Over the many years and hundreds of images, a pattern evolved that I seemed to repeat time and time again, from which I saw a common logic evolve. This logic, along with a mass of very specific Photoshop techniques not covered here, I teach as private tuition in the UK, USA, France, Germany Italy, Dubai, worldwide. When faced with a new picture, it is easy to feel lost; not knowing where to start. The best Photoshop philosophy, is to always look at the picture in terms of surface area. Make changes to the largest areas of the image first and changes to the smallest areas of the image, last. The overall look of the picture must be set first through big, global changes first.
By using a philosophy of working from large to small, you achieve two things. First, the overall look and feel of the photograph is set on the right road from the start and is always being refined. Second, how the larger objects look, give the context for how the smaller objects they contain must look. We need the larger objects to be set first, so we can make the correct decisions when working on the smaller objects. Using these principles, the most common starting point is getting the sky to ground relationship correct first, then sub-dividing the ground into its major components. Working our way down by object size, the larger object dictating how the smaller objects look.
Think of the Photoshop workflow being the same as a sculptor. The Italian sculptor Michelangelo would start with a solid block of marble. Sculpting the main forms of the statue first. It would be impossible for him to work on the hand details first, before the major body forms were created. Principles that are also valid in all the works of old master painters; we can use the same methods in our Photoshop workflow. When the photo is near completion we can polish all the details, so they all sparkle full of life, yet remain looking correct within the context of the whole cohesive picture; polished for maximum quality and definition relative to their distance and location in the image.