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Thread: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

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    Member NotXorc's Avatar
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    The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    In a nutshell, this book is causing me issues! It is, for me, an interesting rethink of the way that I approach editing an image. That you take some steps in the workflow which temporarily degrade image quality does not necessarily make it any easier.

    The PPW as taught by Dan Margulis, offers an interesting Photoshop plugin, plus training through a book that he released this year, Modern Photoshop Color Workflow. Although I am still slogging through the book, at the outset it seems like some of the tools are really effective and interesting, not to mention easily adjustable, but others require more discipline to get right. Still others are making me reconsider aspects of my RAW workflow.

    In no particular order, I am really enjoying these modules:

    1) Bigger hammer (how can you not like a tool by that name? )
    2) Darken sky does what it says; that's nice.
    3) H-K interesting, but I'm sure it will take some time to figure out what images it really improves
    4) MMM (Modern Man from Mars) brings out color variation
    5) Color boost sometimes the color hurts, other times it is merely out of gamut . Pro tip: wear sunglasses until your pointer is ready to yank down on the opacity slider.

    A few of the tools make me feel like my existing RAW standby, LR4, is doing okay, especially at the low level pixel-integrity issues. However, the PPW can make some complicated and powerful tools so easy that it is addicting.

    Dan does person-to-person training in Photoshop and it shows. His book is greatly helped by beta readers who kindly point out (at various points in the text) that normal humans will not necessarily understand how to do certain things. I think the most helpful part has been the video training through the website. I believe anyone can register through the link and see the resources for each chapter. Might be fun if you're having a slow day.

    I think the hardest part for me in the PPW is the color-by-the-numbers initial adjustment to the image. I'm sure many users would probably say the same thing. In a workflow designed for speed, it sure is difficult for me to do this task quickly.
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    I just read the book and looked at the videos as well. It is essentially opposite to what I was doing, which was much of the work in capture one pro. Here the RAW conversions are very conservative and his workflow does the rest.

    In particular, I found chapter 3 difficult. His use of color curves for cast correction works well, but must be hard to explain. Why he does what he does with the curve is not always clear and it is made a little harder to follow when he has the highlights of the curve at the left instead of right as I am used to.

    I will give it a try this week and see if I can make it work. This will let me compare the results to what I usually obtain.

    Margulis is very helpful, though. I tortured him with an email and he was gave me a long response. I am certainly learning a lot, but I need to keep an open mind, as I am so used to my own workflow. Certainly, for now, my speed at the PPW is very slow as I work to master the curves. It is fun to try new techniques, though, and I enjoyed the book and found it very educational.

    What have your results been so far?

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi

    I have read his other two books "Professional PS" and "LAB Color".

    "LAB Color" is how I learned image processing in PS for real - instead of gimmicks. It is what made me love digital, and kept me in photography. The darkroom became an impossibly and I never liked scanning 35mm.

    The key is to read - then read and do - then read and do again. Then try it on some of your own images - just to see. Then think about what you have done. Do this w/o pressure - I think its great - you will not only have better prints. You will understand bad prints.

    More than anything - like any good teacher - he is teaching concepts - how to think.

    There are very few good teachers out there - and allot of "formula" ones. In a word I think he is "Great"


    I just started "Modern Photoshop Color Correction" in a way, it is a departure in methods, but not in thinking. I forgot how enjoyable and difficult his books are. Amazing how he takes apart a Photo and gets to an image.

    Phil

    PS - I have seen some of his photos, good thing he got started in prepress :-)
    Philip
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Alajuela,

    I agree with you. I have read the color correction book 4 times, each time after trying to correct an image or two, and each time pick up some new detail I should have noted before.

    Of the books you mentioned, is there one you prefer? The LAB book might be the best for me, as It might not be out of date given the PS updates.

