Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Doing Too Much: A Change In Workflow

Lately, I have been re-examining various aspects of my workflow and have come to the realization that I am doing too much. I am not talking about having too many projects (though that may also be true...I have found that the more you have going on the less you actually accomplish). Rather, I am talking about what I am doing to my individual image files.

In an attempt to reach my view of 'perfection', I find that I end up making many small adjustments to various parts of the image that probably have little effect on the final print as well as deciding after conversion from RAW that I prefer the image with a marked boost in contrast, color temperature, saturation, etc. At that point I may have so many layers that it would become time consuming to go back and rework the RAW file and so I make the adjustments on more layers in Photoshop. To warm or cool the color temperature in a reversable way I end up merging the entire image to a new layer and applying a photo filter, which further bloats the file. Sometimes, by the time I am done in Photoshop, I am now getting the sense that I have pushed the pixels too far in many instances.

I have made a change to my workflow that I hope alleviates this problem. Previously, I was using PhotoKit Sharpener (fantastic product) for both capture sharpening and output sharpening (and creative sharpening, if needed). There was a downside to this (and many upsides). The downside was that despite the ability to open an image coming out of Lightroom or Camera RAW as a smart object, I could not do so because PhotoKit would not work if the background layer was a smart object.

As it turns out, the newer versions of sharpening in Lightroom and Camera RAW were designed with much input from Jeff Schewe and the late Bruce Fraser. This sharpening was actually designed to implement capture sharpening only....and I had not been aware of this. So now I am using the sharpening in Camera RAW or Lightroom to apply my capture sharpening. The downside to this is that it is going to take some further learning and experimentation to implement. Capture sharpening in PhotoKit Sharpener was much just picked your camera resolution and clicked a button. However, the upside far outweighs this. For one thing, the file sizes are going to be smaller without the capture sharpening layers (one could flatten them into the background layer, but I never did) and, most importantly, if I decide I want a significant change in contrast, exposure, color temperature etc I can simply click the smart object and make the adjustments to the RAW file (and even change the capture sharpening settings) and have them applied to the entire image (assuming I haven't duplicated the entire image onto a separate layer for some reason, which does occasionally happen).

In this way, I can make post-processing changes while leaving the pixels less 'manipulated'. I should mention that I still use PhotoKit Sharpener for my creative and output sharpening. I do think that I am going to be happier with this method of working.