• Welcome to the Class
  • Rube Goldberg’s Machine
  • First a Test…
  • Assignment: Spot the Differences
  • Seeing: Learning To “See”, A Parallel Track in CM201
  • Assignment: On The Face of It…
  • Seeing: Learning to Read and Losing Sight of Details.
  • Assignment: Time to begin Seeing
  • Seeing : The Image Analysis Process
  • Assignment: Do a “Seeing” analysis of the Bryce Canyon image shown.
  • Assignment: Your Opinion Counts
  • Assignment: How good is your color perception?
  • My Workflow: 

Welcome, and congratulations on choosing the Curvemeister 201 Class!

Knowing how to improve the color in your images is a great skill to learn, and an important way to improve your images. At Curvemeister, we also happen to think color correction and enhancement is FUN! This class is about improving your photographs by extending the lessons learned in CM101 and introducing some techniques that you might want to use to improve your images using curves as a part of your work flow.

Before, during, and after each class session, we will be encouraging your participation in the class discussion. We have found this to be the best way for you to learn, and your participation is also extremely important to the overall success and quality of the class.  Please ask questions, comment on, and help with the questions other people ask. Everyone likes a compliment, so please comment on other people’s work early and often. We promise that you will learn something over the next few weeks. We know from past experience that your active participation will enhance your own learning and make the class much more valuable to you.

Enrolling in this class means that you recognize that you have a strong desire to improve your images, make process changes that are necessary, and that you are willing to dig deeper to find answers. You should have already completed the CM 101 beginners class and probably have a strong image correction foundation to build upon. Some of you will be further along the learning curve than others but you recognize that your knowledge has been built over time, and that your experience drives your decisions in image correction. Other people will be new to some of the items we will discuss and will need time and possibly a little push to internalize the information presented here.

For additional reading and exploration please take a few minutes to look at the links provided on our Pintrest Page

We promise to make the class as basic as needed and as advanced as possible.

As an image enhancement tool curves are so important – and so powerful – that some people may have come away from the CM101 class with the impression that they are the only important way to correct images. This is not the case! It’s important to know that there are areas of photography and digital image manipulation that are best suited to other approaches, and all of the techniques that we will be considering are very important to creating and enhancing any good image. We will be touching more on these techniques throughout the class and many times we will discover that curves are not always the best solution to your image problem.

Once again, welcome! Now it’s time to get started.  Please download and read the class expectations document below.

CM201 Expectations


Rube Goldberg’s Machine:

 If you grew up playing board games; in the U.S. there is one game in particular that stands out as a shining example of what not to do when it comes to a controlled process. “Mouse Trap”  is a game played by many children where you have to collect all of the pieces of a complex device which has the sole design purpose of catching a very easy going and slow moving mouse. The trouble with the game is that you have to add your pieces to the complex machine used by everyone else to try to trap the mouse. You and the other players build up the trap over the course of the game and eventually you get to try to trap the mouse. The player that actually traps the mouse with the device wins the game.

So what does Mousetrap have to do with image enhancement? Well, quite simply many people have built “Mouse Trap” into their workflow and they sometimes complicate very simple problems because they feel they have to fix something that might not require the time or the attention. This first week is about exploring the workflow you use, and finding the parts of the “Mouse Trap” that might be unnecessary and finding a way to eliminate or modify them so that they are additions rather than distractions. In the case of you not having a work flow, we are going to help develop a simple one that you can use on almost every image with measurable success.

 First a Test…

The first part of the workflow we are learning is image analysis. Examining the image…

I know that this may sound like a petty question; but how much time do you actually spend forming a plan for your image?

Some of you plan extensively and have a complete idea before you even click the shutter on your camera; others shoot a substantial amount of images and cull the quality out of the quantity; still others take on the task of correcting images (either their own or other peoples). How you perceive the image in front of you has a large influence on how you approach the image enhancement process.


Assignment: Spot the Differences


Recently, I opened the back of a magazine at my doctor’s office and found a puzzle. There were two seemingly identical images on the page with the following challenge: Can you find the 10 differences between these two images?

Well… Can you? Here is the twist – time yourself. Find out how long it takes you to carefully look over these images and separate the differences. Along with your discoveries (there are 10 in all) please write down how long it took you to find them. Post your answers back to the group. Use only your eyes and Photoshop’s zoom tools. Using PS to do “difference” on the image would be cheating! (As a hint there are not color casts added to the image.)