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Steve - I have to say my LAB book is really worn, So we are of the same mind. I still go back to it especially when have a mixed light color caste. I don't think the books are out of date, with the new PS updates it just makes it simplier to execute. I consider myself lucky as the DM books were really my hands on introduction to colorspace,. Also I linked up with Epson Studio in Shanghai.

    Being in Shanghai and being on my own is far cry from taking Photography in College, so I have done a bit of reading I have a shooting partner and also a good friend in prepress, that's about it. My wife also likes to shoot, she a very good eye. My Son is also very good, and really great at Marco and Birds. Other than that I depend on several people in the US to give professional criticism. One in particular - I think is incredible when it comes to my stuff.

    This would be my suggested reading list for Photoshop -- This does not take into account Photo / Art books, sticks to the subject at hand.

    1. Dan Margulis - of course .
    2. Lee Varis - Skin -- great book and all you would every want to know about faces.
    3. R Mac Holbert -- Practically one of the first digital print makers. Has some DVDs on Acme Educational very good.
    4. Katrin Eismann -- All you ever need to know about masking, and a good restorer (which is good for fixing scans)
    5. Vincent Versace - Very good and enjoyable - treats digital (PS) the same way you learned in a darkroom, when you used a grease pen on your prints. Also Has some DVDs on Acme Educational
    6. John Paul Caponigro - Knows colorspaces and printing. Also on Acme Educational.

    Most of the above have web sites.


    I feel bad putting after 6 (so I won't type a number)as he really is number one - Ansel Adams his 3 books are still relative today - The Camera - The Negative - The Print -- He teaches how to think - people tend to quote him out of context and also dogmaticly, so sad. AA is a fantastic creative genius and expands your mind.

    If my Mom wants to learn PS - I would get her Scott Kelby's books.

    What about you? How have you progressed technically?

    Best

    Phil
    Last edited by alajuela; 22nd June 2014 at 05:58.

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Phil,

    Although I have been using photoshop since about 2006, I have done more of the work in Capture One Pro lately. It is interesting to try out the PPW workflow and see how the result compares to Capture One. Along the way, I have also read many of the books on HDR, but I don't use the methods much unless I really need to and then try to keep things natural if possible. I have also read many of the books on landscape photography and photoshop.

    I have been lucky in that I have been able to attend quit a few of the GetDPI workshops and have learned a great deal from them.

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Steve

    I also use C1 - like it allot, Is really the only Raw Converter I use now. Hope the "layers" get better, with a separate fade button for each layer and if all the adjustments were available on the layers. , I look at C1 as doing the heavy lifting, getting the best "Negative" I can. Then PS for fine turning and having "fun".

    I agree HDR has it place, its OK but is also like the Fisheye syndrome One is cool, two can be interesting - but easy to have to much.

    You are lucky to have access to the GetDPI work shops. I wish there were some in China from GetDPI or CI - but I am not holding my breath (although holding your breath in China has crossed my mind as most days the air quality in China is "not so good" )

    In the meantime - I am enjoying shooting and look forward to the day when that is all I do. My goal is to keep improving my processing / priniting. Make the images tell stories.

    Let me know how you progress with PPW.

    best

    Phil

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    One interesting thing I have written to Dan Margulis about is how much lifting to do in C1. In about chapter 14 of the color correction book, it gives you his guidelines for RAW processing in anticipation of the PPW. He is very conservative in what he does, going with the heavy lifting to PPW. This is what I had trouble getting thru my head.The file comes out of C1 pretty flat. It is almost the opposite of what I do without the PPW workflow.

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Quote Originally Posted by scatesmd View Post
    One interesting thing I have written to Dan Margulis about is how much lifting to do in C1. In about chapter 14 of the color correction book, it gives you his guidelines for RAW processing in anticipation of the PPW. He is very conservative in what he does, going with the heavy lifting to PPW. This is what I had trouble getting thru my head.The file comes out of C1 pretty flat. It is almost the opposite of what I do without the PPW workflow.

