Photography Workshop Syllabus. Logo. David Osborn Photography

Syllabus & Workflow


Landscape Photography and Photoshop Retouching are two sides of the same coin. Aesthetics is your artistic vision. I teach you all three skills.
I explain how here …

Photography Workshop Syllabus. Photograph of The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic. Small. David Osborn Photography

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Syllabus & Workflow ~ Quick Summary

Photography Previsualization


Judge “What it could become; Not what it is now”. Look at the landscape in front of you and imagine it as a final gallery print. Does it have potential?


Study the landscape. Nominate what is the main actor, secondary actor and supporting cast. Like books, photography needs a story. Is it clear?


Create two mental lists while shooting. The assets you have already taken and all the assets you still require; to create the landscape you imagine.

Digital Landscape Photography


The best possible image taken in a single frame. The landscape image that all other assets will be added to when creating the perfect final photo.


Bracketed exposures for rich shadow detail and highlights. Exposures that make a beautiful quality image. Rich shadow tones. Sparkling highlights.


The light may not fall perfectly everywhere in one frame. When the light does fall on other parts of the landscape, these are taken as extra assets.

Photoshop Retouching


Bring all the technical and artistic assets together, to create a single layered landscape as if, it is the most perfect single raw file taken by the camera.


Take the composited landscape and now polish it to become a beautiful landscape in its own right. Though high quality, it still feels generic in style.


Turn the high quality, generic landscape into your own personal artistic landscape image; adding the artistic layer on top of the technically perfect.

Syllabus & Workflow ~ Detailed

Subject 01: Landscape Photography Previsualization

Syllabus 01. What Is Previsualization?

The workshops and syllabus start with the most important of the core subject; Previsualization. Previsualization is imagining the final photograph in your mind, before you ever touch the camera. Taking the photograph in your mind and factoring in the Photoshop alterations. This allows you to decide if what you are looking at makes a good photograph and if worth investing your time further. Previsualization differentiates the creative photographer.

Syllabus 02. Importance of Previsualization

Efficiency. Why invest your time taking photographs or doing post-production, to then find the photo never stood a chance of making a good photograph? The photography syllabus will teach you how to evaluate the scene. Explaining what makes a good photograph using universal criteria that has formed the foundation of all image making from painting to photography for hundreds of years. Previsualization means shooting less, but much higher quality because you now work with clear intent.

Syllabus 03. Create A Plan of Action

Previsualization allows you to imagine and run through all the possible variations from camera position to Photoshop alterations in your mind, allowing you to pick the best combinations to create the good photograph you want. Having decided on the options and elements you want, previsualization then allows you to create a logical plan of action, whose sole purpose is to turn the photograph you imagine, into reality. A mental plan of what you need and what to do first. Clarity of purpose.

Syllabus 04. Factor in Photoshop Manipulations

The scene in front of you, may not always have obvious potential. However, when you visualize and factor in the Photoshop manipulations, it can often be a very different story. A photograph that may not obviously present great potential may have hidden gems just waiting to be unlocked by Photoshop. Previsualization prevents potentiality good photos being over looked and never taken and also allows you to preempt Photoshop problems before you encounter them; allowing earlier, refined solutions.

Syllabus 05. Visualize the Photograph to Date

Previsualization allows you to keep a ‘live view’ of the photo to date in your mind, based on the photos you have shot so far. This is important, because no matter what photo you want, you can only create the photograph based on the photos you have. Conditions change, plans must change, ideas need to be updated, even completely revised. The ability to keep an up to date live view in your mind means that you can constantly evaluate if you ‘got the picture’ and not go home empty handed; totally failed.

Syllabus 06. Create Mental Shopping List

When you begin creating a photograph, you need to capture all the assets required to make the photo in Photoshop. As the shooting progresses, it is a waste of time and effort to re-shoot material that you already have. Previsualization allows you to create two mental lists. Assets you have shoot and assets you still need to shoot. As the shoot progresses you transfer the assets you have shot from the ‘to do list’, to the ‘done list’. You efficiently invest your remaining time on capturing those assets still required.

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Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

Subject  02: Digital Landscape Photography

Syllabus 07. Panoramic Photography If Required

I am using Panorama heads more and more for shooting multiple frames and then stitching them together. In general, the whole workflow is identical to a single shot image, except for the stitching process with PTGui. Panoramic shots do limit a couple of the Photoshop stages, but otherwise the Photoshop workflow is the same. The photo resolution is incredible though with the stitched photographs. Panorama heads, setup, calibration and stitching can be covered if required.

Syllabus 08. The Importance of Tripods

Freeing yourself from the old restriction of having to get the photo in a single shot; the ability to shoot multiple frames that all align in Photoshop, opens an enormous new world of both creativity and rich technical quality. A tripod now allows you to shoot multiple frames, either bracketed frames or artistic variations where the light changes in the scene, that will align in Photoshop provided the tripod is not moved. The course will show you all the creative variations of combining different exposures.

