Editing RAW Photos

Project Description

Basic photo edits can be just as important to the success of your images as choosing the right lens to shoot with. This video demonstrates how to perform basic edits to get the most out of your RAW images.

Photos: Dina Douglass


The first thing to do is apply cropping and straightening, as needed. Click the crop button on the toolbar. The crop helps focus the attention on the subject.

The image can also be straightened with the Angle slider or by drawing a line in the image that should be horizontal or vertical using the Straighten tool. Exposure will then rotate the image appropriately.

With that complete, the following steps are editing adjustments in the Basic panel.

The first control to use is to select the mode–either color or B&W. This photo will remain in color for this demo. Visit our website to learn more about black and white conversions.

Cool down or warm up an image with the Temp slider. Increasing it adds warmth to the skin in this photo.

Exposure has helpful keyboard shortcuts that speed up your workflow. For example, the E and R keys adjust the temperature.

Modifier keys are available for fine tuning or making larger adjustments with the keyboard. The Shift key adjusts the value by a larger amount. For the Temp slider it’s 1,000 Kelvin. The Alt key enables a fine adjustment amount of only 1 Kelvin. These shortcut keys are really helpful when you’re editing.

Presets to the left of the Temp slider provide a helpful selection of options that adjust white balance for various lighting conditions.

Use the Tint slider to shift the tint toward the red or green side.

The white balance color picker automatically adjusts white balance. It sets a point in the image that will become the neutral color. A good place to choose is a white area, like on the teeth or eyes.

This photo could be a little brighter. The Exposure slider is the best option to lighten the image. A great way to give a photo more dimension and impact is to increase the contrast.

To compare your edits with your original image, simply hold down the \ key.

Let’s focus on the darker areas in this photo. It’s a good idea to adjust the Shadows slider first, to recover or enhance shadow details. Then use the Blacks slider to make adjustments to the darkest areas.

In case there’s clipping, where detail has been lost in the darkest part of the original RAW photo, set the Blacks slider to the point just before the detail is lost.

The tones in your images can also be adjusted in the Histogram. The histogram shows at a glance if there’s any clipping, or lost detail, in the selected image. If there are overexposed highlights, simply drag that region in the histogram to fix it. Notice that the corresponding slider in the Basic panel is adjusted. This helps make editing even easier.

Increasing the clarity amount will give the photo more presence.

Another great way to enhance images is to boost vibrance and saturation.

Vibrance controls the intensity of the more subtle or muted colors, without adjusting colors that are already strong. It’s a good choice when adjusting skin tones, so it works well on portraits.

To intensify all the colors in the photo, adjust the Saturation slider. Notice the effects appear as the value is increased.

Again, to compare your edits with the original version, hold the \ key. Comparing the before and after makes it easy to see how the shot pops more than it did straight out of the camera.

If an image seems a little soft or noisy, make corrections with the controls in the Detail panel. This image could benefit from a little sharpening.

When performing sharpening, zoom in to 100% or 1:1, for an accurate view of how the adjustments will look on your photo. Use the Navigator panel to move to a place in the image with small details and hard edges where the sharpening effects will be easy to see.

Temporarily moving the Amount slider to the maximum amount is helpful since it allows you to easily see the results in the Radius, Detail, and Masking sliders.

The Alt key is helpful when sharpening. Holding it down shows you a real-time visualization of your adjustments. Holding it down while adjusting the radius will display the sharpening area around each edge of the image.

Next make adjustments to the Detail slider which controls how much textures are boosted, as well as grain.

Lastly, tweak the masking amount to control how much contrast there needs to be between colors for them to be sharpened. A higher amount only sharpens higher contrast areas; a lower amount includes lower contrast areas. Again, hold down the Alt key for the real-time visualization. As a final step, adjust the Amount slider to taste.

When you are finished making basic edits, it’s good practice to compare the edited version to the original RAW. The edited version has more impact, don’t you think?

One nice thing in Exposure is that any edits made in the Basic and Detail panels remain unchanged when a preset is applied, so you can edit in these panels right at the start of your workflow if you want, without later losing them when you apply presets.