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Switchman Studio: Organization

I often get asked which Adobe Photoshop actions I use to get 'that look'.  While I'm not really sure what constitutes 'that look', the short answer is: none.  My opinion is that images should be dealt with on their own terms.  Automation, at least when it comes to photography, is bound to eventually reduce quality.  (That's not to say that I don't use Adobe Lightroom's 'Sync RAW Settings' feature extensively, as I consider optimizing a RAW image and even applying a Lightroom 'preset' to be very different than full-on retouching).

 However, I do have a few actions that I use everyday.  Three, in fact.  What are they for?  Organization.  My actions simply populate the layer stack with all the elements I need to retouch an image, whether it's a simple global color adjustment, or a 12-image composite.  It's color-coded, hierarchal, expandable, and best of all, consistent.

Organization goes hand-in-hand with non-destructive editing and is especially important when retouching with tons of layers (often more than 30!), or when working in multiple sessions as often happens when clients enter the scene.  I've often had to return to an image after several months and been very glad that layers were well-named and were right where I'd expect them to be, saving me time and my clients money.

Of course, this system wasn't developed overnight, which means I've also had the experience of returning to images I worked on years ago and wading through a swamp of unnamed layers, complete with nested masks, and funky blending modes.  Sometimes I feel I'm better off starting from scratch.  Either way, it can be pretty frustrating when all you were trying to do was round up a few images for a stock request!