Do not leave any Photoshop signature in the image. Bad technique like white halos around mountains that give away the retouching. If we create a great foundation, an optical illusion of a three-dimensional space, we can overlay this with a totally unrealistic but artistic treatment and still be psychologically accepted as an image of reality. Leave even a single retouching artifact, the illusion of reality is burst – jolting us back to reality. You must be a perfectionist.
“Global Changes First, Major Objects Second, Small Details Last”. In terms of surface area, the largest adjustments are made first, so they set the correct context to judge the smaller objects. You work down by object size, the detail being last. How you make each adjustment is by breaking down the problem into three sub-problems: “Identify the Problem, Create the Solution, Join the Solution”. The last, “Join the Solution” normally triggers the need to use a mask.
Creating a successful optical illusion of a three-dimensional space requires portraying light, form, texture, and spatial depth. Creating these qualities are all based on science not art. You have no creative freedom, you implement them ‘by the book’ given you know the techniques to do so. Art dictates style, composition, mood, and atmosphere and are based more on emotion than scientific rules. To retain a feeling of reality, science must always underpin artistic.