One of my favourite memories of New York when I visited there in 2002 is stumbling across Carnegie Deli (on 7th ave).

Walking through the front door the first thing that hit me was the atmosphere.

Everything about the place from the jam-packed walls full of photos of celebs who’ve dined there, to the sounds of food sizzling in the kitchen, to the hubbub of people chatting over their meals…

It was like the amalgamation of all the best aspects of every American diner I’d ever seen on TV.

Then I noticed the sandwiches.

The foot tall sandwiches.

Not foot long, like a sub…

A foot TALL! lol

And me being me, I had to go for one.

But the one I chose off the menu only had 3 layers.

Layer 1, a pound of sausage
Layer 2, a pound of turkey
Layer 3, about 4 inches of iceberg lettuce

It was such an awesome novelty!

But in the end the sheer amount of solid meat was just too much to handle. I couldn’t even get through half.

I’d love to go back one day, but next time I’ll choose something a bit more subtle and easy to digest.

Rather than just 2 layers of solid meat and half a lettuce slapped between two slices of bread…

I’d take something with more individual layers, with each bringing a new and subtle flavour to the table.

Something that the chef put a bit more time and craft into, with the layers upon layers of tasty fillings all complementing each other in their own ways.

Fillings that wouldn’t be very exciting by themselves, but in the right combinations add up to something greater than themselves.

When I first started using Photoshop, the novelty-factor was high and when I learned the basics of a particular feature, I’d go all out on it with some huge adjustments.

A big saturation boost here, an extreme contrast curve there…

It was about as subtle as a sledge-hammer.

Kinda like the sandwich with 2lbs of solid meat.

But these days, instead of layering just a handful of big adjustments I go for the subtler approach of making numerous small adjustments to build gradually towards the finished piece.

Most of the images I create these days end up with at least 10 individual layers, each one adding some small benefit which I can brush in (using a mask) just where it’s needed.

A bit of contrast here, brighten the shadows there, blend a separate exposure in, correct a colour…

Anyway, you get the gist.

The moral of this story is that using many subtle layers that build upon each other is a better way to go than trying to do too much with too few layers (whether you’re processing a photo or building a sandwich!)

If you want to see exactly how I do this in Photoshop so that you can use the same methods and techniques on your own photos, then my whole approach is laid out for you here (click here now).