In this post I share an overview of my post-processing workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you want to learn more I have an ongoing video series available for Supporters.
As a photographer I always have the final print in mind and working toward a fine print requires attention to details all the way through the photographic process. From the work in the field to the final print.
In my post-processing I strive to emphasize the moment that I captured out there. The light, the mood and the atmosphere. I want the final print to be as close to what I experienced as possible. I want the print to take the viewer there – to that moment in time.
The way to achieve this is to master the whole process from capturing the photograph to making the print. Fine-tuning the photograph to bring out the qualities captured in it. The magic lies in the attention to the details.
This post give you some insight into how I work in Lightrom and Photoshop, but the most important work is done in the field. It’s only with great raw materials that exquisite prints can be made.
Basic Tone & Color in Lightroom
I begin my post-processing in Lightroom by selecting the photograph I want to work on. Often times I have a few variations of the same scene. The light might have changed or I tried slightly different compositions. It can take some time to decide on which version I like the most.
Then I do some basic edits in Lightroom. I set the white balance and work with the tone curve to adjust black and white points as well as the midtones.
I use clarity to add some mid-tone contrast to the photograph which is one of the areas where digital capture lacks compared to film.
If I need too, I do some basic local adjustments, often using the gradient tool. Darkening a bright sky is one example of a local adjustment that I do in Lightroom.
I then adjust the sharpening to bring out as much detail as possible.
The rest of the local adjustments and fine-tuning I leave for Photoshop. You see, while Lightroom is great for basic adjustments it lacks some of the fine control that I need for my work.
Fine-Tuning in Photoshop
When I have a good starting point I open the image as a Smart Object into Photoshop. This allows me to go back and make adjustments to the RAW-file later, should I need to.
In Photoshop I work with adjustment layers. The most important one is Curves. This is my go-to tool for adjusting contrast and luminance in an image.
For adjusting color I work with Hue / Saturation, Selective Color and Color Balance.
I begin my work in Photoshop by applying some global adjustments but it’s only possible to take a photograph to a certain point with global adjustments. To really fine-tune things I use masks to work selectively on specific areas of the photograph.
Using a soft brush and lower opacity I paint on the mask to hide or reveal the adjustment in certain areas of the image. This the part of the post-processing that I enjoy the most. Using either a Curves layer or a Dodge & Burn layer I can emphasize the light captured in the photograph.
I’ve learned from experience that I get the best result if I make a number of small adjustments instead of a few large ones. I often end up with dozens of adjustment layers. Each one with a subtle adjustment, but together they make all the difference.
When I’m happy with how the photograph looks on screen I do a small test print. I take some time off the computer and look at the print from time to time – taking notes of the changes I need to make.
I repeat this process until the print looks the way I want it to.
Now it’s time for the large print. This is when I get really excited. Seeing the large print coming out of the printer is pure magic.
For the first time I can fully experience the photograph. It has come to life on paper.
It’s the culmination of all the hard work that goes into each photograph and the final expression of my vision as an artist.
I hope this post gave you some valuable insights into my post-processing philosophy and workflow.
If your’e interested to learn more about how I work in Lightroom and Photoshop I have an ongoing video series with over 100 minutes of tutorials that’s available to Supporters.