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The “Insane” Power of RAW Photos

A demonstration of how much detail you can recover from a RAW image
Photo of RAW photo editing

We all know that shooting and editing RAW photos is the way to go if you want the best quality and the most control over recovering detail in your images. But if you need another demonstration of “the insane power of RAW photos,” check out photographer Christian Möhrle’s video below.

In the clip, Möhrle of The Phlog Photography shows you just how much you can recover in an underexposed RAW file using Photoshop or Lightroom.

“RAW photos of modern cameras come with a huge dynamic range,” Möhrle says. “This makes it easy for us to recover all the needed detail from a single photo using Photoshop or Lightroom, even under harsh conditions like this sunset image.”

For the image he uses in his RAW editing demo, the goal was to restore the shadows without getting too much exposure in the sky.

“Additionally, I wanted to add vibrant, warm sunset colors, some glow in the brightest spots and cleaning up the horizon,” he explains. “Most of the work was done in Photoshops camera raw editor, while I used Photoshop for the cleaning part and some dodging.”

Here’s a breakdown of his step-by-step RAW image editing process, which you can see demonstrated in the 11-minute video at the bottom of this post.

#1 Basic RAW Adjustments (0:29)

“I started by changing the camera profile to adobe Landscape for more saturation and a little more brightness. Then, I raised the temperature for a warmer look. To fix the brightness, I raised the exposure and dropped the highlights to prevent overexposure. Plus, I added shadows and blacks to make the darkest parts brighter.”

#2 Local Adjustments (1:55)

“Here, the goal was to add contrast back to the photo. I used linear gradients on the top part of the sky to make it darker (dropping the exposure and shadows) and adding contrast for better looking clouds. For the foreground, I used another set of linear gradients to add texture and clarity for sharpness, highlights and whites for brighter highlights and some contrast. For the glow I used two radial gradients with increased blacks, decreased dehaze and some added saturation.”

#3 Color Grading (6:39)

“Here, I mainly done some split toning. For the highlights and the shadows, I added a warm color tone with strong saturation. For the shadows, I used a blue tone with lower saturation.”

#4 Photoshop (8:12)

“Using a combination of the spot healing brush and the clone stamp tool I straightened the horizon and cleaned up the whole shot. For extra glow I painted with a soft, low opacity brush on a hard light layer. To further brighten up the highlights in the foreground, I created a mask targeting the highlights (using the TK panel plug in) and painted over them on an overlay layer with a white brush.”

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