Professional Photoshop Work Flows Techniques
Adjustment Layers

The main goal of digital color imaging is to CAPTURE as much color information as possible, and to PRESERVE that color information throughout the editing processes.

That said, nothing is more damaging, destructive to color information than editing it.

Whether we do the editing, color correcting, image adjustments in Photoshop's Curves, Selective Color, Levels, Channel Mixer, Hue/Saturation, or Color Balance — we need to develop strategies of high–bit CAPTURE and least–destructive color PRESERVATION.

The high–bit, 16–bit scanning Workflow and Adobe's Camera RAW Photoshop plug-in provide high–bit capturing methods, but this how to tutorial is about the least–destructive editing methods, specifically, Photoshop's Adjustment Layers.

The first "rule" to learn is:

You move (in Photoshop), you lose (information you cannot get back).

We can witness this fact first hand in Photoshop's Levels, Histogram:


Original Capture: Notice the full (healthy) continuous black area — this is what we want.
A Minor Gamma Correction center slider moved (to slightly lighten the image).
Edit Applied: Notice the gaps of missing information and degraded height, the file is actually missing color information in those empty levels — this is what we want to avoid.

In a digital image, those holes, blanks, gaps, missing areas represent posterization in the image.

Make a couple more minor Edits — outside of Adjustment Layers — and it is easy to see how quickly even slight moves add up in Photoshop to significant image degradation.




I like to visualize adding an Adjustment Layer in Photoshop is like adding a photographic filter over a camera lens (or adding a color-correcting gel over a photograph to evaluate the adjustment).

In other words, adding an 81a warming filter onto a camera lens is similar to adding the same correction in an Adjustment Layer above an image layer in Photoshop.

We can stack our Adjustment Layers — archive the file with the Adjustment Layers in place — PLUS, in a nonlinear editing fashion — we can go back and re-edit the individual Adjustment Layers at any time (never touching our original image layer(s).

We can apply, flatten, merge all the Adjustment Layers in one fell swoop, which — as the Histogram will prove — is by far PROFOUNDLY the least destructive editing WorkFlow available.

DOWNLOAD a Working G BALLARD Production File

Current Production–Grade Quality — 6x9 inches production scan.
The compressed .jpg file opens at 13MB, nine inches tall and includes a
600k .psd version of the original 200MB master file — all 50 layers, with its
Layer Groups and
Adjustment Layers intact!

DOWNLOAD ScanPromoPwowMAC.sit (6MB)

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