Workflow Friday: Marshall Garlington


In our inaugural post in the Workflow Fridays series we welcome blogroll member, and inspiration for the project, Marshall Garlington of f/11. More information can be found on his blog or by reading his P&P Blogger Profile. Thank you, Marshall, for your willingness to share your process with us!

Without further ado, here’s Marshall’s workflow:

Hello everyone!  Many thanks to Jason for giving me the opportunity to share the process I used to create my Roosevelt Hotel image.  Hopefully some of this information will be useful in creating your own images.

A little background information first.  I took this image out in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd.  I shot it with my trusty pocket camera, the Canon G9.  The specs were f/5, iso 200, 1/1000 at 29.2mm.  I processed the RAW file in Apple’s Aperture.

Here is my original image.


I took the image knowing that I would do a fair amount of post processing on it.  One of my main thoughts behind taking this image was to try a technique where I could “turn the neon sign on” and make it seem natural.  You can see that the day was really overcast and that left things very flat and without any kind of mood.  To begin working on this image I started where I start almost all my post processing, levels.  Here’s the histogram, and you can see that the blacks seem good, but the whites could stand to come up.  I brought the slider in until I was just on the verge of clipping. 


The next thing I did was give the saturation a little boost just to add a little punch.  I find that with most of my images a little saturation bump can round things out nicely.

For the next few steps I knew I would need to do work with layers and masking so I exported the adjusted image to Photoshop CS3.  I am a huge fan of Nik Software’s suite of plug-ins and I used a number of them on this image. I’ll try to show how you can also get very similar results with filters and adjustments present in Photoshop.

This first thing I wanted to address was mood.  I started by applying a Nik filter called Midnight. 


This filter darkens the image, increases the contrast and adds a slight Sepia tint.  I liked the effect but it was still a bit cold for me so I warmed it up with a bi-color filter of brown and yellow.  This is a split filter with a brown tone on top and a yellow tone on bottom. 


A similar effect could be achieved by having a brown photo filter on one layer and a yellow filter on another layer and blending them.  I was happy with the overall mood of the image so I moved on to address the sign.

To get the pinkish red for my neon I used a Nik plug-in called Viveza but the same could be done by duplicating the background layer and applying a red photo filter. 


I then applied a black mask to this layer and began revealing just the letters.  This is certainly the most tedious part of the process, but your time is well spent here to achieve a polished final image. 


When I was done with the letters the effect was a bit strong, so I reduced the opacity of that layer to about 60%. 


This reduced the brightness of the red and also let more of the underlying texture of the letters through.

I was almost done with the image, but the brightness of the sky and some of the building bothered me.  I took care of this by adding a vignette that toned those areas down but still left a brighter spot on the building as if some light was breaking through the clouds.  With that done I was happy with the result, so I flattened the image and saved it as a TIFF.  Here is the final image.


I hope you enjoyed this little walkthrough and that you can use some of these ideas to create a unique image all your own.  Thanks again to Jason for letting me share my thoughts and process.

  • I’m wondering where the image of the Levels dialog box is coming from? The author makes it sound like it’s coming from within Lightroom, but I’ve never seen this dialog before. Am I missing something? And it doesn’t quite look like the Levels dialog coming from Photoshop either. Hmm. New feature coming in Lightroom 2.3 perhaps?

    January 9, 2009 at 11:41 am
  • It’s the levels (and saturation) dialog from Aperture.

    January 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm
  • Though I’ve never used it, I believe it’s the Levels dialogue box from Aperture since that’s where he said he did his raw processing.

    January 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm
  • Good…

    January 9, 2009 at 11:19 pm
  • Jason, I love this new idea you have of “workflow Friday”, and Marshall did a great job for your first entry. Keep up the great work!!


    January 13, 2009 at 4:40 am

Leave a Comment: