HOW TO RETOUCH Pt. 1 – Camera RAW Processing

In this tutorial, we’ll talk about using the Camera RAW editor to edit and begin the long photo retouch in Photoshop CC. I’ll teach you what I look for in terms of the tones in the image, the sharpness, camera profile, creating a smart object, and more! I will also take a moment and cover exactly how I captured the shot on location so you can take a tip or two away from your own photography learning!

DOWNLOAD the RAW image used in this tutorial and follow along with all 12 steps! Click here to download the image!

See All 12 Parts!

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Part 1: Camera RAW Processing

Part 2: How to Liquify & Pushing Pixels

Part 3: How to Retouch the Skin

Part 4: How to Retouch Eyes, Lips, & Eyebrows

Part 5: How to Retouch Hair

Part 6: Dodging and Burning the Photo

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Part 7: How to Get Moody Contrast & Tone

Part 8: How to Color Grade the Photo

Part 9: How to Sharpen the Photo

Part 10: The Benefits of Destructive Editing

Part 11: Create Lens Flare and Digital Lighting

Part 12: Tone Smoothing Grain and Finishing

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1. Opening Camera RAW

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If you have shot a Raw image, all you need to do is drag your image into Photoshop and the Camera RAW editor will automatically open. If you have a JPEG or TIFF (you can open with the Camera RAW editor in Bridge) you can convert the image to a Smart Object in Photoshop and go Filter>Camera Raw Filter.

2. Tones in Camera RAW

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In this step, I’m always looking to reduce contrast by boosting Shadows (and Blacks a little bit) and also reducing Highlights (and Whites a little bit) and also reducing the Contrast slider. I can also go into the Curves tab and apply a reverse “S” curve or boost the black point on the Curve to kill off contrast. The name of the game here is to take advantage of our higher bit rate and depth in the raw image and boost the dynamic range of the image before we bring it into Photoshop and selectively bring back color, contrast, and overall tone.

3. Sharpening

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Switch over to the Detail tab and pop the Amount up to between 80-90 to get an initial pass of sharpening on the image (later on in this tutorial series we will cover a different “final” sharpening technique.)

4. Camera Profiles and Subtle Contrast

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One of the other ways that I further reduce contrast is by jumping over to the Camera Calibration tab and setting my Camera Profile to “Camera Neutral” (NOTE: This is available with actual RAW images that you have shot) and you can also play with the color of the shadows as well here.

5. Workflow Options and Opening a Smart Object

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One of the other things I want to do here is click on the link in the bottom center of the Camera Raw dialog box to open my Workflow Options. I like to work with a 16-bit image (much more room to “push/pull” pixels and tones in Photoshop without losing quality) so I’ll set the Depth to 16 Bits/Channel and I also will tick on “Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects”. This will open our image as a Smart Object in Photoshop so we can always get back to the Camera Raw editor later on.

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8 Comments

  1. says: Terry

    I was told and read so many times that sharpening was the last step in processing. And also why did you leave the huge flaw in her forehead?

  2. says: Terry

    Whoops, Part 3 addresses the touch-up on the forehead and nicely done. I definitely learn from your videos. Sharpening comment still stands though.

    1. Generally most people will only sharpen at the very end. I like to add a little sharpening at the beginning of the retouching process and then a finished pass of sharpening at the very end. It’s definitely more a personal taste thing and you can leave it out if you prefer doing all the sharpening at the very end.

      Thanks for checking out the video, man!

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