My Digital Workflow


There are many ways to work on a digital file from film to scanning to image manipulation to printing. This one is mine...

  1. Scan image in 16-bit, wide-gamut colorspace (I use LAB).
  2. Perform overall color and tonal correction while still in 16 bit mode. This is especially true if working from a consumer level CCD scanner (i.e., NOT a Tango drum scanner). Drum scans often need far less adjustment because the software that drives these scanners can control the hardware to perform manipulations. With CCD-based consumer scanners the pre-scan adjustments merely alter the image after the scan but before writing the data to a file. I'd rather do the same thing in Photoshop on a 16-bit raw image file. If the image is from negative film, invert the image and then perform the overall color corrections (I keep negative film as a raw-ish scan and follow Ian Lyons' method). I also prefer to save the Curves and Levels settings at this stage, just for reference (and they have small file sizes so they don't take much space anyway).
  3. Do all the dust-busting possible with this 16 bit image.
  4. Save this 16 bit image as the reference master in TIFF format.
  5. Convert image to 8-bit per pixel and perform any remaining color tweaks in Adjustment Layers, being sure to save the settings in files as well.
  6. Use the 8-bit file as a means to create and save adjustment layers to finally be applied to a copy of the 16 bit image as needed in future output files.
  7. The 16 bit master TIFF will be the reference file from which future targeted output will be generated. Be sure to work from a copy of this TIFF and not the original.

Saving the 16 bit as well as all of the curves, levels, and HSB, settings may result in a large file archive. And with CDs hovering around 700MB per disc you won't get many files on a CD. But what you get in retrun is a relatively pristine file that suffers from little degradation. Blank CDs are cheap and so are huge hard drives. Keep the best files you can for the future and deal with storage problems as a secondary issue.

This methodology results in two image files and one or more adjustment files (Levels, Curves, HSV, etc.). The beauty is that all color corrections have been made and saved. If the PSD file is lost or (in the future) nobody recognizes the PSD file format there still exists an 8-bit, post-processed file that is easy to print.

If you've read Real World Adobe Photoshop <version> by Blatner and Fraser you now know where most of my workflow comes from. I highly recommend this book as your initial reading for Photoshop usage. I also recommend Photoshop <version> Artistry by Haynes and Crumpler. But use the Blatner and Fraser book as the reference for file format and color management workflow.

Last modified: Tue Jun 10 01:17:51 2003
webmonkey at isolation dot net