Photoshop Essentials: Workspace and Workflow

Photoshop workspace and workflow habits can really make a difference in the way a photo turns out after post-processing. If you're not careful, you can actually do more harm than good by working with a photo in software such as Photoshop. Your post-production habits will also have an effect on your near and distant future ability to use your photos in various ways, so it's important to plan ahead and save yourself some trouble.


It's important to get your ducks in a row before you start your photo editing process. These are all things that can be setup once and left alone, so they're not a huge inconvenience.

  • Monitor Profiling
    Probably the most important thing you can do for your workspace. If your colors are off in your monitor, your colors will be off in your photos.
  • Color Space
    Use the biggest color space possible while shooting and while post-processing, but be aware of any limitations caused by your chosen color space.
  • Bit Depth
    Use the highest bit depth possible while shooting and while post-processing. The difference in number of colors is quite more than two fold — we're talking trillions versus millions of color here.
  • Custom Workspace Settings
    Familiarize yourself with the various layouts, menus, palettes, and shortcuts available in Photoshop. Set things up the way you like, and save that setup.
  • Keep Your Keyboard Shortcuts Handy
    This isn't really an essential item, but it will save some time and frustration while processing photos. As you use the software more, you'll start picking up important shortcuts for items you use most often.


Once you get into working with Photoshop, there are some things you can do to improve the overall quality and integrity of your photos. These are some of the basic “good practices” that are worth keeping in mind.

  • Never Touch The Original
    Always keep an untouched copy of the original if you're working with JPEGs — you never know when you might want it back. If you work with RAW files, you don't have to worry about this.
  • Descriptive Layer Naming Conventions
    Keep track of what you did while post-processing by adding extra information to your layer names. If you come back to your Photoshop file a year later, will you remember what you did on “Layer 7”?
  • Layer Structure and Grouping
    Similar to naming, keep your layers organized by structuring them and grouping them where appropriate. Grouping is also convenient if you have several interpretations of the same photo that you want to hang on to.
  • Using Non-Destructive Adjustment Layers
    If you're still using simple image adjustments, you're behind the times. Use image adjustment layers to get the same effect without destroying pixel information.
  • Destructive Adjustments
    There are ways to get around certain destructive adjustments (sharpening is a great example), and make them non-destructive and adjustable at the same time.
  • Saving Images for Web Display
    As I said before, work with the largest color space available, but you also have to remember that the web runs on the sRGB space. Don't forget to convert your profile before sending pictures to the web — otherwise they'll look a bit off in color.

What other practices are essential to your post-processing workspace and workflow?