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Step-by-Step Digital Workflow

Introduction:
This is a detailed workflow that I use for processing my images. You might find that it is a little long or excessive or have your own way of doing things. That is fine. Not everyone will do things exactly the save way. Think of this as more of a guide. Take from it what you need or change it to suit your needs.
 
Image Acquisition:
  1. Always shoot Raw for high quality prints.
  2. Import to computer from camera.
  3. Dual backup of originals to mirrored hard drives. All edited files will be saved to both drives as well.
  4. Prepare a DVD for later use. It will hold the original files and any edited ones from that shoot that are considered finished.
Adobe Camera Raw:
  1. Image is opened in ACR.
  2. Select ProPhoto RGB only if I see clipping in the color channels in Adobe RGB. Is otherwise not necessary. Always 16-bit mode...always.
  3. Adjust white balance, exposure, vibrance, and saturation.
  4. Tone curve can be adjusted here or later in Photoshop.
  5. Sharpening and noise reduction are both off for raw conversion.
  6. Adjust hue, saturation, and luminance for the individual color channels if needed.
  7. Adjust for chromatic aberration if any and vignetting if any.
  8. Open image.
Initial Processing:
  1. If the image was open in ProPhoto I immediately convert it to Adobe RGB.
  2. Save file as a PSD file. Save it as the original filename with ACR tacked on the end. This lets me know that this is the image just after the raw conversion.
  3. Initial crop to remove elements that were not in the composition and horizontal correction if needed. Depending on the camera I use I don't always get 100% coverage through the viewfinder. The elements that were not in the composition are distracting and affect the histogram. (Ctrl + to zoom in and drag crop box handles around. Ctrl - to zoom out)
Image Cleaning:
  1. If the image needs noise correction I use Noise Ninja to fix it. This is done on duplicate background layer renamed to NN. It is best to create a set of profiles for your particular camera at different ISO settings using the Noise Ninja color chart and profiling feature. I works very well.
  2. After noise correction I use the clone tool to remove unwanted objects such as wires, image sensor dust etc.
  3. The clone tool can be a little rough so a little use of the healing brush is sometimes necessary.
  4. Save image as a PSD with original filename + CLN.
Image Tonality:
  1. Use Levels Tool.
  2. If Levels is insufficient for the job I use Curves.
  3. Adjust any color casts (sometimes in the shadows) using Curves and editing the individual color channel.
Final Edits:
  1. At this point in time the image should be close to finished. It might need some finishing touches using the paintbrush, eraser and other tools.
  2. If masks are needed this is when I use them, usually for recovering some shadow detail or local area sharpening.
  3. Dodge and Burn and Sponge tools as necessary.
  4. Correct perspective if lens distortion is not desirable.
  5. Save image as a PSD with original filename + EDT.
Final Crop and Sampling:
  1. Crop image to desired size.
  2. Merge layers.
  3. Sample down if needed using Adobe Bicubic. Set Image Size and Resolution.
  4. If up up-sampling, save file as Genuine Fractals (.stn) and reopen. Up-sample as needed.
  5. Adjust resolution for and print size.
  6. Ctrl + S to save image.
Sharpening:
  1. Sharpening is done as the very last thing before printing or posting on the web.
  2. Use Nik Sharpener to sharpen based on desired output.
  3. Check for artifacts and repair or undo the sharpening and sharpen to a lesser degree.
  4. Use Healing brush to clean up any artifacts that sharpening can emphasize.
  5. Save Image as a PSD with original filename + FNL.
Proofing:
  1. Soft proof for media type. Specific ICC profiles for different paper types are needed.
  2. View --> Proof Setup --> Custom or select intended ICC profile. Intent set to Perceptual, Black Point Compensation on, Simulate Black Ink on.
  3. Create adjustment layer for Curves. Use Curves and/or Hue/Saturation to tweak image. Ctrl + Y swaps between proofing on and off.
  4. Once happy with image rename proofing layer to Print.
  5. Ctrl + S to save image.
Printing:
  1. In the print dialogue select media for printing.
  2. Photoshop manages colors.
  3. Choose ICC profile used to create the proof.
  4. Rendering intent is Perceptual.
  5. Disable all color management in printer. In the printer dialogue box only changes made are to the paper type, quality, and borderless printing if desired.
  6. Print.
Cheers.

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