Original Image


Changed Image










Click on images to open in a new tab. Then choose Save as to download the images


Seeing: Learning To “See”, A Parallel Track in CM201

So, what are we trying to do?

Most people look at an image for a few seconds and make decisions about the content, quality, and feel of the image. They often do not see the fine details until much later; if at all. We are trained that way, we are taught to look at things and make judgements about them, absorb information, and move along.

There have been a number of surveys of how visitors interact with paintings in museums. One found that an average viewer goes up to a painting, looks at it for less than two seconds, reads the wall text for another 10 seconds, glances at the painting to verify something in the text, and moves on. Another survey concluded people looked for a median time of 17 seconds. “The Louvre found that people looked at the Mona Lisa an average of 15 seconds, which makes you wonder how long they spend on the other 35,000 works in the collection.” (James Elkins; School of the Art Institute of Chicago.)

People who are passionate about images will take a good hard look and try to see what is inside the borders of any image. I happen to fall into that category, and as you get more serious about image enhancement you should try to land there as well. The technique I use I call “Seeing”. I know, catchy name right? But here is the thing; hopefully everyone can see the images we are working on but only a few will find the small things in the frame that need attention or at least should be checked off as OK. Initially, only a few will see…

In this class I will be talking about the process of Seeing. Not in terms of mere sight, more in terms of perception, understanding, and intuition. I will be covering a process I was taught over 30 years ago by my first photography instructor. It is my hope that the experience for you will be as mind opening and thought changing as it was for me. This process is simple at it’s core but difficult to relate to others because it is so individualized. Seeing will require you to spend some time doing analysis of your thoughts and feelings as well as simply devoting time to being open to the process. Exploring the perceptions you bring to the image process and ways you can expand it will change the way you correct images and it will open you up to exploring the world around you in different ways as well.

Pretty lofty goals for an online class. It will not be easy for some of you and for others you may already do some of the things we will explore. In the end, I want to remove the forehead slap and “How did you see that?” question from you. It is one of the most common responses to some of the suggestions I have made in CM101 classes over the last few years.


Assignment: On The Face of It… (Total time recommended 30-45 minutes)


So let’s begin. I’m going to borrow an exercise from a book on perception and seeing I have. For this experience you will need a deck of cards and about a half hour.

How many times have you played cards and yet never taken the time to look at the face cards? As children we are taught the values of the cards, the order of rank, and the order of suits. We all know Jack, Queen, King then Spades, Clubs Diamonds, Hearts right? Just how well do you know them?

Week 1 cards

For this exercise I want you to take the deck of cards, pull out the face cards; now I want you to look at them. Not just the values, rather the images; have you ever noticed that they are all different? Each has something unique and specific about it that makes the image different from the others. Spend some time looking at the face cards. During the exercise make  some notes of the differences you find, note any surprises. Please post your notes to the class forum so others can see what you have found. When you are done with this seeing, set this aside; we will be coming back to it.  Many people can find literally 100’s of differences,  you need not be complete in your list as this exercise is about seeing more in everyday things.


So what was the point? The general idea here is that in everyday items, things we see and use everyday, we have a vast amount of information that we take in and filter. For instance, we look at a passing car and we assess it for it’s speed, direction, and consistent movement. On occasion we note the model and we learn to recognize it or others like it as a specific class of cars. Some will even see the cars color or the idea of the color,(most will still get it wrong if asked) others will see the tires and note white walls or lettering. Almost all of us will dismiss this event as another part of the day and move on. Why? What causes us to not see more? There is a whole science of perception that many of you have tried to get a handle on about how we see and perceive colors, tones and messages. Psychologists, Physiologists, and Artists have explored this topic for years and many really great works have come out of those studies. One of the primary things I want to focus on this week is our social training.

Seeing: Learning to Read and Losing Sight of Details.

One of the really interesting things I have learned is how much analysis is required for you to read even this paragraph. Your eyes scan the line of type, and your brain constructs my words into hopefully intelligent thoughts and in a sense you hear me speak to you inside your head. You focus on the words and the meanings but ignore the font unless it is really outrageous, for the most part it is a boring scene of black smudges on a white surface and yet you stare at it for as long as it takes for you to get the information out of the scribbles and blotches. What an incredible amount of focus on such a boring image. What then happens when you look at an image? A scene before you? How long before you move on to something else?


