If you're not getting the consistency in your finished images that you want, then there's one thing that you need to STOP doing.
You must stop processing your images willy nilly.
In other words, you can't continue to process your images without a plan from the start.
You need to start using a structured workflow that can produce consistent results every time you work through it.
Because only when you have a repeatable structure in place will you be able to pinpoint the parts that need improving the most and then be able to see the direct results when you tinker with the techniques.
You can’t change 10 things at once and expect to know which of those 10 things was responsible for an image turning out better or worse than the last.
You’ll just end up wasting even more time in Photoshop later trying to recreate past successes but not knowing exactly how you did it before.
Take my 6 Stage Workflow for example.
If you break everything you do in Photoshop down into its individual components and slot them into this framework, then it will give structure to your entire process.
Then you can tweak the individual techniques one at a time at each stage to test their impact on the overall outcome.
Here’s a quick overview of the 6 stage workflow so you can think about how what you’re doing now fits into this “skeleton” structure.
Stage 1: Import & RAW File Preparation
This initial stage of the process involves the basic calibration and fixes to your RAW files before you load them into Photoshop (so, either in Lightroom or ACR). This covers things like camera profile calibration, white balance, lens distortion, noise reduction and so on.
Stage 2: Exposure Balancing
The main goal of stage 2 is to create an even exposure by recovering any under-exposed shadows and over-exposed highlights. If you're blending bracketed exposures, this is where you do it.
Stage 3: Colour Correction & Calibration
Here's where you set the tone for the colours in your image. Any colour corrections or adjustments (creative or natural) happen here at stage 3 of the workflow.
Stage 4: Add Contrast & Drama
Here's where we start making our images POP! It's also where most of the creativity happens in this process.
There are a million and one individual methods and techniques out there that you can use to meet the goals that are the purpose of stage 4, but whatever techniques you end up using, make sure you always keep this simple rule in mind:
Many subtle changes trump fewer big changes. Every. Single. Time.
Stage 5: Enhance & Embellish
When you reach this stage in the work ow then your image is probably around 90- 95% complete.
However, the extra 5-10% that you are about to do now is what's going to add 50% to the “finished-ness”.
Things like dodging and burning to make objects stand out more, adding micro and macro contrast adjustments, and making finishing touches like cleaning dust spots etc are all filed under stage 5.
Stage 6: RSE
Once your masterpiece is complete, you have just one more step before sharing it with the world...
Resize, Sharpen, and Export. In that order.
Just by taking this outline of a workflow and slotting into it all of the separate individual edit’s you’re already making when you process your landscapes, you’ll automatically create a high level of consistency to your images.
Once you have consistency, then you can work on improving and tweaking little bits one by one to test their effects on the results.
And speaking of how to improve in those areas... It's time for strategy #2...
Copyright 2019 Steve Arnold