    Steve
    Hi Steve

    I have not gotten there yet. Please share his answer

    best

    Phil

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    In essence, he prefers to separate the correction of color from contrast, rather than adjust both at once as a traditional workflow does. The PPW does that, as you know, but the tools in ACR do not. He does not use C1, has never tried it, so the remarks are extrapolated to C1.

    The book goes through each of the sliders in ACR and which ones he considers useful. In particular, he will use shadows and highlights, but not much else really. He turns off sharpening, as he does it later and his actions conflict with prior sharpening. I hope I don't misquote him, but the feeling seems to be that the tools themselves in the RAW processors don't behave as well as we think they do.

    One reason I reread the book many times is the sequence of chapters is not in the sequence of the workflow. The sequence of use might be chapter 14, then 3, 4, 7, 10, 8, 11, 12, 13, 9, 6, 5, 13, 2 or something as best as I recall...you need to get through it all to see the sequence. Ultimately, I wrote them down so I could refer to the list rather than flip through the book again.

    I don't think he uses any plugins either, though he does seem to be in favor of 3rd part noise reduction software.

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Steve

    I have been traveling and now back near my computer, Going to do a chapter a week, like I did his two other books. I agree that reading capture 14 near the front is a good idea, I have read 1,2,3,4 and now 14. Think I will go back and start again at 3.

    I do think you have read him correctly, about color and contrast - he has brought that up before.

    I am a disciple, albeit a slow one.

    I like the thought process and his mind set / attitude.

    Are you practicing what you have read?

    Phil
    Last edited by alajuela; 7th July 2014 at 05:00.

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Phil,

    I have been practicing it. Still a ways to go, though. For now, I am getting used to the method and not adding any other techniques until I get the hang of it. I suspect I will add local adjustments to what he does.

    Steve

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Steve
    An Update and a comment.

    While I am completing my first read thru, (there will be a second at least)
    Second part of Capture 11 lost me.

    Also I remember what I found irritating in the first two books I read, - The screen shots and the verbiage are not coordinated, I find myself flipping pages too much, which is distracting.

    Also the quality of the images in the book leave something to be desired, especially when allot is important nuance. Also I fine the files don'y always match the values in the book.

    The videos are a nice break, though, and I still believe this is worth the slough

    Any update on your progress?

    Best

    Phil

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Phil,

    I have been using the workflow routinely after writing down the flow into a notepad so I can refer to it instead of the book.

    I agree the page layout can be scrambled sometimes. The figures referred to can be pages away from the text. Agree the videos can help a lot. There are more of them on the kelbyone website that spend time on the equivalent of chapter 3 in particular.

    There remain routine issues I don't know how to handle in his style. For instance, in C1 I might make a gradient mask on a bright sky, where he might blend in the red channel with a luminosity mask. I also don't know what he thinks about the idea of contrast control in the sense of clarity vs structure vs curves.

    As raw processors progress, will he change the workflow?

    In any case, it has been fun for me to learn more photoshop. I'm just finishing the professional photoshop book and I find it helps understand the color correction text.

    I suspect I will also read the LAB book, then incorporate what I like into my own workflow.

    I also think it has been worth trying it out.

    Thanks, Steve

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Could someone describe in brief what a "Picture Postcard Workflow" is? I have not read Dan Margulis Photoshop books at all, I don't know what this term is referring to. Is it a workflow for producing picture postcards? or some allusion to producing the color/image dynamics of some arbitrary milieu of photo postcard look?

    thanks,
    G

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Steve

    This is my interpretation

    "For instance, in C1 I might make a gradient mask on a bright sky, where he might blend in the red channel with a luminosity mask."

    I think DMs idea of a gradient mask vs channels or blended luminosity masks - is just a way of thinking. He thinks in terms of channels, - In one of his books he refers to 10 channels, - 4 from CMYK
    3 from RGB and 3 from LAB. He just gets there a different way, He in the sky example, he would probably use the blue or cyan channel - invert it if necessary, and throw a curve on it blacken what he wanted masked. I do think that channels are more nuanced and exact.

