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Before we go speeding down the path of creative effects no pun intended, of course, I'd like to share some general thoughts and suggestions. You'll find a surprising range of attitudes about creativity among photographers. Some are purists who feel that the image should be a faithful representation of your subject and that you should not apply any changes to the image in post-processing. Others take a very liberal view of photography as an art form, and feel they can do absolutely anything they want with an image to produce an expression of their artistic sense. Regardless of your perspective, in my mind the most important consideration is enjoying your artistic expression.
I do recommend that you explore some creative possibilities, and especially those that are outside your comfort zone. Doing so might reinforce your attitude about how much is too much when interpreting a photographic image, but it might just encourage you to expand your approach to photography as well. I do discourage the use of creative effects purely for the purpose of applying a creative effect. To me, a creative effect should contribute to the mood of a photo or enhance a particular emotion or feeling you're trying to convey. Sometimes less is more.
I strongly encourage you to experiment, play with your photos, have fun. Don't feel limited by what others consider to be the best way to approach photography. When experimenting, I do encourage a non-destructive workflow. By non-destructive workflow, I mean for example, using adjustment layers to apply a change in appearance to your image, rather than applying an adjustment directly to pixel values. I can also use image layers for this purpose. For example, if I wanted to paint something onto my layer, instead of working on my background image layer, I could create a new layer and then paint on that layer. I can also utilize layer masks.
So, for example, if I wanted to apply an adjustment that only effects a certain portion of the image, then I could use a selection, or painting on a Layer Mask, in order to apply that effect selectively to particular areas of the image. If I want to apply a creative filter to an image I can use a smart filter. This allows me to work in a non-destructive way. It also enables me to fine tune my filter effect later, if I'm not happy with the initial result. Now in the process of demonstrating some of these concepts, I've obviously made a mess of my image, but hopefully it helps you better understand some of the potential in terms of working non-destructively.
All of these changes have been applied in a non-destructive way. So if I wanted to get rid of any or all of them I could eventually work my way back to the original image. I can make changes to the adjustments I've applied or remove them all together. I have maximum flexibility, as well as the ability to take a look at exactly what I did to the image. Of course the most important piece of advise I can give you when exploring creative effects in Photoshop is also the advise I hope is easiest to follow. Have fun.
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