Photoshop – The Double-RAW Import Process
Due to an overwhelming number of emails from fellow photogs asking about the “Double RAW” process I use, I decided to put together a very quick, very simple tutorial on how I do this. I pre-empt this by saying the technique is not my own, but very heavily inspired by Calvin Hollywood. Since he already has this tutorial out on YouTube, I see no harm in showing how I go through it. My method is very close, but I made changes to the process that work better for me.
I begin by opening up my RAW file in CS5. The above image is SOOC, so I begin by making some slight exposure and temperature adjustments to warm it up. To do this, I double-click the icon of the image in the layers pallet.
Above, the temperature is warmed, and if needed, exposure adjusted. Very rarely do I bother with the vibrance or saturation as I like to try and keep that as realistic as possible. Before you close this dialog, click the link at the bottom center of the box to bring up the workflow:
With the workflow, I make sure this is opened as a Smart Object. This keeps your changes as non-destructive. Set your depth and resolution to your needs (print or web?). I never touch the sharpen here – I like to do that last. When the settings are as you like, click OK to save your workflow, and then click on Open Object on the RAW dialog.
This is where the DOUBLE comes from with Double RAW importing. Right-click on your RAW Smart Object and choose “New Smart Object via Copy” from the menu. This will create a new layer that is independent of the first – one that you can also edit in a non-destructive format. If you were to just duplicate this layer, any edits you made to this layer would also effect the RAW layer. This isn’t the behavior we want. We want them independent.
Once that layer is created, double click the icon of the new layer to open the RAW editor once more time. This layer will be used to enhance the contrasts and details of your image. Color will have no effect here, so drag your saturation all the way to zero. Now, it’s play time. Play with your exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, contrast and clarity sliders to get maximum contrast that works for you. I tend to slam the clarity to the right and hit the contrast pretty heavy. Then I play with the fill light and blacks – trying to keep them in a natural balance. Play with this a lot. Go mild. Go crazy! You’ll love the results of this. Once you are happy, click OK.
Now that you have your layer nice and contrasty, it is time to change the blend mode from normal to luminosity. Why? Because this takes the color from the RAW layer and the contrasts for your new layer.
If you don’t like the contrast, double click the icon again to re-edit the RAW import. Remember, this is non-destructive editing, so you can go back and forth on both layers as often as you like. I over-did this image, just to give you an idea of what can be done. For me, this result is a little too HDR looking – so I actually backed mine way off. But this process gives you the final image that you can edit as you normally would. It seems like a lot of steps, but in reality you’ll spend about a minute of time to get this result.
I now do this process on 95% of every image I edit. Let me know if this works for you. And if you get the change, check out Calvin’s videos both on YouTube and the training course he offers. This process is just the tip of the iceberg.