    "I also don't know what he thinks about the idea of contrast control in the sense of clarity vs structure vs curves."

    He is differently a curves guy, clarity he says is good on certain images for quick results , but not if going to use the DM PPW routines. I do think as Raw converters mature, and certainly important to DM would be the ability to separate color and contrast, he would use them where he could, I think he is very pragmatic.

    LAB book

    I think you will love it, I really did, gives a great understanding of PS and digital post processing. This was the first one I read by him and very happy I did. Its good attitude.

    I think I will do better second time thru the chapters. I really do like the sharpening action, and his attention to halos. I have used his High radius low amount in LAB and find it really good for certain files.

    Hi Godfrey

    The abridged version could be this - Steve is welcome to jump in.

    1. Dan Margulis (DM) is a long standing color correction / digital image retoucher. specialist. - I hate to use the word but Guru is applicable. He had extensive experience in pre - press.

    2. Is very very very well versed in color spaces, the pro and cons of LAB, RGB, CMYK, and their profiles and relationships.

    3. He is adamant that color and contrast is best dealt with separately. Generally thru luminosity masks from channels and blending modes.

    4. Picture Postcard Workflow (PPW) is the accumulation of his philosophy distilled into a catchy phase. A bit self depreciating (but that is his style / humor). Postcards - good ones are really done well and retouched to the highest degree, until recently, now its iphones.

    5. He is very big on "color by numbers" - for checking color castes. In a very common sense approach.

    He has a very advanced set of actions to aid in the repetitive steps in this workflow, and uses extensive luminous masks on blended layers - separating color from contrast (luminosity).

    He presents a logical sequence in the execution of this work flow, that once you get it -- is really precise and accurate. - Its just sometimes hard to read, - this is not Scott Kelby (who I think is very helpful for beginners) DM explains concepts, and writes in a conversational manner as opposed to a step by step on 3 pages DM's steps are chapters long.

    To sum up - it you really want to invest the time in post processing - I think he is about the best - He uses PS to get the job done, does not tailor the job to PS.

    Wow that about the best I can do - it late :sleep006:

    I am convinced that these are great concepts and then you use to suit your taste.

    I will try and add more later

    best

    Phil
    Last edited by alajuela; 10th August 2014 at 10:16.

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Thanks for the explanation, Phil. The thread now makes sense. ;-)

    I am quite curious about him. A friend of mine has occasionally mentioned her brother and being involved with Photoshop ... and her last name is also Margulis. I'll have to send her a note and see whether this is indeed her brother.

    Something about "six degrees of freedom" comes to mind!

    G
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Godfrey,

    I agree with what Phil said. The idea is to correct the color, then adjust contrast independently of color, then adjust color independently of contrast. Since most RAW processors don't allow this separation and control of goals, DM prefers PS for the heavy lifting on the files.

    The methods he uses demand more expertise in PS than most have. They are not books for beginners by any means. He runs a color theory forum where many of the members are international experts in the field. It seems to be a rarified group, in a sense, of color and retouching experts.

    I hope you have a means to meet him, I bet it would be a very interesting discussion!

    The reason I am learning it is, first, there is much in PS I need to absorb and these books are helping a great deal and, second, when I get it right, the files look quite different to me. I think using LAB curves gives my files a different appearance than I obtain in RGB, for instance.

    Let us know what you learn,

    Thanks, Steve
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Just heard back from her: Dan Margulis is my friend's brother. :-)

    I was reasonably facile in Photoshop some years ago, facile enough to teach courses in it, but I've since simplified and realized my best work comes more directly from concentrating on my subject and getting exposure right in the camera. Holds true even for raw capture. So since 2006, I've moved more and more to using exclusively Lightroom and eschewing the kinds of elaborate image processing work that I used to do in Photoshop, to the point where nowadays I open PS once in a while at most to do some edge-case thing that Lightroom doesn't yet support. I haven't updated PSCS since v5.1 and kind of doubt I ever will. I'm happier, I spend less time in image processing and more time in considering what to shoot and how to shoot it.

