Introduction to Workflow
Now what I'm gonna give you is a very specific, four phase blueprint of a workflow, 'kay? I don't want you to say, "Well Blake says this, so that's the only way it's done." The thing is that this workflow while it's broken up into four phases, you can plug in any variable you want into these phases. So I've got a bunch of buddies in this industry. My buddy Matt Lazowski, great guy. My buddy Jim Moninski, great guy. They're on polar opposites on how they edit their images, right? So then there's me. I'm also very different than they are. You're gonna learn something from me. You're gonna learn something from Jim, and you're gonna learn something from Matt. And you're gonna learn something from all these people. And I want you to learn them from all these people. So don't think that this is Blake's narcissistic approach to workflow. That's not what this is. It's a system that's been developed, so that you can see what you need to do at what phase of your workflow, and what you need to be...
doing with it. 1st thing. I said this is not narcissistic, but I want you to forget everything you've ever been taught about workflow. 'Kay? And I need to do that because we have this military term to break you down to parade rest. Which means everyone gets their head shaved. And everyone goes through basic training. And this is where I'm gonna shave all of your heads. Did you bring the clippers, Jim? (laughter) This is where we shave down everything you've been taught, and we just build you back up again with a different set of tools and a path that you can follow. Every photo, no matter what genre that is, has three things in common. They have tone, they have color, and they need your artistic expression to make them yours. Every single photo has these. And you're like, well that's not four phases. That's just three. If you get nothing else out of anything that I'm gonna say today, I want you to get tone, color, and effects out. And you're probably gonna be sick of hearing it by the time I'm done. Actually I guarantee you're gonna be sick of hearing it by the time I'm done. But I will have brainwashed you to the point where you open a photo and you're like, "What am I going to do?" You're gonna go to tone, color, and artistic effects. Okay? That's what you're going to go to because when you do this, there is no question anymore on what needs to happen to a photograph. And you have to do it in this order. Because what happens is, and you're gonna see this in the workflows that I do here. If you do effects without getting your tone and your color technically correct, you're gonna just have some effects that look really great on really bad photos. This is where the preset market irritates the living junk out of me. Because a lot of these presets had been built with this effect in mind on an image they already created with this tone and color area, right? So if you didn't do this process and you get this preset pack and you're like, "My image looks nothing like their sales page." It's because this part isn't done on your side, 'kay? This is the four phase blueprint. This is the preliminary phase is what I call it. Is where you have the exposure. That's when you're on the scene, you're doing the composition. This is a very important phase. This is all the stuff that happens in the input process before you start doing the artistic workflow in your process. And we have the pre-processing phase. In between these things, so when you're packing a parachute, you'd get to a certain phase and you'd stop. And you'd go, "Rigor check!" And then another rigor comes over. Looks at your parachute, says, "Okay, go." Or, "Okay, fix that, go." This is that concept for me. I had to compartmentalize photographic workflow into a way that was systematic in that approach. So these are actually physical stopping points where an image can stop. An image can stop straight out of the camera, right? We see it all the time. I take this straight out of camera. Well good for you. (laughter) Then we have the pre-processing phase which I call pre-processing, but some people are like, "Well you get pre and you have post. "Where's the in-between?" Well the in-between is the whole process, right? This is where some of the boring stuff happens. Your preliminary things. You're in Adobe Camera Raw and Lighrtoom. I call that boring, okay? This is where the really fun part happens. The post-processing, the tone and the color, getting really meticulous in the things that you're gonna do. And then the creative processing. At any point, you could stop at any one of these points. And be done with the photograph. But it's not complete until you get it here. I once had a professor, and in college, I was a formally trained painter. And he was my painting professor, and he'd come over like, "Well, it's not quite 100% yet." Like what do you mean it's not 100% yet? I'm done? He's like, "No, you're not, it's not 100% yet." So I'm like wait, okay, if I had to put a percentage on every layer that I put on this painting. I did this, I did what I call a percentage painting. This is kind of an aside, but it's important. And what I did was, every layer I put on there, I called 1%. This painting took me four years to paint. And it was beautiful. My last layer though, when I told myself my last layer was gonna be pure black. 100%, right? I reached my hundred layers, I reached my 100%. And I just paint it all black. 'Casue that was my way at getting back at what 100% is, right? So at any point, this could be done. But this is where I'd say you're at that 100% mark. This is where I'd say that you've got your tone good, you've got your color good, you got a good photo out of your camera and you're good to go. So breaking down these phases. When I talk about a good exposure, I like to take, when I'm on the scene. Now this is a little bit different than what a lot of people might do. I'm a very post-process oriented person. So a lot of times, I go into my shoots especially because I'm a landscape photographer knowing that I'm gonna post-process it. So I set myself up with what I call like a low contrast image. So it's not blowing up my highlights, it's not clipping. It's not creatively done in the camera because I lose things if I creatively do it. If I make a high key image in my camera, then I can't go anywhere with that but high key, all right? So while I'm in that preliminary phase, while I'm in that phase of making that exposure, I'm making sure that I don't have too much highlight or shadow clipping. And I have what would look like a dull, boring photograph. I'm not there to collect beauty. I'm there to collect data. 