Assignment: Time Test (Total recommended time 2-3 minutes)


Find a book or a magazine and try this out; read a full page of text and time yourself for a comfortable reading speed.

When you are done reading, find an interesting picture and look at it as long as you can. force yourself to be uncomfortable in your looking. If your eyes leave the frame stop the clock.

How did they compare. If you want to you may post your results to the forum so we can see how people do.


When I went to the Grand Canyon a few years ago I was standing near the edge of the canyon and just taking in the vast beauty of the whole scene before my eyes. I was open to the new visual input because I was away from home, on vacation and amazed at the sight before me. Suddenly a park ranger walked up to me, he must have seen something different in my attitude because he asked me what I thought about the scene before me. I told him I was amazed and in awe of the vast open space and the beauty before me. I also related to him that I could not wait to see the canyon at sunset, to see the light change the colors into something else and to see the shadows move across the scene and change the entire canyon image. He responded with “I wish more people would take the time to see the canyon that way. Did you know that the park service did a study and found that the average visitor spends about 20 minutes looking at the canyon?” Wow…20 whole minutes…for those of you unfamiliar with the grand canyon experience you generally have to drive a car about 2-3 hours from any major city to get to the canyon and then 2-3 hours back to your hotel depending on where you stay.

Finding out that people did that and then only spent 20 minutes looking was shocking…It cuts to the point here about being able to look at a scene and study it.  Being able to take time to absorb it and wanting to do so are important parts of the process… Let’s get back to reading, most people will read text about the canyon for far longer than they will actually look at it; or read a book about the geology of the canyon but only glance at the pictures. Why then is it so easy to read and yet so hard to concentrate on an image? In a word…Practice.

When we learn to read we are taught to scan the text, to hear the words as they are perceived by our eyes and try to internalize the information. We are taught to learn it, to master the information and use it to relate to others our understanding of the subject. We are taught that reading is the key to faraway places and grand experiences, reading is the key to knowledge and learning. I want to say that reading then is not seeing. Sure you can see the words but how do you perceive them? When I read; the words are spoken in my mind like a thought. Reading is an internal auditory experience for me. Do not get me wrong; reading is not the enemy here on the contrary it is the very concentration required for reading that I want you to leverage against your visual techniques and use it to expand your perceptions of the scene around you.

Reading presents a special obstacle for us in our journey; it is through reading that you are going to gain additional knowledge but, your reading gets in the way of you seeing in a few troublesome and interesting ways. When we read something we automatically switch into “reading” and our vision is locked onto the text until we solve the visual problem of meaning. After we understand the written message we move along. This does a few things to our brains that stop our perception and narrow our focus. The first is stopping whatever thought we had just prior to the attention being redirected. Next our brains stick to the message until something better comes along to replace the message.  A great example of this is driving in a city I am not familiar with; when I drive in a new city I often times am so focused on the road signs that I do not see the city around me until it is past me.  The written information on the signs has my complete attention and focus often times to the dismay of the drivers around me who are familiar and in a hurry.

It is only through practice that we can begin clearing out the last message in our brain and opening ourselves to seeing more. This week I would like you to think about how you see things, what messages you bring to that seeing and I want you to make an hour of free time and devote it to trying this next exercise.


Assignment: Time to begin Seeing (Total recommended time 60 – 75 minutes)


Time is the key to this.

You need to have time free to do this with no distractions and no expectations.

It is best if you are free from deadlines and can do this in an open ended time frame but usually an hour will suffice at first. Later, I’ll have some other things that you can do while going about your regular routine but for this you need to make the necessary time…

This assignment is about free association, intuition and curiosity.  Find something simple that you can observe for the entire time you have set aside and begin by observing it for form and line, do not try to define it or place it in any category; try not to think about the name or the associated definitions, simply look at the object as if you have never seen it before. (Some suggested items might be fruit bowls, fire, a houseplant or a flower.)  Choose something that you think may have more than meets the eye in it’s make up. Let your mind wander over the item and observe the shape. Look at the color and think of other items of the same color, keep exploring the object and freely associate any and all thoughts about it without judging the results. Notice the shadows and contours, take in the texture, examine the hue and how the shadows change the apparent hue.