Syllabus 09. The Correct Camera Setup

Most cameras just ‘out of the box’, have some built in software presets. These alter the file and are usually sharpening, tonal adjustments and color adjustments. We need to set all these to zero. We do not want ‘the camera’ to manipulate the photograph at all. These built in camera manipulations are often, not always the best settings to use. We want to retain total control of the photograph ourselves. These must all be zeroed. Please bring your camera instruction book to the course.

Syllabus 10. The Camera Curve

Understanding the camera response curve is critical to being in control of the technical quality of your photography. The curve shows how the camera records and alters the tones it captures. Some tonal alterations, like highlight contrast work in our favor. Others, like the dark shadow tones are destroyed completely by the camera response curve. If we do not understand how the camera alters the tones, we cannot correct the defects and we are not in control of the quality. This is a critical lesson.

Syllabus 11. The Camera Histogram

Understanding the camera histogram is like flying an aircraft on instruments. If you understand how to decipher the histogram, you will understand everything about the tonal values and the contrast of the photograph you have just captured. Knowledge of the camera histogram and camera curve together, is the most important subject for understanding and controlling print quality and getting correct exposures for maximum detail with rich tonality. I place great emphasis on learning this subject well.

Syllabus 12. Capture – The Base Exposure

Imagine you had only one sheet of film, one shot. The base exposure is the best attempt to capture the photo you want, in one single frame. It is as near to the final photograph as you can get on a technical and artistic level. The additional technical exposures and artistic exposures represent ‘improvement’ exposures. These improvements are added to this base image during the Photoshop post production stage. This combination of three types of exposure, creates the polished and perfect final photograph.

Syllabus 13. Capture – Technical Exposures

Technical exposures are additional exposures taken for the sole purpose of improving the technical quality of the photo. Most commonly, this means bracketed frames; over exposing for the shadows to capture rich shadow detail and under exposing to capture highlight detail. There is a vast difference in quality, between capturing over exposed shadows ‘in camera’ and brightening those same shadows in Photoshop. The course will explain and illustrate this important point in relation to response curves.

Syllabus 14. Capture – Artistic Exposures

Artistic exposures are additional exposures taken for the sole purpose of improving the creative and artistic content of the photo. In effect, creating the photo you visualize. The light may not have fallen everywhere you wanted in the base image. When the light does fall on subject matter you want in your final photograph, you take a photograph of it happening. These variously lit areas can be combined with the base image to create the photo you visualize yet may never have happened as a single event.

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Reine Harbor, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Subject 03: Photoshop Retouching Landscapes

Syllabus 15. Editing the Photographs

The first step in the whole workflow, is to edit down our exposures to the ones we need to create our final photo. We aim for the minimum number possible, every exposure has a very specific and an essential job. We begin with the base image and look what improvements it requires. We edit four types:

1. The Base Image –

The best overall single exposure; as if we only had one shot to get the photograph. This base image will become our final photograph. It is the photograph that we add all our corrective exposures to.

2. Technical –

Exposures to improve the technical quality of the final photograph, creating rich shadow detail and beautiful tonality. Generally bracketed exposures for maximum shadow and highlight detail.

3. Artistic –

Exposures to create the artistic vision for the final photograph. Generally, exposures taken of the light when it fell on various elements in the photograph not found in the single base image.

4. Sky –

We may want to use the sky we have shot in the above exposures or choose to replace the sky with an alternative we have on file. The course will show you how to shoot replacement skies that match.

Syllabus 16. Preparing the Photographs

Having edited down our exposures to the minimum required, we now need to prepare each file, so it is in mint condition, ready to construct our final photograph. The aim is to catch any imperfections before they get passed onto the production workflow. For each individual file, we need to:

1. Raw Conversion –

Each file is converted, and the raw converter used for some minor global adjustments and improvements. The raw converter is not a replacement for Photoshop but has some very useful features.

2. Clean Photo  –

Checking for and removing any dust spots and any objects or details we do not want in the final photo. Small details with the clone stamp, larger objects require a different technique.

3. Sharpen Photo –

I sharpen the photo at the beginning with a very precise, three-part process that gives an incredible clarity and detail. The course will explain the sharpening logic and process in detail.

Syllabus 17. Compositing the Photographs

We now need to combine all the benefits from the technical, artistic and sky exposures to the base image; creating a single photograph as if it were the most perfect raw file taken by the camera. I teach you all the masking and blending techniques required to composite the elements. We need to:

1. Align Exposures –

Open all the files as separate layers in a single Photoshop file. Then align each layer to the base image. I explain how to check alignment and attempt to correct any misalignment.

2. Add Technical –

Blend or mask in the bracketed technical exposures for maximum shadow and highlight detail. There are many various ways to do so, I cover all of them and how to choose the best option.

3. Add New Sky –

If required, we drop in a new sky and perfectly blend or mask the join with mountains, buildings etc. I teach how to approach this common problem for maximum quality.

4. Add Artistic –

Blend or mask in all the artistic details and content not found in our base image, for example light falling on mountains not lit in the base image. These need to be added so they look totally natural.

Once we have completed the above, we check that the joins are perfection. There must be absolutely no Photoshop technique, errors or signature left showing anywhere in the photo. The common ones are lighter or darker halos along joins e.g. mountain edges. This stage represents a major ‘end of Part 1’. Only if 100% perfect, then the file is flattened down to a single layer to represent a single frame as if taken ‘in camera’. This file is now our final photo, but in an unpolished state that we finalize from here on.

