Yesterday I posted some white-balance tips for shooting food photography. In this post I’m going to go through the steps I took to edit the image. The photo used in this post is from the same shoot and is edited identically to the image in the previous post.

I reduced the images sizes in this post for format purposes … feel free to click on them to view in a larger resolution.

The images I photograph, whether they are for work or for fun, always go through Adobe Lightroom before I edit in Photoshop, and sometimes, if they are not “work” images, I will just export straight out of Lightroom and not even use Photoshop. I’ve been using the program ever since it was released and have found it to be an essential part of my workflow.

So, for this image, I started by editing the RAW file in Lightroom. I made some slight temperature and tonal adjustments (the changes are hi-lighted in yellow). Then I exported the image as a PSD file and opened it in Photoshop CS4 to do further editing.

When I edit images I typically use a lot of layers. This photo didn’t need too much work to it, so it’s not as complicated when it comes to my typical work-flow. I prefer to use adjustment layers to preserve the non-destructiveness as much as possible during the editing process … and so I can go back and fix anything I missed the first time around.

The first layer is a Levels Adjustment Layer – I named it “light” in my layers panel to the left (click here to view the actual RGB adjustments). One thing you’ll note is that, hi-lighted in yellow is the blending modes drop-down and I have it set to “luminosity“. I do this with my images so that I can do masking that will only affect one aspect of the adjusmtents, if necessary. In this particular image I didn’t want the red areas of the salmon and topping to be overly lightened (it was creating some ugly blotching in the darker red areas) so I used “SELECT –> Color Range…” to find the red areas, then I filled in the selection with black in the layer mask.

Next I added another Levels Adjustment Layer, changed the blend-mode to “color” and did some minor color editing. I used the far left slider on the “Red” and “Green” channels and brought them in slightly to the right until the colors looked balanced (click here to view the adjustments).

The third layer is a Black and White Adjustment Layer, the blend mode changed to “Soft Light” (I also will sometime use the “Overlay” blend mode”) and then dropped the opacity down to 20%. This will usually give a nice contrasty look to the image, and often will make the blacks stand out in the image more.

(If you want to learn more, please click here to view a quick two-minute video tutorial on this effect.)

The last thing I do in my images is add a sharpening layer. I prefer to use the “High Pass” filter and use masking to show only the part of the image I want sharpened, in this case the basil leaf furthest to the right. (I explain how to do this effect towards the end of this video tutorial, at about 5 minutes in.)

And that’s my editing process! I always save the un-flattened PSD version of the image, along with a full-res JPEG. Saving the PSD files eats up more space, but I have found it useful when I need to go back and re-edit a file (or do fun tutorials like this one).