'Cause I know that I can exploit that data when I get in the post-production side. And that's what this workflow is geared towards. But it can be used for anything. The pre-processing phase. This is the boring stuff. Noise reduction, straightening the horizons, cleaning up distractions, all the dust that's on my mirror-less camera, the chromatic aberrations, the color temperature. Minimal tone control 'cause what I'm gonna show you there is that that's where I do a lot of what, it's kinda like you'd say, "Why would I do that to my photograph?" And you're gonna see that. The purpose of doing these things like this though is that this is because we want all of this boring stuff to be in that XMP sidecar file if you're using Adobe Camera Raw, or in that ghost file if you're using that Lightroom where it's cataloging that stuff that's happening in that image. Because that way, once you get that phase done, I said you could pretty much stop there, right? Well, I can go into a different idea every time and already have this preliminary stuff done. The next phase is gonna be the tone and color phase. And these can happen anywhere. But you wanna target that highlight, shadow, white, black, and contrast. You're familiar with that. Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw. And then we go into color, and this is where you get into the properties, the color properties of hue, saturation, and luminance, or lightness. Or value if you're in that painting world. These can all happen anywhere. What I mean by that is that whatever program you're most familiar with, it can happen. And I'm gonna show you a lot of Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, but that doesn't necessarily mean because Blake does it there, I have to do it there. Just keep that idea of tone, color, and effects in mind. And this is what I'm talking about when I come to those. Dodging and burning, this is like the trump card. And the reason why is because this could be used as a tonal effect later. Or it can be used right after that tone and color point before you get into the artistic realm. And I highly suggest you dodge and burn. Anybody a film photographer, or past film photographer? Anyone here ever done dodging and burning in the dark room? Okay, it's tedious, and if you don't get it right, you fail. Right? And then you gotta reprint that image. Because dodging and burning there was like (pants). And then someone says, "Hey Blake!" And you're like, "What? "Aw!" 'Cause then it leaves this hard edge where you were supposed to be doing this agitating thing. So I always highly stress dodging and burning in the post production side of things. Because that's where you get to sculpt with light. You become a sculptor with light. And you can dramatically change the shape of an image just by dodging and burning. The creative process. This is where you get into plugins. Like you know, your topaz, your ON1, your Nik. Any of those plugins that you might use. I always save those until the end. Because that's where I'm gonna do some of that creative processing. Or this might be where I'm using color grading. Or effects, color effects, tone effects, artistic effects. The thing about this is in the effect world, we now have tone effects, color effects, and then those artistic effects. So the way this workflow works is that if you think of your technical process in terms of tone, color, and effects, then you get into your effects-based process. You have those tone effects like vignettes, your color effects like color grading, and so on and so forth. Then we can even go further with this, with like the things I was talking about. Like vignettes, and borders if you're into that sort of thing, or textures, if you wanna really push the artistic and creative mold of that image. This is where textures come in. I wouldn't put those textures on my image til the very end. If you're not familiar with textures, it would be like me taking a picture of this wood floor, the wood grain, and overlaying that over the top of my image. I wouldn't do that at the beginning. Because I still need to get the tone and the color of that image right before I start applying those effects. 2nd thing I need to do to walk away from this with is don't convolute it. Okay? Keep it simple and keep it efficient. Keep it efficient for what you know at the time that you know it. Because your workflow is always gonna change depending on who you learn from, whether you're learning from me or Matt, or Jim, or anybody for that matter. Whoever you're learning from, you can modify your workflow. And I want you to do that. Going back to the whole parachute rigor analogy. We would not let someone pack a parachute by themselves until they had learned from at least three different instructors. It was kind of a ingrain thing that we did. Because we wanted them to see how I did it, how Sean did it, and how Isaac did it, and let them do it, and kind of develop their own way of packing, and really from a technique standpoint. "Oh, how did you make that fold? "Oh, that's cool, I'm gonna try that." So that's the same way with your workflow. You're gonna see me do something and be like, "Oh, that's cool, I like that." But then you see somebody else do it, and you get to this like hybrid kind of workflow that's now yours because you're, what do you wanna call it? Stealing or appropriating those things. That's all up to you. But always remember these steps. Always, always, always, always, always remember tone, color, and effects. So you've got the four phase blueprint which that's gonna be given in the slide deck. And also as a separate download for this course. But within that four phase blueprint, you saw that tone and color were there and also effects. But they just so happen to take up the bottom phase area. Of the workflow. So what we're going to do here today is we're gonna talk about portrait workflow and landscape workflow. And you're thinking, "Wait a second. "Those are two completely different genres." Right? But the cool thing about this. I don't care if you're doing architecture, macro, portrait, landscape, product photography, composite photography, it doesn't matter what you're doing. All these principles can work in any one of them. That's why when they came to me, and I'm predominantly a landscape photographer and said, "Blake, can you teach portrait and landscape workflow?" Absolutely! I can teach you whatever. Because I know that all those images contain three things that need to be done. Tone, color, and effects. And I can always bring my workflow into that. This is gonna be like what I call the high school way of learning things. It's gonna be the freshman, sophomore, junior, senior level of things. So this is gonna be pretty basic. It's gonna be pretty easy. I'm doing that on purpose. Then I'm pretty much gonna be in just Adobe Camera Raw for this one to show you how even if you don't wanna go into Photoshop, you can still implement these tools. This is gonna be kind of like a hybrid version where we're gonna go Adobe Camera Raw slash Lightroom if you do that sort of thing. And go into Photoshop afterwards which is a little more intermediate. And then we're gonna do landscape and portrait which is gonna be a little more advanced because it combines people in a landscape. And how we can incorporate that landscape with those people using this workflow. And then black and white which I would call an intermediate skillset.