Apr 14, 2005

(log N = log A + m log x) and Photoshop

Ok, I suppose I should explain the title. The formula represents “Pareto’s Law” of income distribution. The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto used the formula to show that the distribution of income and wealth follows a logarithmic pattern. In essence, 20% of the people have 80% of a nation’s wealth.

Pareto was one of the leaders of The Lausanne School, a Neoclassical school of thought and a proponent of the General Equilibrium Theory, an attempt to use a “tastes-and-obstacles” structure as opposed to a “demand-and-supply” structure in economics. The structure is also called “The Law of the Unequal Distribution of Results”. So what in the world could the 80/20 formula have to do with Photoshop? Read on. . .

The 80/20 rule can be applied as a universal principle called the “vital few and trivial many” where the the 20% can be said to be responsible for 80% of the results. So, the 20% is vital and the 80% is trivial. To put that in perspective, you should be spending 80% of your time doing those things that are the most vital 20% of your workload. It’s a management approach that makes sense. But before we apply it to Photoshop, let’s examine the principle in other areas.

Applied to Wardrobe:
80% of the clothing you wear represents only 20% of what’s in your closet.

Applied to Interruptions:
80% of your interruptions come from the same 20% of people.

Applied to Meetings:
80% of decisions come from 20% of meeting time.

Applied to Sales people:
Roughly 20% of a sales force will produce 80% of the sales.

Applied to Advertising:
Roughly 20% of your advertising produces 80% of your ad campaign’s results.

Applied to Clients:
Roughly 20% of your clients account for about 80% of your volume.

What these examples all point out is that a high level of efficiency (80%) is achieved with limited means (20 %). Simply put–identify the important things and learn how to concentrate on them.

We can apply this to working in Photoshop in many ways. For example, only 20% of Photoshop’s power is used by 80% of its users. For most people, Photoshop is such a huge application that they are confortable using a only a small subset of it’s functionality.

Which means that while one can learn a small part of Photoshop relatively easily, learning beyond the basics is substantially more difficult.

Another way to use Pareto’s Law with Photoshop is when you work with an image, in general, 80% of your time will end up being spent working on the most crucial 20% of the image. You should learn to identify what about the image is most crucial to fix and fix that first. For example, when color correcting an image, what aspect of the image’s current state needs the most attention. Is the main problem a matter of tone or color? Usually, most problems have identifiable causes such as improper white point or black point settings. Fix the most critical problem and the other problems will also be improved.

Examining a Photoshop workflow, it’s also useful to apply the 80/20 rule. Efficiency in designing a workflow is critical–particularly for users who must process a lot of images in a production environment such as prepress or photographers processing raw captures. While 80% of your processing tasks can be accomplished using only 20% of your time, the remaining 20% of the processing will take 80% of your time. For an efficient workflow, you simply must learn how to automate that remaining 20% of the processing. Learning how to create and run actions and using the Photoshop Batch function can help reduce the 80% of your time spent on that last 20%.

So in the future, try to keep this in mind; while spending 80% of your income on 20% of your equipment, try spending only 20% of your time on 80% of your work.

Pareto’s Formula: log N = log A + m log x
Where N is the number of income earners who receive incomes higher than x, and A and m are constants.

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