    Whatever gives you the results you want is how to get there.

    I will endeavor to find a way to chat with DM at some point, now that I know there is a connection to be made. I've now read a little of his stuff and it sounds bears some relation so the late, great Bruce Fraser's work in image adjustment theory at the beginning of the digital age about a decade ago. It is interesting to make this connection now. :-)

    G
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    The thread now makes sense
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    Just heard back from her: Dan Margulis is my friend's brother. :-)

    I was reasonably facile in Photoshop some years ago, facile enough to teach courses in it, but I've since simplified and realized my best work comes more directly from concentrating on my subject and getting exposure right in the camera. Holds true even for raw capture. So since 2006, I've moved more and more to using exclusively Lightroom and eschewing the kinds of elaborate image processing work that I used to do in Photoshop, to the point where nowadays I open PS once in a while at most to do some edge-case thing that Lightroom doesn't yet support. I haven't updated PSCS since v5.1 and kind of doubt I ever will. I'm happier, I spend less time in image processing and more time in considering what to shoot and how to shoot it.

    Whatever gives you the results you want is how to get there.

    I will endeavor to find a way to chat with DM at some point, now that I know there is a connection to be made. I've now read a little of his stuff and it sounds bears some relation so the late, great Bruce Fraser's work in image adjustment theory at the beginning of the digital age about a decade ago. It is interesting to make this connection now. :-)

    G
    Hi Godfrey

    Small world, If DM and his sister are anything alike - you have good taste in friends
    Should come as no surprise, I am a fan of DM and his attitude and approach.
    I was also sad when Bruce Frazier departed. He was one of my first introductions to raw files and color management.
    I agree with you in getting right in the camera, I am not charitable on content, exposure or sloppy framing, especially in my own images

    For me - I always liked the darkroom and printing process, and that was my goal when I decided to go to digital.

    Truth be told, there is so much to do and experiment with - that we seem to find an aspect which fascinates us, and gives us something to explore, to help express ourselves. This is a great thing, to keep trying and practicing, keep trying to surprise ourselves. Hopefully along the way, we raise our skill level

    This being a PPW thread, I end this post with a to DM and my fellow travelers
    Best

    Phil

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    I agreed what is said above!
    The methods he uses demand more expertise in PS than most have. They are not books for beginners by any means. He runs a color theory forum where many of the members are international experts in the field. It seems to be a rarified group, in a sense, of color and retouching experts.
    Certain two facts on this post unequivocally the best we have all had. He operates a color concept community where many of the members are worldwide professionals in the field.
    ^*^*^*^*^Finbar^*^*^*^*^
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

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    Subscriber Member Georg Baumann's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    I read the canyon conundrum and others a few years back, but I am not so certain anymore if such treatments are really required today. I worked in LAB myself for some time, but if I look at the possibilitites and control that I have now in LR with HSL, shadows and highlights, and perhaps in combination with a dose of NIK brushed into Photoshop layers, I do not think that such workflow has bigger advantages anymore, except perhaps for those who work exclusively in photoshop and have a different method and tools for asset management.

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Hi Georg,

    That is the question for me. Given the tools we have, is the PPW workflow still superior? I know Margulis feels it is, but I don't know if comparisons to the results with Nik etc are still being done as the products evolve. I have not seen much about plugins on the color theory forum.

    Thanks, Steve

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    Subscriber Member Georg Baumann's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    For me it all comes down to print. So in a way it is easy to evaluate, try it with LR/NIK/Photoshop and compare with Dan's workflow in the print result. I would think with the NIk and LR workflow, I can get pretty much the same results.

    His actions like the hammer probably make also use of micro contrast settings that would be equally achievable with brushing clarity and contrast settings.

