Rescue the Perishing with Raw Processing

Never give up on an image just because its tonal range seems beyond rescue. If something caught your eye about the scene and you took the time to frame the shot, even if the histogram (upper left of the image) displays dreaded white or black point clipping and the photo is a lowly 8-Bit JPEG image, RAW processing can resuscitate the near-dead.

Genoa Bridge B4The shot above was one I captured while visiting Genoa Italy. The composition and framing were good but the 1) lighting was too stark with the blacks closed in and the whites blown out, 2) the histogram (upper left) revealed clipping, and 3) I only captured the image in JPEG format. Three strikes and your out, right? Maybe not.

Genoa Bridge AfterFirst, give your editing some elbow room. Set the Image/Mode to 16 Bits/Channel. This simple move quadruples the number of tones available for readjustment. Next, open the image in a RAW interpreter software package (take your pick, they all offer the same basic tools). Then, lessen the Contrast and Exposure, lighten the Shadows and darken the Highlights while watching the Histogram, making sure you don’t take your adjustments too far. Finally, Sharpen the image to taste. Since RAW software simply doesn’t allow you to over sharpen images the way Photoshop does, explore the possibilities while previewing the adjustments (holding the Option/Alt key). I took the liberty to add a sepia effect in the Split Toning window (Camera Raw)

Genoa Bridge Histo Genoa Bridge Sharp

What started out as a photo reject actually produced a texture-rich image. Lesson to be learned… NEVER give up.

Click on the Follow The Way Eye Sees It button at the top of the page to join the regulars. Visit the website to see examples of how to improve your image(s).

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If you really want to understand what makes color work, you must understand how light behaves. And I’ve developed a very entertaining and easy-to-understand video series that will teach you these fundamentals and get you on track to capture and produce amazing color.

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook "Digital Color Photography: A Deeper Look" from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color Fundamentals video series at
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