Once you have reached a point where you cannot seem to go any further; try to figure out the origins of some of the ideas you processed. Examine them for culture and social context as well as emotional attachments. Is there something in your head that makes you see this item in a different light? Your goal is to see the object as you have never seen it before and free yourself to experience it. I hope that you will come away from this exercise surprised by how much we dismiss in our sight and with a new found focus on seeing more.

The hardest part of seeing is getting free. The process gets easier and less uncomfortable as you practice it and give yourself permission to get better at it. While this feels like an exercise just for photographers the seeing lesson applies to color correction as well; how can we fix problems our eyes are trained to skip over? How can we fix an issue we cannot see or have not observed?

Remember we all have to start somewhere, don’t worry if you feel like you failed. If it was easy to break old habits we’d all do this all the time…Next week we’ll explore more items that block or confuse our ability to see.


Seeing : The Image Analysis Process

Let’s move into my image correction process; when I look at an image I try to clear my head of all the things I feel I need “to do” to the image and just look at it. For me this is the most import part of the enhancement that I am going to do, I’m looking for tell tale signs that there is something I need to help. Within the image I am working on there are clues that I might pass over if I go too fast. The trouble is if I concentrate too hard I will end up missing things because I am trying to take in too much information. I need to filter some of the information in the frame that I might not need; and if I’m not careful in my filter I’ll miss other important things that I should see. I make sure to focus my seeing and to take the time to ask myself some key questions:

  • Is there a “natural” neutral source? Is there a color cast I can see? measure?
  • Are the significant highlight details intact?
  • Are the significant shadows details intact?
  • Is there enough mid-tone contrast?
  • Is the color flat? Is there detail in that color?
  • Is the color over or under-saturated?
  • Is there enough variation in the existing colors?
  • What is the most important item in the frame?
  • Do my eyes leave the frame? If so, why?
  • Do I keep seeing the same point in the image?
  • Why? Is it the eyes in a portrait?
  • Is there a bright spot in a low-key image or a shadow in a high-key image?
  • Does it make sense that I am looking there?
  • Should I change that emphasis?
  • Should I crop the image?
  • Can I apply composition rules to improve the image:
    • Rule of thirds
    • Golden Curve
    • Golden Mean
  • Does it need sharpening or blurring?
  • Is there any noise artifacts in the image I need to blur?
  • Color
  • Luminance
  • Finally, am I missing anything really obvious?

 *Significant = Items worth spending more than a few minutes on or that are vital to the image

Every image I create or enhance gets this overview. If I am going to be making enhancements I’m looking for items that I think I can improve, I question everything. This is a skill I practice to keep in touch with. I often use the Internet for practice – just going to an image hosting site and looking at images will help you get better at this. See as many images as you can, ask the questions above, pretty soon you’ll start seeing things you would change. You will stop looking at the image, you will start to see the image.


Assignment: Do a “Seeing” analysis of the Bryce Canyon image shown. (Total recommended time 15 – 35 minutes)

How many of you make notes about what you are going to do to a specific image? You just went through an extensive list of questions about the image do you remember the answer to all of them? Notes can take the form of a written checklist, a Layer added to the image to that you draw on like a “proof” print.

Write down your thoughts, ideas, and answers to the questions listed above. Then download the image below and add a blank layer. On the layer rough out your corrections and make notes. Next take the image through your correction workflow and address all of the problems you have identified to the best of your abilities.  Later, I want you to post your notes along with your images and “notes layer” over the image; back to the gallery for this assignment.

Please save a copy of your image with layers intact.

Bryce01  Click on the Image to open it and chose “Save Image As” to save the full resolution image.


Let’s tackle some of the bigger questions above and see what we need to be looking for, and how we can approach these problems.

Is there a “natural” neutral source? Is there a color cast I can see?

Finding a small color cast can be a confusing task. There are so many significant factors that are involved in making the decision about color casts that, well, people write books about it. The question above is really rather simple at the root but it becomes complex as we dig deeper. If we find a neutral in the image; we can select that neutral using Curvemeister or even the color tools from Photoshop to remove the color cast. What if the neutral really isn’t neutral? What if we are being fooled by our eyes? Our eyes are a complex device that in combination with our brain work together to help us survive. The trouble is that there are some perceptual effects that cause illusions we have to overcome before we know we are right in our color choices.