    I must say though, I have not made the above comparison, and I am not too concerend about the speed of workflow. That of course looks different for those who have to work speedily or those who do prodiuct photography with pantone settings etc. Not too sure how you would handle the latter in LR at all.

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    Member NotXorc's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Since the thread is nearing a year old and I haven't had much to say through it's development, I thought it would be fun to post an update.

    I have stayed with the PPW, investing little time in other methods. There are some great alternatives and specialist tools out there, but I have found very few images to which the PPW is not relevant. If I had more time to dabble, I'm sure I would find additional PS tools that would improve my work in the PPW further, or that could serve as substitutes for portions of it.

    Most assuredly, it has taken an investment of time to gain better proficiency, and the speed has improved with practice. The PPW challenged my comfort zone in color, and has never been 100% failproof for me. However, I often find images, even the flagship images of some professional photographers, that I compulsively process using the workflow, just so that I can see the potential in the image realized. Sounds forceful, I know. Believe me, is not my great skill, but the synergy between the PPW panel and knowledge in how to employ the actions tastefully that makes all the difference.

    I think the greatest endorsement that I can give of the workflow is that I am now teaching it to others. After my 17 high school students get an introduction to basic camera operations, lens work, and digital capture, they are introduced to RawTherapee. Their early voyages in PS help them understand the basics of curves and layers ... and then comes the PPW. It is my first time teaching it, but I am excited and optimistic that young people can learn the steps and attain at least a basic mastery with this tool.
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  27. #27
    Member NotXorc's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    In addition, I do print my work and use that as a litmus test for the effectiveness of a workflow. A recent print show was well received.

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    I have also stayed with the PPW and am trying to teach it to others now. I have found that my eye for color casts alone is much better. That, along with learning about Lab, has been worth the time easily.

    Steve

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Quote Originally Posted by NotXorc View Post
    In addition, I do print my work and use that as a litmus test for the effectiveness of a workflow. A recent print show was well received.




    It would be great to see one of your photos that was processed using the PPW method and also processed in LR to show the differences.

    Glen

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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Harumph! Well, it has been doing all right until now without pics. :-)
    When I have some time, I'll consider posting an example.

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    Senior Member alajuela's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Quote Originally Posted by GlenC View Post



    It would be great to see one of your photos that was processed using the PPW method and also processed in LR to show the differences.

    Glen
    Quote Originally Posted by NotXorc View Post
    Harumph! Well, it has been doing all right until now without pics. :-)
    When I have some time, I'll consider posting an example.
    I agree with NotXorc
    Personally I think people posting "compare pics" on post processing is a waste of time. Also missing the entire point. Dan Margulis is teaching a concept, either understand and buy into it or decide it is not for you.

    As you read the entire post, it is mentioned that even the shots in the book are weak, it terms of showing the effects.

    This is not Nik software (which I use and have been since 2004 and will continue to use)

    I guess you must be open to color theory and understand that contrast and color are two entirely separate issues that are related.
    Also feel comfortable checking color and understanding channels in different color spaces.

    Personally I put him up there with Ansel Adams third book "The Print" which I still find relevant.

    YMMV

    Phil

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    Subscriber Member Georg Baumann's Avatar
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    Re: The PPW (Picture Postcard Workflow)

    Quote Originally Posted by alajuela View Post
    Personally I put him up there with Ansel Adams third book "The Print" which I still find relevant.
    Wow, these are heavy accusations Phil! ....chuckle

    Well, you guys triggered my curiousity, when I am all setup again, I will have a closer look at his PPW concept.

    Now, I wonder about Dan's relationship with Adobe. Jeff Schewe's sharpening tool made it into LR permanently. So, assuming Dan's concept to be of similiar generic value for post processing, I would want this to become equally part of LR. Then again, I must look in more detail what's exactly on offer there, besides the LAB/curves workflow.

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