So I’ve been writing a lot about processing and taking an image from start to finish and I hope those have been useful for you, but sometimes it’s a lot to take in at once. Especially if you’ve just come back from a workshop or outing where you took a ton of pictures. Then you come across one you just have to process right that second. It’s so great and you know you can make it even better. And you dive in. Making changes and enjoying the heck out of the edit process, but also remembering how great it was to be on the spot to make that image.
In all the excitement you can get ahead of yourself and make changes to certain things before you do the basics. I find having a checklist to be a way to make sure I’m doing things in the right order. Oh sure, there is some flexibility on what can be done when, especially in Lightroom or Camera Raw, but sometimes doing things in a certain order produces better results in the end. And certainly if you’re going to do any pixel-changing tasks like Clone stamping or using the Healing brush, Liquify, Free Transform and Neural Filters.
So I’ve put together a checklist that works for me and the software and plug-ins I use. This is for shots that don’t require blending or stacking. Just single images that go out of Lightroom with raw adjustments and into Photoshop for further editing. I find it helpful because if I don’t use a particular tool often, I forget about it when it might be needed.
RAW adjustments –
- Profile – Linear and/or Adobe Neutral
- White balance
- Lens correction & Transform
- Shadow & highlight recovery
- Preserve as much detail in both as possible
- Stretched histogram with no clipping
- Sometimes Auto is a good place to start
- Color calibration or management if any are overly saturated or clipped
- Distraction removal or major Transform work decision – can I do it all in Lightroom? If not, edit in Ps.
- Local adjustments using masks and subject selection
- Sharpening & Noise reduction (go to Topaz or other app if needed)
- Free Transform and/or Liquify to further normalize proportions and geometry
- Distraction removal
- Border patrol (things sticking into or out of the frame, bright bits)
- Center and through-line – keep the visual flow
- Spot removal (TK Spot Removal action available)
- Global adjustments – usually clarity with a mask to direct exactly which parts of the photo get it (TK Clarity action)
- Create subject/sky/foreground selections and save as Channels
- Very helpful to target local adjustments
- Apply local adjustments to enhance leading lines, light, geometry or major features
- Use TK8 panel for luminosity, zone and color masks
- Also for various actions
- Final global adjustments like Orton, Make it Glow, Freehand Vignette and Spotlight actions
- Final touches (Preset?)
Reorder the panels in the develop module to by right clicking anywhere and choosing Customize. Now you have a handy checklist built right in.
If you’re going to send the image to Photoshop, I find it’s better to go lightly with raw adjustments. This gives you more leeway when you make changes there. Think of it as preparing the canvas for the enhancements you want to make.
For things like Free Transform and Liquify, you can convert a layer into a Smart Object so you can go back and change things. Once you’re happy, flatten and merge back to a regular layer if needed.
Let your sense of what the photo needs guide your edits. For me it’s often light or a leading line or repeating shapes like triangles.
Often I’ll start with global adjustments that change the whole photo, then move to local adjustments for fine tuning and sometimes back to a global adjustment like a mid-tones lift or Orton effect at the end.
Lately I’ve done a lot of cropping last. I find it gives me the most flexibility and choice. Many times I’ve done it before sending an image to Photoshop and then not liking the crop once the edits were done there. Now I either have to live with it or redo everything. What a pain.
Don’t underestimate the value of letting things sit for a while. It’s easy to over-edit and take things too far. So once I’m done, I sometimes walk away and then come back to the photo and see if I still like what I’ve done or if anything else sticks out at me. If I can leave it in Lightroom to make more changes, I do, but if not I’ll reopen the PSD file in Photoshop so all my layers are there to be tweaked. Occasionally I’ll apply a preset last and see if that gives me what I want. If you use the ones that open in the Basic panel, they can be adjusted as to overall strength.
Here’s a link to my workflow checklist if you want to keep it handy for your own editing.
You can leave it open in another window or on a tablet and work your way down. Or you could print it if you want. Hope it helps and becomes habit after a while. Happy editing!