View this optical illusion image:  Color to B&W.

As you can see the color stays in your vision for a few seconds until you move your eyes before it fades to gray scale. This example is designed to show you that you can be fooled. Did you know that other colors in the frame can affect your perception of the color you are looking at as well?

The effect is known as ‘Simultaneous Contrast’ and it has been studied extensively for many years. The basic principal of the effect is that your perception of a color/tone is affected by the color/tone surrounding it. The image below illustrates this quite well. All of the small blue squares are the same color and tone, but by being paired with other colors they appear brighter or more saturated than they really are.

Contrast Cube

We need to account for this type of perceptual illusion/blind-spot as we analyze color images. Being aware of the problem is only the beginning. Understanding that we need to measure the colors we are looking at is the lesson here. Since our perception works against us we need to use some objective tools to help us see the color and tone in our images correctly. We also need to build a visual library full of “memory colors” – based on something we trust – to help develop our color perception, so that we may see into our images and know when the color is wrong.



  Assignment: How good is your color perception? (Total recommended time 5-15 minutes)


● Depending upon your age and gender you may have ‘blind-spots’ in your color perception. Unless you are aware of these problems it can be easy to misjudge your corrections. Luckily there is a simple online test that you can use to find out how good your color perception is:

Pantone Online Color Test

Please take this test (making sure that your monitor is calibrated, if possible). If you want to post your scores back to the class forum and be willing to discuss what the results could mean to you as a image processor.  This process usually points to holes in our color perception.  We need to understand the impact in our corrections based on who we are and what our limits are.  It is important to know if you have color “blind spots” so that you can be aware of them in your color correction process.


Back to our original questions…

Are the Significant highlight details intact?
Are the Significant shadow details intact?
The key word here is SIGNIFICANT.

Significant can have many meanings but the definition we will be using during the class is this:
  1. Important; of consequence.
  2. Having or expressing a meaning; indicative.


Below are two examples of highlight details. One of them is significant one is not

white-fur-texture                                                         Backlit

High Key Image                                                                                        Normal Image with Blown Highlights

The key difference is that the back lit portrait scene has the expectation that the lighting is going to be a bit blown out. Not having details in that area of the image is not necessarily a bad thing. The fur on the other hand is all about the highlight details and we need to make sure we do everything we can to save it.  The Highlights contain the texture information and we form our image from those details.

On my ‘seeing’ notes I would definitely write ‘highlight details’ for the fur image.

The same is true for shadow areas in an image. If I have an image where I would reasonably expect to have details I need to make sure I retain them throughout my correction.

shiny-black-faux-fur-large                                      Low-Key-Portrait

Low Key Image                                                                  Normal Low Key Portrait


Having Full details in the shadows adds depth and dimension to low-key images. It defines the shape and brings surface texture to the eye. In the front-lit image the dark background can go completely black, the viewer will not expect to find anything in the shadows. In fact, if they do, it becomes a distraction taking the attention away from the main subject.


The Color:

Is the color flat? Is there detail in that color?
Is the color over or under saturated?
Is there enough variation in the existing colors?

There is certainly much debate on-going about saturation and color perception. One of the current trends in image correction is towards people using more saturated colors; we’ll address color here as an element of “seeing.” Later in the course we are going to address color saturation and ways to control it using masks and even some unique curves.

For our ‘seeing’ we need to be aware of the overall color impression the image is making upon us. This is one area where we should be using the zoom controls” much more than we do. Detail in the colors is easily lost with over-saturation; just as under-saturation of one or more colors can make the image look lifeless or dull.  In the images below you can see that a straight Saturation boost on the Left image has distorted the colors and in the inset image you can see that the details of the image are destroyed by the colors bleeding into each other.  The image on the right keeps the image details intact and still has a saturation increase.

Oversaturated                   Correct Saturation

Over Saturated                                                       Correctly Saturated with full color details

It is no surprise that people prefer saturated colors; our world is full of them. The slim line we are going to try to walk is one where we have as much color as we think we can get away with without losing details – and yet not so much color as to make the image look garish and glowing or worse yet “photo-shopped”.

