Choose the workflow that’s right for you and enhance your landscapes with dodging, burning and blending
Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Edward Weston each had their own post-processing workflow – a sequence of steps for developing, editing, and filing negatives, then more complex procedures for printing the best ones.
The tools may have changed, but a good, consistent workflow is still vital – perhaps even more so with the thousands of images that digital photographers often generate. A good workflow should be streamlined but powerful. You want to wring out maximum beauty with minimal effort. It also needs to be flexible so you can make changes later without having to start over. Every step should be editable without having to throw away other changes.
Today two main options fit those criteria: RAW workflows (for example using Lightroom), and Photoshop ones.
This method uses Lightroom, Aperture, Adobe Camera Raw, Nikon Capture, Capture One, or any software that works directly with RAW images to do most of the work, with occasional forays into Photoshop to perform more complex tasks. All these RAW processors are nondestructive, which means that the original file is never modified, and all changes to the image’s appearance are written as instructions in the file’s metadata.
This workflow is viable only if the software can do most routine tasks. For me this includes dodging, burning, and curves, as every image needs some dodging or burning, and curves are the only way to have complete control over image contrast.
While I call this a RAW workflow, many of these programs work well with JPEGs.
This method often starts with another program for editing, sorting, and making basic adjustments, but uses Photoshop for the heavy lifting. Photoshop is the most powerful and sophisticated image-editing program available, and you may prefer to take advantage of its power right away. This workflow is also a better choice if your other software can’t do routine tasks like dodging and burning, or lacks curves. If you know you’re going to take an image into Photoshop, it’s better to make minimal adjustments in other software, as this leaves you with more flexibility later. All you need to do is get the white balance close, and ensure you’re bringing as much highlight and shadow detail as possible into Photoshop. Some sharpening may be needed for RAW files, or JPEGs with minimal sharpening applied in-camera.
Since Photoshop was not designed to be a non-destructive editor, you have to make it behave like one – using adjustment layers to keep all changes editable.