Syllabus 18. Adjust Global Contrast

Global contrast is enhanced in several of ways to start giving the image some ‘snap’. There are many methods taught on the course. Curves is one, but not my preferred choice. We discuss and practice multiple methods for increasing global contrast, methods that produce extra benefits not found using curves. We take the photo as far as we can from a global change point of view, but we do not work on the details yet. We use the ‘global to local’ approach to Photoshop where details are improved last.

Syllabus 19. Separate the Information

The file is now separated into color information and black and white information. We now look at the photo from those two perspectives next. If our final photo is black and white, we can discard the color information. Many techniques that alter tone, also alter the color. Separating the two issues limits the effect on each other. Importantly, many techniques we use on a black and white, do not work well on a color photo. Without this critical separation, our toolbox of techniques is greatly restricted.

Syllabus 20. Adjust Color Content

It goes without saying, that color plays a critical role in setting the aesthetic, artistic and psychological tone of the image. I teach you multiple ways to add, then control color both globally and locally. Color is important also to give the photo cohesion. There are two main color factors to consider:

1. Color Cast –

An overall color cast is added to help give a cohesive feel to the photograph, a continuity element. Without this, large areas of conflicting strong color give the image a feeling of disparity.

2. Saturation –

How strong to make the color? There is a point where if the color is too strong, it overtakes the content. There is also a point where the subtle tones are replaced by the color, the details loose structure.

Syllabus 21. Adjust Tonal Content – Part One

This is the first of two critical steps in the complete process. Working on the black and white or tonal information, we have already improved the global contrast, now we work on the local contrast. Bringing up all the detail to be supper rich. Overly rich detail that takes no effort to read and in every inch of the photo. I cover multiple techniques, including dodge and burn. The reason for creating super rich detail is that when pushed down in overall tone, they still retain subtle detail and separation.

Syllabus 22. Adjust Tonal Content – Part Two

We now have an extremely good technical photo that is sharp, full of detail and good contrast. We must create the three-dimensional illusion qualities. We use techniques to build in the elements of reality; that create the illusion. We look at our image to date and ask it four questions:

1. Light –

We look at the image from the perspective of light. Where is the light coming from and how is it falling on the objects? We enhance both the feeling of the light quality and a story about the light.

2. Form –

We study each object and use our techniques to enhance the feeling of roundness to objects, the sides of objects, the three-dimensional form of everything so we feel we could touch them.

3. Texture –

We look at the image from the point of texture and enhance the texture of everything from rough tree bark to smooth water. We want to create a tactile feeling to every object.

4. Distance –

We divide the image into three distances, fore-ground, middle and far distance; using tonal changes to convey the feeling of distance; every object having the correct tonal positioning.

The emphasis too date has been to work in a very systematic way to create a beautiful, technically perfect foundation to the photograph.  Without this foundation of sharpness, tonal richness and three-dimensional optical illusion, the image would fail the minute we drastically darken areas. The darkened areas would block-up, no longer having substance. Now we have the foundation, we can move onto the final step, the artistic expression layer. This is a much freer process, working like a painter.

Syllabus 23. Create Cohesive Quality

Having separated the photo into two points of view, we now look at the photo again and from a cohesive perspective. We must give the picture a clear visual journey; making it clear to the viewer, what is important in the image and what you want them to look at. This is a two-part process:

1. Knock It All Down –

We darken the whole photo, now treating the image we have as our canvas ‘under-painting’. Now very dark, it still retains all the detail, separation and depth due to our previous work.

2. Bring Up Hero’s –

We can now paint in the areas the areas we wish to bring up in tone and emphasize as our main actors and supporting cast (read the tutorials). This will involve free-hand painting and detailed masks.

Syllabus 24. Create Artistic Quality

Working freely like a painter, we work in a less structured way, molding and fine tuning the artistic and aesthetic look and feel of the photograph. There is a good number of techniques, we can use, and I teach how to control the look of the image at this stage. Many are straight, digital versions inspired by the techniques of the old master painters like Rembrandt and Rubens. At this final stage, there are no rules, it’s all about personality and expression, though the techniques used, can be taught.

Question. Does this syllabus just make me a clone of you?

NO. This methodical workflow gives you a framework to follow, that encompasses everything to create a good photograph from concept to print. An analogy explains: The courses teach you the skills to be an architect. As an architect, you have the technical freedom to design buildings of any type provided you learn the fundamental principles of architecture. It is important to understand that I teach you the underlying principles that make good photography. This gives you freedom to be yourself, not restricted to creating just my style of image.

Conforming to a set of underlying principles or structure, does not make your work the same as mine. The combination of all your personal choices throughout the whole workflow, results in a photo with your own personal identity and style, even though you followed the structured workflow to get there. Without a structure, you have chaos and disorder, a very inefficient way of working that never creates quality. True knowledge gives true creative freedom. Use that freedom, your personal way.

A clearly defined and logical syllabus, making learning easy and painless.

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