Color Variation is different from saturation; variation is adding enough difference in a colored area that you can see additional shape by expanding the distance on the curve that one color is from another. Leaves and trees are great candidates for color variation adjustments. Adding color variation to an image makes it more interesting and it mimics our natural perception of color (an area in which your camera responds differently than your eyes). For color variation and saturation adjustments we are most often going to take a trip into the LAB color space. There will be much more on this topic later.


Other Considerations:

What is the most important item in the frame?
Do I need to protect it?
Do my eyes leave the frame?
Do I keep seeing the same point in the image?
Is it the eyes in a portrait?
Is there a bright spot in a low key image or the shadow in a high key image?
What is it that I keep coming back to in this image?
Does it make sense that I am looking there?
Should I change that emphasis?
Should I crop the image?
Composition Rules:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Golden Curve
  • Golden Mean

These composition questions are very important in image correction. You do not need to answer all of the questions listed, but you should consider them as a part of your enhancement process.

We have all heard about rules being made to be broken – this is one area where we can be open to personal interpretation and also one area where applying the rules can make or break a good image. We will touch on the issues throughout the class but we are addressing them here as a part of the ‘seeing’ process.

Again, if you find glaring issues you need to make a note to fix these during your work and then take action on them.


In this class it is expected that every image that you enhance needs some level of sharpening. You need to become comfortable sharpening your images. Sharpening techniques/tools can be discussed on the forum…this is one area where knowing more than one technique is very important. You are free to use commercial sharpening plug-ins or any other method of your choice.

Noise Reduction

Noise control is also an image enhancement area where there are plenty of aftermarket programs to help you. I encourage you to use the tools within Photoshop before trying the off-the-shelf programs. Again, techniques/tools can be discussed during the class on the forum…and again knowing more than one technique will only make you a better at image enhancement.

Finally, am I missing anything really obvious?

Items that fall into this category include Impossible Colors, Memory Colors, and just plain dumb things like a neutral that is not neutral.

Impossible Colors are colors that cannot be right because, well… Green hair is not real; neither is blue hair. Impossible colors might not seem like something obvious to miss but if the color cast is small you might miss something, dark hair can hide green and blue quite well from your eye because of simultaneous contrast. See image below.

Green Hair

Memory Colors:

Understanding memory colors can be tricky. We all have ideas about what a certain familiar objects should look like. For instance green grass is a simple memory color – yet we can all disagree on the color it should be (depending upon where we live); it can range from almost yellow, to the perceived blue in Kentucky Bluegrass.

There are studies that have shown that color is linked to objects in such a deep level it transcends culture; 99.9% of subjects studied agreed on the correct color for a banana regardless of race or region. In fact the color linkage was so close that it was judged to be within 2 or 3 degrees on the hue clock.

Memory Colors are colors that – in the minds of your audience – are inseparable from certain common objects or events. For example, the sky is so associated with blue that you might feel that you see those two words together as often as you see them individually. The same goes for green and grass. Memory Colors invoke memories and feeling much in the same way as certain smells can bring you back to a specific place or a time. Your emotional state can affect your memory colors; remember that seeing involves our filters and our perceptions. We can be fooled easily and we can remember colors falsely.

Right now you are probably saying to yourselves “OK, I get it…so what does this have to do with work flow and/or the price of oil for next June? In a recent Curvemeister 101 Class one of my students posted the following to the class forum…”Workflow? What workflow? I just open the image and hit the ground running…” How many times have you been presented with the following message. “No, you don’t need to do anything real special with this image…Just clean it up and make it look a little better.”

You know that the image has some meaning to that person, or they would not have asked you to work on it. What process do you use to tackle the image? Do you even have a process you follow? This is where we begin; how we form a plan; then how we follow that plan to enhance the image at hand. The seeing exercises above are the foundation for that work flow and for every image that is worth more than 5 minutes of our time.


My Workflow: Current State

After you have brought any image into Photoshop through whatever means you choose, (We’ll not be going into specific RAW converter applications in this class even while we do some RAW conversions later on ) start with a blank piece of paper. Take notes, asking yourself the same questions we have been discussing. This is the time that I plan what I want to do to correct the problems I am seeing, and I start working on a plan to accomplish my goals. As you will see below all of the items we have already discussed become a part of the work flow.

1) The File:

Assess the image, what mode is the image in? What format: Raw, Jpeg, Tiff,… then start with questions.

Should I make a working copy of the file?

  • If you make a permanent mistake a layered workflow always allows you to get back to the beginning.
  • Some of the file formats do not support layers, will you need them? If so you will have to convert the image to a mode you can use. (Caution! conversions can introduce problems since some of the color spaces cannot fully represent the colors possible in another space. LAB to RGB for example.)
  • Typically the safest and most flexible approach to take is to save your working file in TIFF or PSD format but with the changes introduced with Photoshop CC and future access to the software; a layered TIFF file might be preferable. What Color Spaces do I need to use? RGB, LAB, CMYK, HSB? Remember different color spaces are suitable for different tasks.
  • Is the image big enough for the output intended?
  • Are there enough pixels in the file to make an acceptable print? How do I change it if there are not? 
2) Scan The Channels:

Open the image in PS and look at the channels.

  • Are there any trouble spots?
  • If you find channels containing noise what are you going to do to reduce/remove it? 
  • You are looking for obvious channel problems.
    • Look for low contrast in the mid tones
    • blocked up shadows
    • noise
    • blown-out highlights.

Once you find the issues you will need to add steps to your workflow to fix these problems.



If you are new to channels DON’T PANIC! We’ll go over these in greater depth in the coming weeks. If you are an PS Elements User you can still have access to the channels via Curvemeister BUT…You cannot replace a channel in Elements.  If anyone knows of a plugin that allows you to copy channels in PSE please let us know so we can add it to the tools we recommend.

3) Shadow / Highlight / Neutral:
  • Is there a “natural” neutral source? Is there a visible color cast?
  • Are the significant highlights details intact?
  • Are the significant shadows details intact?
  • Is there enough mid-tone contrast? 
4) Color Issues:
  • Is the color flat?
  • Is there enough detail in that color?
  • Is the color over or under-saturated? 
5) Composition:
  •  Do I need to crop the image?
  • Do I have distractions to remove from the frame?
  • What rough retouching do I need to do?
  • Does the retouch substantially alter the image?

Many “snappy” pictures really need a good cropping to make them look better. Often I start by cropping the image in various sizes and forms just to check myself. I apply the ‘Rule of Thirds’ or look for ways to see the “Golden Curve” or ‘Golden Mean’ in the image, I look for ways to improve the overall image.

This is one area that many people think about only after it is pointed out to them that they need a “good cropping” to make the image successful. Like “seeing”, composition is something has to be practiced. Look for unique ways to crop and frame your images. There are multiple opinions out there about cropping. Do I crop first or wait? Should I keep cropped versions? What to do? Why waste disk space on an image I am going to make smaller?

Like setting a neutral in the color correction phase, you will be placing the success of the image on your cropping choice.

6) Trouble spots:

● Am I missing anything? Take the time you need to see…

7) Sharpening

Currently I use one of 3 different methods for Sharpening. Always viewed at 100%.

  1. Dan Margolis’ PPW Sharpening action: General sharpening action.  I end up turning off some of the layers as a part of my work flow.
  2. Smart Sharpen: Mostly for portraits
  3. High Pass filter in overlay mode.  When neither of the above is satisfactory.
8) What is the destination?

If it is web-based for display I worry less about some of these problems above because I am going to reduce the quality to get to the web anyway. Printed images get more attention because people are going to look at the image up close and at full resolution.


assignRemember the deck of cards? (Total recommended time 5-15 minutes)

It is time to go back and revisit them. Now try looking at them with fresh eyes. Take your experience from your seeing exercise and review the cards. Do you find anything more? Have your visual ideas for the cards changed? Can you see them without judging the contents for context?

Add to the forum discussion anything new that you have found in the second viewing of the cards.

An important note about learning to see:

Seeing is one area of your personal development that is going to require “your desire to succeed” in order for you to improve.

Many times during the class and after; you will find yourself stagnant or in a place where you feel that others are better at seeing than you are; this is a normal part of the process and you need to be willing and wanting to develop past these plateaus. There will be many times during the class when you feel you are just not “seeing” fight the urge to give up; keep trying to move forward. I promise to recognize that each of you is different in your cognitive and imaginative minds and that your development will be different from mine or that of the rest of the class. You will need to acknowledge that aspect of seeing as well and you need to be prepared for this process to not work for you immediately.