BOOK 01 – End Goal: Create a single image that represents the most perfect raw file shot by the camera. The first part of Photoshop retouching is editing the files to find the best ‘base image’. The exposure that represents the most complete photograph taken in a single frame. Looking at the base image, imagine it exhibited in a gallery. Everything you do not like about this image; we search our files to find an improvement. The base image becomes the final photograph once all the technical and artistic assets have been added. When all the assets are chosen, ideally no more than five or six, we raw convert and import them into a layered Photoshop.PSB file. Align each layer with the bottom base image, clean then composite the layers all together through blending and masking. Major masks are made at this point. Now quality check: There must be no Photoshop artifacts at all, if 100% perfect, the image is flattened, followed by final sharpening
BOOK 02 – End Goal: Create a technically perfect photograph with three-dimensional quality. Global contrast is built up to give the photograph general ‘snap’, before separating the color from the black and white information. The separation allows us to work on the photograph from two separate perspectives; tonal and color changes. This also allows greater tonal changes while limiting the effect to the color. From a tonal perspective, Photoshop retouching now concentrates on building up the contrast on three levels; global, local then micro contrast using dodge and burn to create super rich readability and incredible detail. Lastly, the emphasis of Photoshop retouching turns to creating the three-dimensional illusion of light, form, texture and distance: spatial depth, the feeling of reality. From a color perspective, cohesive color cast and adjusting the saturation. Quality check again: There must be no Photoshop artifacts left showing.
BOOK 03 – End Goal: Create the final artistic personal statement. The artistic Photoshop retouching is freer; working like a painter. Photoshop retouching too date has been very systematic to create a beautiful, technically perfect photograph. Without this foundation of sharpness, tonal richness and three-dimensional optical illusion, the photograph would falter once we changed it artistically. However, it feels generic, clinical, lacking feeling, mood, atmosphere and drama; artistic interpretation. We highlight the main hero, center stage full of light and glory while allocating the supporting cast and stage backdrop by tonal changes, bringing up areas of importance while pushing down others; all of the techniques to control where and in what order the viewer explores the photograph. The artistic phase is about what you felt about the scene and communicating those feelings. Photoshop retouching to create emotional response and aesthetic quality.
BOOK 04 – BLENDING & MASKING. Blending is joining one layer to another by general painting without regard to edges or specific tonal ranges. Masking is joining one layer to another with regard to a defined edge or specific tonal range. The first option to choose is always blending because it is the easiest solution. The easiest solution in Photoshop retouching often means the highest quality solution; it’s not about being lazy, but quality! The minute we create any mask involving edges, we are forced to worry about the accuracy and quality of their joins; the area notorious for retouching artifacts which appear very quickly and easily. Masks can be simple RGB channel masks to more complicated but very accurate, handmade masks. The travel and landscape photography workshops teach the blending and masking as a separate, additional ‘book’, because they are the core techniques required throughout the Photoshop retouching process.