In our ongoing Raw Tuesday series we have taken you through some of the most common questions about using the raw format, and now we are starting to look at some of the more specific ways in which the raw format can give you an advantage. This week we take a close look at how to edit raw files to achieve perfect colour and tone. Then we’ll also help you get familiar with the Adobe Camera Raw interface and some of its key functions.
Even using the best landscape photography tips on the internet, capturing the perfect landscape is never an easy task, but a simple way to maximise your chances of getting a great picture is to shoot around the hours of dawn and dusk – known in the trade as the golden hour. The low light at these times creates perfect conditions, producing long shadows that create interest and, if you’re lucky, creating a colourful, awe-inspiring sky.
In order to capture this scene with an ISO of 100 (to keep noise low), a relatively long exposure of 1/3 sec was used. This exposure time required a tripod, but it enabled us to use a small aperture of f/16, which ensured both the foreground and background detail was captured in focus.
But what if, back home, the image you see on your computer screen pails in comparison to the amazing scene you saw through the viewfinder? Fear not. By shooting in RAW you can use the powerful tools in Adobe Camera Raw to get the very best out of any shot you take.
Here, we’ll show you a few basic techniques that you can use in Adobe Camera Raw to improve this – and your own – shot’s colour and tone, and reproduce the striking scene that you remember.
How to edit raw files in Photoshop for perfect colour rendition
01 Switch on Clipping Warnings
Open the image named landscape_before.dng. Before you start, it’s worth checking to see if any highlights are blown out or shadows lost. Click the small triangles at the top right and left of the histogram to switch on the Clipping Warnings. These appear as blue for shadows and red for highlights.
02 Set the white balance
From the controls across the top of the Adobe Camera Raw interface, select the White Balance tool. Click once into a neutral grey area on one of the rocks in the foreground to correct the colour balance. As there is naturally a cast due to the early morning light, the image might look a little cool to start with.
03 Warm up the colour
For a warmer look, move the Temperature slider to 4850. This increase will add the warmth you’re after, but if you want to cool an image, move the slider to the left. Dotted over the foreground and to the left of the horizon you’ll see those clipping warnings. We’ll tackle these with the Recovery and Fill Light sliders.
04 Reduce the clipping
To reduce the amount of clipped highlights, increase the Recovery slider to 30. You’ll see the red overlay disappear. To lighten the clipped shadows, increase the Fill Light slider to 35. You’ll still see a few speckles of the blue overlay, but don’t increase the slider further because you’ll get an unnatural result.
05 Get vibrant colour
By moving the Vibrance slider to +30 you increase the less saturated colours to a greater degree than the more saturated. This brings out the colour in the sky and heather in the foreground. Move the Clarity slider to +30 to improve the edge tones and define detail and then click Open Image.
06 Boost colour selectively
At the bottom of the Layers palette, click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/Saturation. In the Edit drop-down, select Reds and change the Saturation to +30. Click Edit, and select Magentas, then increase the Saturation to +10. Finally, select Blue and raise the Saturation to +20.
07 Bring out sky detail
Click on the Background layer in the Layers palette, then grab the Quick Selection tool from the Tools palette and drag it across the sky to select it. Click Refine Edge in the top tool options, increase Feather to 2 and click OK. Create a Levels Adjustment Layer, then raise shadows to 30 and highlights to 245.
08 Increase foreground contrast
Click on the Background layer in the Layers palette and again use the Quick Selection brush to select the sky. You want to adjust the foreground in this step rather than the sky, so go to Select>Invert. As before, click the Refine Edge icon in the options bar at the top, set Feather to 2 and click OK.
09 Adjust the Levels
Click on the Create New Adjustment layer icon in the Layers palette and select Levels. To increase the contrast, click on the shadows slider under the histogram and move it to a value of 15, then change the highlights to 240. Alternatively, you could enter the values into the boxes individually, and click OK to apply the change.
10 Finishing touches
Select Layer>FlattenImage. From the Tools palette, select the Burn tool, set the Exposure to 5% and brush over the rock in the foreground to increase the contrast and draw out the finer details. Finally, go to Enhance>AdjustSharpness and change the Amount to 65% and Radius to 1.5 pixels. Click OK and you’re done.
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