A hot topic on the discussion board lately has been about workflow — general workflow and also the Sagelight workflow with its differences between editors like Photoshop & Lightroom (which are different in of themselves).
WIth the Sagelight Workflow, for example, the Undo/Redo Brush figures prominently in terms of selective or local editing vs. image-wide editing that you get when you move sliders around and such (when the masking is off anyway).
A lot of this discussion is based on what has happened with the last release as well as what is about to happen with the next release – there are new additions with the UI coming, the Sagelight format, as well as a number of other things that are aimed specifically at getting all this power in Sagelight to be more visible and even easier to use.
Work Flow vs. Creative Flow
I was just thinking about the idea of workflow and the HDR image I just posted (shown above). (Click to see the a larger version, before & after, and HDR tips.).
There were two elements to working with this image (and most images, in general):
1. Addressing the ‘needs’ of the image. A need of the image can be defined as something that needs to be done to the image before you can be creative with it – such as getting rid of noise, because noise tends to become amplified the longer you leave it in and continue editing. A need can also be lens correction, general brightening, etc. – the general idea being to get the image beyond what it needs and into your creative control.
I decided to wanted to HDR the above image. At this point, there were things that needed to be done, such as using the HDR Details, and other functions, in order to achieve what I was looking to get out of this image. I am, of course, in creative control of these things, in terms of what they do and how much they apply themselves to the image, but this is now a ‘need’ of the image to get what I want. I need to HDR it. I also need to perform some noise reduction on it (because it started as a medium-quality JPEG with lots of noise). Afterwards with a second pass of NR, I don’t need to do it; that’s creative because I want to smooth it; it’s not a specific need of the image.
2. Being spontaneously creative. After I did the initial HDR and noise reduction, then I could become creative with the image. A little dodging and burning, definition, Soft Glow — whatever I decided to do in a spontaneous creative mode. I will probably talk more about this in other posts as I get into the ‘Sagelight Workflow’, because this is why Sagelight was created and precisely why it works the way it does — the second part of the Apply Button blog post (The Apply Button in Sagelight (Part I –Functional Layer editing) is about the incremental/discrete editing approach. I’ve been looking for a name for this type of emphasis on creative digital editing, and the idea of being a free-flowing creativity really starts to describe it well.
With a creative flow, I can just decide what I want to do. The lower-left of the HDR image above looked too bright, so I lowered the light there selectively. Either through Dodging and Burning or just by using the RGB sliders and then the Undo/Redo Brush (or, I could mask the area, feather the mask, and do it dynamically) — that is, there are many ways. In fact, I don’t remember because it doesn’t matter. I get my ways of doing things down and just do them. In Sagelight, there are quite a few ways to get the things you’re looking for. That’s what makes it creative and fun — the idea of just ‘doing’ things however they occur. Version 5 will have an option to give you an entire list of what you did, btw!
3. Repeating the Process. Once I perform the creative process, there may be more ‘needs’ of the image vs. creative things I want to do. For example, using HDR, definition, sharpening, etc. — this can bring out color noise and other unwanted details. So I might have to address these things selectively. Also, after I think I am done, I might inspect the image and see things I don’t like, such as some edges created by the HDR process (which is common in bright areas, but typically easily removed through NR, Bokeh, the Smoother, and the upcoming Surface Blur). So, I am back to looking at the things the image needs to not have distracting elements.
Once I do that, I might take a break from it — even come back the next day — and see if my creative process takes me anywhere else or if I think it’s just fine the way it is. For me, taking a break between images is key, so I can desaturate my brain from my edited picture and see it objectively, more as if I wasn’t the one who worked on it and was actually seeing it for the first time, with fresh eyes.
WIth a free-flowing creative session, I can often take the same image and come out with two very different result images. Sometimes it’s hard to decide which I like better, even when they look dramatically different.
I’m posting this topic for a couple reasons. One is to get that difference out there in terms of workflow — the needs of an image vs. the creative flow, in terms of ‘work’ flow and ‘creative’ flow.
As the issue of the ‘Sagelight Workflow’ becomes more prominent with the next release, I want to make sure these issues are properly bifurcated. I read an article a while back talking about the ‘Lightroom Look’, which was not a shot at Lightroom, but a recognition that sometimes our edited images can start look the same because we do the same things over and over to every image.
For me, the ‘same’ things we do to our images are what the image needs and not letting the creative flow automatically be the ‘work’ flow.
After that, it’s about being creative!
The second reason I mention all this is because, well, this is part of the discussion on the Sagelight Workflow!