Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 1)

Hi everyone!

This will be our first tutorial and we hope to be able to provide you with one nice and complete interesting tutorial every week. Due to their length they’ll be split in two or more parts (like this one) Today we’ll cover the Raw conversion part and in the next post the sky replacement and slight color adjustment in Photoshop.

Before and After image

This is the original image and how it will look after we’re through this tutorial (today we’ll only cover the RAW conversion of the file so stay tuned for the next part)

In this tutorial we’ll get a look into some camera raw features, not everything, that will help you prepare your photos after downloading them from your camera. After that we’ll open the image in Photoshop and teach you how to replace a sky in an image in order to improve its look.

You’ll need  Camera Raw (Part1) and Photoshop (Part2).

You can have access to the files we used here, this way you can follow step-by-step our tutorial, but we hope the knowledge you gain will help you changing your own photos.


So first of all you need to open the .dng file. (DNG means digital negative file, and it’s a format pioneered by Adobe for RAW camera files). Once you open it you should be seeing something like this:

Camera Raw main windowAs you may see, this image looks rather flat and dull, underexposed and missing something of a wow factor. I mean the building is beautiful, like the city it’s in, Venice, but I was quite unlucky that day because the weather wasn’t that great. I always shoot in RAW (a format offered by every d-SLR as well as some compact cameras), because it saves you a sort of digital negative file, that allows for much more tweaking than a JPG, without loosing quality.

I’ll guide you through some of the tools Camera Raw offers, for tweaking your raw files.

Usually a good workflow is to first put the Exposition (which could be translated as the “brightness” of the image) where we want it to be. You have a slider in the basic (general) menu that allows you to do just that.

Camera Raw basic menuMoving the slider left will darken your image, while moving it right will brighten it. The Exposure slider works equally for all luminance in the image, if you move it left it will darken the Highlights, midtones and shadows equally. Sometimes we don’t want that, but in this case, it will work very well, and I’ll explain further why.

Setting the Exposure at +1 will brighten your image nearer to what we want. You’ll notice the sky will also become quite more white and this is good for our purpose of replacing it in Photoshop. If we weren’t doing that, or if the sky had some more beauty to it, you could use the Recovery slider to bring back some information on the highlights (this slider affects only the brightest parts of the images).

The opposite of the Recovery slider is the Fill Light slider, which allows you to brighten the shadows of an image. In this case we can put it at 15. One other thing we want to adjust is the temperature (white-balance) of the image. Most of the times the camera can do a pretty decent job, but we should always adjust it to our needs. It was a quite overcast day so increasing the temperature from 6000 to 6450 will give it a more warmer look (the greater this number is, more orange (hot) it will look and the lower more blue (cold)). All the other settings in this panel we’ll leave as they are right now.

Moving on to the next panel we have some more tweaking to do.

In the Tone Curve panel (signed red in the image right) we can tweak further our luminance, with more control than with exposure. tonecurve

These sliders are quite obvious, their names show what part of the luminance they affect.

In this particular case we’ll increase the Lights slider to 10, the Darks to 30 and lower the Shadows to -15. You may see how the Histogram above the sliders also changed, this is as a curve adjustment in photoshop.

It’s one of the most common and useful tools there is to fix exposure, as it allows you to tweak them separately (while exposure for instance changes every value altogether).

What we did now was once again increase the brightness of the image but at the same time darkening the darkest part of it (Shadows), so that you regain some of the contrast we lost by making it much more bright.

Now we’ll move to correcting the perspective of the image a bit as well as some chromatic aberrations induced by the lens. To do this we should move to the Lens Corrections Panel.lenscorrection

In this panel you should choose the Manual tab. Here you get some tools to correct the perspective of the image. If you tweak a little bit with each you’ll understand how they work, so feel free to do it. After you’ve done please use the values as shown (if you’ve found or like better some other values you can use them without a problem).

For correcting the Chromatic Aberrations, please move to the Profile tab and tick the checkbox corresponding to Remove Chromatic Aberration (in previous versions of Camera raw you could manually adjust it, but this new one works very well and doesn’t ask you to input any data).

You can see the effect it does if you zoom in 100% (or even more)  into the image and go to a part of the roof. I’ve taken some printscreens in order to show you:

Left - Chromatic aberration, mostly green | Right - with Remove Chromatic Aberration On

Left: Remove Chromatic Aberration ON  | Right – Without Remove Chromatic Aberration

Having done this, we have made the task of replacing the sky in Photoshop easier, at the same time improving the quality of our image.

There’s one thing left before we move to Photoshop and that is to crop the image accordingly. To do that please click on the following icon (located on top of the Camera Raw Window):

crop An example of our own crop was as follow.crop2To use it just click on any part of the image and without releasing the click drag your mouse. You’ll see you’ve created a new “square/rectangle” inside your image. This will be what your image looks like after the crop. You can rotate this square by moving your cursor outside the box (you should see the icon for the cursor changing into a rotation cursor) and click+dragging it. Since we’ve tweaked the perspective so much we have to do it in order to not have that gray areas.

So finally, it’s time to set our output settings. To do so click on the blue text on the bottom of the windowoutputAnd on the window that pops up please make sure you use this settings:output-optionsThis isn’t necessary to be this way, but in order for this tutorial to go seamlessly please use this settings. In a future tutorial we’ll cover more in-depth what they mean and what they do.

Last but not the least, to save our edition we should now either click Open Image (this will save the changes you did and open it in Photoshop) or click Done (this will save the changes and close Camera Raw). If you click Cancel you’ll cancel the changes you did since you last opened the file (if you already saved it before, and then re-opened it and change it once again you’ll only cancel the latest changes). If you want to revert the image to its original state you can click that symbol on the top right of the panel and choose Camera Raw Defaults. Note that after doing so, if you click Open Image or Done, you’ll save this settings and override the ones you had before.revert

So far this is the improvements we’ve achieved:

So far this is what we've achieved

So far this is what we’ve achieved

I think we’re now ready to open the image in Photoshop and do the remaining of our work.

For that please continue to our second post here: https://bokehimaging.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/tutorial-1-retouching-a-raw-image-and-replacing-a-dull-sky-part-2-2/

by Micael Nussbaumer – you can contact me either through comments or through bokeh.imaging@gmail.com


3 thoughts on “Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Tutorial #1 – Retouching a RAW image and replacing a dull sky (part 2) | Bokeh Imaging Lisbon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s