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Monday, September 30, 2013

Camera RAW Does More Than Adjust Exposure

The deeper you dig into the features of Camera RAW, the more you’ll tout its power

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The deeper you dig into the features of Camera RAW, the more you'll tout its power. It does a lot more than simply adjust global exposure. The fact that local adjustments can be made is often overlooked. Learn to use the Adjustment Brush along with the Graduated Filter to bring your RAW captures to wall hanging quality.

This is the original RAW capture made with my Nikon D300:

These are the default settings of the capture. Note the two end points on the histogram. Some of the whites lack detail and the blacks need to be tweaked a bit to the left to bring up their saturation.

I toned down the Exposure and Highlights sliders to eliminate the spike of pixels on the right side of the histogram. This caused the shadows to go dark so I moved the Shadows slider to the right to restore shadow detail. To richen up the blacks, I moved the Blacks slider a bit to the left. Note the difference in the sliders from the default screen capture just above:

The above changes produced better global exposure:

With the global changes made, I wanted to produce a warmer look to the sky and its reflection without disturbing the tone, color and exposure of the rest of the image. I clicked on the adjustment brush to locally alter the white balance of the sky and it's reflection in the water. The fact that white balance can be locally adjusted is often overlooked. I encourage you to incorporate it into your Camera RAW workflow.

With the Adjustment Brush activated, I altered the white balance and increased the saturation to make the following changes highlighted in red. I simply used the brush to paint over the areas I wanted to change in the sky and the reflection. To get an accurate feel for where the changes take place, enable the SHOW MASK check box at the bottom of the window.

After painting the white balance over the sky and its reflection, the image looked like this:

The final change I applied dealt with the fact the sky was too bright. I clicked on the Graduated Filter and made a change to first the top of the image. The dialog box reflects the change:

While the effect improved the image, the bottom now appeared a bit too bright so I added a NEW graduated filter to the bottom. I clicked the Radial Button that says NEW in order to add an additional filter. The dialog box reflects the change:

With all the changes made and in just a matter of a few minutes, I went from the BEFORE:

to the AFTER:

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