primary focus; i.e. rather than just discussing ‘how’ an image was constructed, we will also be considering ‘why’ each change was made, and how each change contributes to the image as a whole. As with our other image-based tutorials, each will also include a thorough technical discussion of any tools or techniques that were employed, but the emphasis will be upon creative rather than technical outcomes – e.g. how each image was constructed to tell a particular story, what each image says about its subject, and so on.


oldest comments first
comment by Justin Photis at 11:38 AM on 17 December, 2009

Another clear and easy to follow tutorial from you David, thanks very much.
You layout what the initial considerations should be and then walk us through how we should attack each stage to improve the end result. You continue to make it sound really simple, and in fact, the steps you've gone through ARE simple, which is why they're so much fun to follow.
I think you're cheating though. Your starting point is always much better than mine ! :)

I love the 'Creative Workflow' series, keem them coming please. JP

comment by Arief Mokhtar at 05:18 AM on 31 December, 2009


I noticed that you have included a layer called "2nd mod + noise reduction". Could you please explain your noise reduction method.

Perhaps, someday you could make a tutorial on dealing with digital noise (luminosity noise, color noise, etc) in an image.

Thanks in advance.

comment by djn1 at 07:42 AM on 31 December, 2009

Thanks Justin.

Arief: I've added a couple of paragraphs to the top of page 4 that explain this layer in more detail. In short though I used Noiseware. In terms of creating a tutorial that discusses noise reduction in more detail: this will be included in an upcoming section of the digital workflow series.

comment by Jason Christie at 07:53 PM on 3 January, 2010

Another great tutorial David, thank you.

One question I have is around sharpening. What methods of sharpening do you use, how much is done during RAW processing and how much is done in Photoshop.

I would love to see step for step how you process a specific image from start to finish.

Thanks again and I look forward to the next tutorial.

comment by djn1 at 07:08 AM on 4 January, 2010

Jason: thanks. As for sharpening: this is a topic I'll be covering as part of my Digital Workflow series, but in the meanwhile ...

My own approach is to use the default settings in ACR when I create the initial high res' image and then sharpen the web image using Smart Sharpen. Typically I'll use the following settings:

Amount: 110%
Radius: 0.1 pixels
Remove: Lens Blur

One additional trick you can use is to fade the effect to luminosity. Immediately after you have sharpened the image select Fade Smart Sharpen from the Edit menu then alter the blend mode to Luminosity. You can also change the opacity to moderate the effect.

For prints I'll use the same procedure, but will typically increase the radius to around 0.3 or 0.4.

comment by Jean Eichenlaub at 10:02 PM on 5 January, 2010

Thank you for a great tutorial. This has really helped me with thinking creative workflow to an end goal/message rather than focusing on individual mechanical steps.

One question: Curve 4 (spreading the tonal range) -- why use a curve rather than levels? It seems levels would do the same thing by moving the white and black sliders.

comment by djn1 at 06:53 AM on 6 January, 2010

Jean: I'm glad it helped. As for your question: yes, I could have used a Levels adjustment in place of Curves 4, but it's not a tool that I use. In practice, anything that can be done with the Levels tool can also be done with a Curve. As such I guess I've got out of the habit of using the Levels tool.

comment by Adrian Park at 08:34 PM on 9 January, 2010

I notice on page 3 you're using a select all, copy merged and paste routine to create a flattened version of your image on a new layer. A really efficient means for achieving the same thing is the CMD+OPT+SHIFT+3 shortcut. Using it will create a new layer above the current layer containing a flattened version of your current document. Creating and selecting an empty layer before doing the shortcut will fill the empty layer with the flattened version.

I don't recall where I found this obscure shortcut but I use it all the time. I realise your aim is probably to keep your tutorials as software-neutral as possible but I couldn't resist sharing this tip!

Thanks for yet another fine tutorial. The interwebs would be a better place if more photography tutorials where of this quality, both in terms of the content and the presentation.

comment by djn1 at 08:54 PM on 9 January, 2010

Adrian: thanks for the positive words about the tutorials, they're much appreciated. As for the shortcut: this seems to load a luminosity mask on my machine (CS4 on a Mac), but I may have configured something differently. I'll try and work out what's causing the difference.

comment by Adrian Park at 09:25 AM on 11 January, 2010

Sorry, my mistake David. That should have been CMD+OPT+SHIFT+E.

comment by djn1 at 12:02 PM on 11 January, 2010

Thanks Adrian, that works.