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2.1: Overview of Retouching Workflow

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    Workflow refers to a sequence of steps needed to complete a project. For the photographic process, the order of steps--from taking the picture to importing to retouching to sharing images--is important. While there are multiple ways to accomplish the same task in Camera RAW and Adobe Photoshop, this chapter discusses the digital workflow processes used in class. Once you have learned these steps, you may decide to modify, skip, or add steps to accomplish the desired outcome for your images.

    Photographers choose how to edit their images, and these choices can work toward creating an accurate representation of a subject or a more conspicuous manipulation or altered representation. If the photographer wants to accurately portray a scene in the style of documentary photography, they will use minimal digital editing techniques. In this case, the edits serve the goal of making the image look like the scene did when the image was captured, for example, removing any alterations in color, contrast, or exposure that resulted from the camera settings.

    Color variations come from the Kelvin scale, which shows that light has different color temperatures. Lights, cameras, computers, and editing software like Photoshop use the RGB additive color mixing system; printers and inks use the CMYK subtractive color mixing system. Because the screen is glowing light (RGB) and the print is ink on paper, (CMKY), there will always be a difference in appearance. Therefore, you need to pay attention to color management, the coordination of color across various devices from cameras, computers, and editing software to printers and the various paper types to ensure that the color and tones of your image are reproduced accurately.

    Before you begin retouching or editing your photographs, keep in mind that starting with a high-quality image with good exposure will result in better retouching and printing. Bad images require more retouching, similar to how a chef who uses old ingredients in a dish will have to add more spices to compensate for the lack of freshness. Also, consider what your goals are for the image. This may impact how you approach the retouching. While there are a variety of image editing software and philosophies about the best image editing workflow, the following process represents the most suitable method for beginners.

    The general steps of the retouching workflow are:

    1. Save a copy of your image in a new location (PSD/TIFF Folder) so that the original DNG and the retouched version are saved separately.
    2. Global adjustments are the first edits a photographer makes. These are overall adjustments applied to the entire image. These edits include adjusting the white balance, removing color casts or adjusting the overall color, adjusting the overall brightness, and adjusting the overall contrast of the image.
    3. Crop and rotate the image to focus the retouching on only the pixels you want to keep in the image. However, you should “crop in camera” and crop minimally on the computer.
    4. Remove spots or imperfections from an image using the healing brush or clone stamp.
    5. Local adjustments are edits applied to specific areas of an image through selections. Photographers use selection tools to isolate a portion of the image and apply an adjustment to the selected area without impacting the overall image. Use sections and masking to adjust a specific area of the image for brightness, contrast, and/or color.
    6. Prepare the image for output. This may include resizing, sharpening, color correcting, or adjusting the color space for printing or sharing online.

    This page titled 2.1: Overview of Retouching Workflow is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jessica Labatte and Larissa Garcia (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

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