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Triple Processing a Single RAW Photo

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Occasionally when examining a RAW file I get a reasonably clear idea on how I would like the end result to be. In this instance, I had an inner picture of trees glowing from the sun, rather dark shadows, and a sky with nice color contrast.

Note: This tutorial is meant for advanced users of Photoshop who are well familiar with layers, masks and luminosity masks.

In order to achieve this, I opted to create two virtual copies in Lightroom from the original RAW file. I could alternatively have achieved what I was looking for using Smart Objects, but I envisioned that Virtual Copies would be the better option for the image I had in mind.

The first image is my shadows copy. Here I made sure I had no black clippings but yet so dark shadows that they would work as a nice contrast against the trees and thus enhance the glow I had in mind.

The second image is my sky copy. Split toning and a gradient for the sky where I increased Clarity created the effect in the sky I was looking for.

The third copy is for the trees. I took down the exposure quite a bit (-1.55), something that left my shadows very dark. Furthermore, I set Lights to +100 and in the HSL section I set orange Luminosity to +100. This created a nice starting point for how I envisioned the trees.

In Photoshop, I organized the layers are shown below.

I turned off my top layer and simply used the Quick Selection tool plus Select and Mask to create a mask for the sky.

With the top layer still turned off I used a Darks 5 Lumenzia luminosity mask to target the darkest shadows so that my shadows copy would brighten the very dark shadows from the trees copy. If the top layer had been visible when creating the darks mask the mask would not have mirrored the darkest parts from my trees exposure.

Happy with the blend of the tree images, I embarked on the rest of my editing in Photoshop. At the end of my post-processing, I arrived at this final image:

Pentax K-1 Mark II, Pentax 15–30

About the author: Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a landscape photographer and math teacher from Norway. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Skjelstad’s work on his Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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