Silverstrand Photography Blog

Local photography company in Saratoga Springs, UT. Families, corporate, sports.

Tuesday’s Tips & Tricks – Working with RAW

Do you shoot in JPEG or RAW?  I’m a firm believer of shooting in RAW.  I actually rarely change my camera settings from RAW ever.  Do you know what RAW is or means?  Let’s start there.  Don’t worry I won’t get too technical 🙂  Shooting in RAW means that you have a full-res “negative” in the digital world.  When you shoot in JPEG, it compresses that information.  Everytime you edit an image in JPEG, you loose some more information.  RAW is a little more friendly and flexible.  When you edit, it never actually touches your original image.  So you can re-edit and re-edit and not have to worry.  What’s nice about shooting in RAW is that if you take the original picture a little too dark or bright. (within a few f-stops)  You can fix the problem in RAW and either brighten or darken a little bit.  You can only do this so far.  There are limitations.  But just having that option makes your life a little less stressful.

Have you ever been out in nature and saw an amazing cloudy sky that you just LOVED and wanted to get a good picture of it?

Let me tell you about a time when this happened to me. . . So there I was in Costa Rica.  There was this amazing sunset with all these awesome clouds.  I grabbed my camera out and set the exposure to the sky… and what happens?

The sky looks amazing, but the foreground is too dark!  grrr!

So I lightened up the exposure so that there was more detail in the foreground….  and what happens?  Yep you guessed it.

The sky I was hoping for… NO MORE!

Then I sat down on that beautiful beach with all the little crabs that were in the sand and cried my eyes out. Why can’t I get the picture that I want?  Why can’t it be perfectly exposed? Why am I not good at surfing?  Why doesn’t the camera do what I imagine in my mind?  Why is my office so messy?  Why is my laundry piled up?

Then I though back to some Digital Imaging classes I took at UVU.  Wait!  There is a way to get my way all the time! So I quit feeling sorry for myself and we went and enjoyed the rest of our vacation.

So now I’m going to teach you how to do it so you don’t have an episode on a beach in Costa Rica. 🙂

Step 1: Open the photo in photoshop… it will automatically open in CAMERA RAW! 🙂  YAY!  Expose this image for the sky.  Open the image.  With that image still open, go back to your image and open it again in CAMERA RAW.  This time expose it for the foreground.  Open the image.

Now you have both versions open in Photoshop. One that is overexposed and one that is underexposed.  Your screen should look something like this:

Very good.

Step 2: Now with your Move tool.  click and drag the underexposed photo on top of the overexposed photo.

HINT* If you hold down the shift key while you click and drag it over to the other image, it will center the image on top of the new one.

The darker image should be on top of your lighter image.  You with me still? 🙂

It should look like this:

Very good! 🙂

Step 3: Ok, next step is to apply a layer mask to top layer (dark image).  Layer Mask can be added by clicking the gray square with the white circle in the bottom right hand corner. (I highly recommend everyone reading more about layer masks if you don’t know about them already!  They are truly life savers!)

Here’s a screen shot of the Layer Mask added to the top layer:

Step 4: Ok, here’s the fun part… make sure the layer mask is selected.  With your BRUSH tool, start painting BLACK on your image (it’s really just painting black on the mask).  This is pretty much “erasing” the top photo and “reveling” the bottom photo where you want it to.

Here’s a screen shot in the works:

I usually use a bigger brush size for most of it… then get a smaller one when you get to horizon lines.  So “paint” out what you don’t want in the image.  Zoom in to get finer details.

If you mess up… It’s ok!  “paint” with white over the messed up area and it goes back the way it was.  WOW! 🙂  Really take your time and do a good job.  You don’t want a glowing effect around things.  If you really take your time, the results will be worth it!

YOUR DONE! Now that you have the image with the exposure the way you want it, you can do other things to make your image amazing.

I added more contrast:

Then did a rough selection and inversed it,  to get a burned corner effect.

So here is what I started with:

With a few little edits… ended with this:


So that’s why I love RAW!  It makes photoshop fun! 🙂

Come back for more Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks!

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