Is there an order to steps (esp during image restoration)

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I'm digitizing old prints and negatives, and often dropping into photoshop to clean up issues. In particular in photoshop I am erasing dust, adjusting levels and trying to restore colors. I also sharpen (whether because of the scanning process introduced blur or the original print). Often the color and level changes (some global and some localized) are pushing the limits due to bad fading. A lot are B&W prints that were scanned in color, which I am converting to greyscale.

Is there a sequence that works better, mathematically (for want of a better word)?

For example, should sharpening be done early or late in the process relative to strong level or color changes?

To get the best color restoration, should I change levels first or try to draw out and mute the colors to be more correct?

And if it will eventually be greyscale, when do I do it? Lots of restoration sites say to alway scan in color to give you more leverage in editing, but when is the right time to convert, e.g. before or after sharpening?

An obvious answer is "try it and see what works best", and I have, but there are a lot of combinations and I struggle to tell if any of this makes a difference.

Please note: I am talking photoshop and destructive edits, not lightroom, where sequence is a matter of convenience.

Is there a "right" sequence?

Linwood
 
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How deep is your Photoshop experience, Linwood?

I've been using it since around 1991-92 which is worth little except for the amount of time to reflect on processes. It means I saw the introduction of layers and very rapid development of the tech and software in the 90s (I was working for Heidelberg the press makers but printing B&W and colour at home). I have always valued working as non-destructively as possible - for that reason I was a very early adopter of smart previews. So that answers at least one of your questions with certain rules or principles. Always seek to be non-destructive. Never clone directly on an image layer, have multiple layers, as many as you want, enclose multiple layers in smart objects, apply smart filters for tasks such as sharpening since they can be reversed. I would also scan in colour because sometimes that does give you more to bite on - people who advise greyscale should open their wallets and get an adequate size hard drive.

Photoshop is unlike Lightroom in that it has multiple right ways to work while LR generally has just one. But it's a big mistake to think all ways are equal. Non-destructive methods ensure you can have the kind of flexibility we've come to expect, so smart objects, smart objects....
 
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@johnbeardy my experience is long but shallow. LR has kept up with my needs mostly, and I spend less and less time in PS over the years. I understand smart filters generally, and the concepts, and get the idea of non-destructive, but that's not really my question.

Unless I'm mistaken, layers (smart or dumb) are still order specific. So applying sharpening after levels, or before, could conceivably be different.

Or maybe not. Or not enough to matter. Hence my question. Are there general guidelines in terms of order (smart or destructive) that works best?
 
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Once you follow that non-destructive principle, the rest rather takes care of itself. So for example, you do destructive operations like cloning onto separate layers, bind these layers into smart objects, and then apply sharpening as smart filters or as adjustment layers. Layer order is accumulative, but you can change that order years later - so you have that non-destructive quality, as far as you can.
 
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