So many choices and not much of a clue

This board is for the January 2009 Curvemeister 101 class.
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Postby kessi » Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:12 pm

Hi Greg,
I really enjoyed all the lessons and learning about all the tools to use with the immense amount of possibilities.
Now I sit in front of images and find that I cannot make up my mind on what curve method to use.
In a nutshell, what workflow should one adopt? What feature of a picture will make one decide to try to use for example RGB or HSB?


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Postby ggroess » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:05 pm

Well people write books on that don't they....LOL

In a smaller nutshell...You need to be comfortable with whatever work flow you adopt.  I'll speak from a personal perspective now...

The first thing I always do when I have a new image is create a background copy layer. This allows me to see what effect the changes are having on the image without having to do too much in the way of un-doing the work I have already done.

Next I take a few minutes and assess the image.  I look for color, contrast, blown highlights, blocked shadows.  I frequently write these things down so that I create a laundry list of things I want to fix. 

Then I look at the subject matter.  Portraits tend to send me right into RGB because I will be looking at the skin tones and multiple levels of brightness.  This is not always true but it really takes a flat image to force me out of RGB for portraits.  Outdoor shots and muted colors put me in to LAB. If I have real trouble with an image I'll look at CMYK and even on the rare occasion HSB.
As you have seen LAB can cover most of the work you want to do but...and this is a biggie...LAB has it's limits and you should watch out for them...the biggest one is the ability to create unreal colors...or better stated "out of gamut" colors for your printer.  The results of this will be that the printer will interpret the color as best it can and you will have really ugly shadows and weird overall color.  There are many other things to be careful of but that is the one that gets me in the most trouble.

Having settled on a color space, I then tackle the Shadow and Highlight fast...I use thresholds to get me close and I check them with a point
selected Shadow and Highlight.  I usually do not have to make too much adjustment but, it's always worth a check.  I'll give up shadow detail if it is not significant to the image.  I rarely give up highlight detail unless it is just not there. 

I then set a neutral when I have you have seen in class there are certainly images that do not have a Neutral.  It makes it slightly harder but not impossible to get the color right.  Having those in place I look to my list and start checking...Do I have solid color?  Good contrast? Is my cropping correct?  Are there any trouble spots? Do I need a lizard tail in the image to save detail? Do I need to make a mask and adjust something in a second pass? 

Having all that assessed and then image corrected I will then apply the curves and go back to PS or PSE.  I use both...I then walk away from the image for 10 + minutes...I have found that for some of the more important images, they have to "stand the test of time out..."  The time out helps clear out the simultaneous contrast effect in my head...give me time to think.. and I come back to the image with fresh eyes.  This can be the single most important step if the correction is really extreme or the image is really important.

I cannot say for certain that this work flow will make every image better...goodness knows I have made my fair share of messes out of perfectly innocent images...but it is a starting point if you are going to revamp the work flow entirely. 

In PS I would then move onto effects and filters.  I usually finish with sharpening.  I hate to do any sharpening until I am just about done in case I mess up the sharpen.  I usually flatten the image right before I sharpen and I create a new background copy to sharpen on.  I always save as a new file since I shoot RAW so, I always have the original to go back to.

Beyond all that... You have to be comfortable in your own skin so to have a preferred work flow you just need to find places where you can insert CM without too much trouble.

It has been a pleasure having you in the class and I certainly hope to see you posting to the forums.  The journey is not over..We have just taken the path less traveled and now we have delivered you back at your front door with some really interesting new information that you get to keep and expand upon...

Cool huh??

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Postby mikemeister_admin » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:30 pm

Thanks Greg. I really appreciated your description of your work flow and was happy to find out it was quite similar to my own one. Some comments:
1) Have not found a situation where CM, HSB is needed. Is it needed?
2) What raw converter do you use and why?
3) Sharpening is quite a thing I do not feel comfortable with. There are so many methods described on how to sharpen and in my eyes many pictures today are oversharpened. The mood is lost. Remember pictures taken with old Russian cameras that I really liked and they were not sharp!
PS Have you heard "Parkers mood" by C Parker? DS

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Postby ggroess » Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:44 pm

HSB is another way to tackle specific problems..As you saw with the roundness exercise it can help with shape and shading.  Is it needed??  I would say yes...Do you have to use it??  no...

I use ACR with the settings set to Zero with the exception of Exposure...I might move that from time to time if I feel I will need a bit of help in the tonal range of the image...

re: Sharpening
The problem with today's cameras and really today's capture systems is that the math that creates the image has to determine what belongs between two individual pixels to fill in the gaps and make the image look "smooth".  This is not the sharpest way to create an image. Unfortunately I do not know of a better way or I would have that Island in the South Pacific, the drink in one hand and the tiller of the yacht in the other....for most photographers, myself among them sharpening can have a dramatic effect on the image. There is the tendency to overdo a good thing.  Think color saturation....I always sharpen until I can see the effect and then I reduce the sharpen by 10-20 % in the layer opacity.

C Parker..No I don't believe I have...


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Postby kessi » Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:07 pm

Thanks so much for the description. That was a fairly big nutshell and clearer than most books.  ::)
Yep, I am looking forward to being part of the community but also eagerly awaiting your CM 201.

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