ON1 Short Clip – Prepping a RAW File for Creative Editing

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How many times have you taken a photo far into the creative editing process only to find out that you can’t get the tones where you want them?

It’s probably because you pushed your RAW file too far in the initial stages of the edit. Properly preparing a RAW file for creative editing can save you a TON of work and frustration. This approach is probably much different than what you’re used to and it requires a bit of foresight. In this video, I’ll give you two keys that will forever unlock this problem for you.

16 comments on “ON1 Short Clip – Prepping a RAW File for Creative Editing”

  1. On September 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm J.R. Milne wrote:

    Hi Jim!

    Nice job with the Tone adjustments. I can tell that you have a very similar style to Blake when it comes to work flow. I have adopted that same approach to my workflow too.

    I think my favorite point you made was showing how to get rid of the hot spot in the sky use the tone curve and a masking bug. Thanks for that lesson!


  2. On September 2, 2017 at 1:18 am marc labro wrote:

    very interesting approach, especially for curves
    i have two questions :
    – why did you start by increasing black slider and decreasing shadow slider ? personnally i increase shadows slider to open up the shadows below the stones and if no clipping i decrease the black slider to make darks darker
    – is it normal at the end of process you have so much room on right of histogram ? if we print it won’t it be too dark or dull ? i would have increased white up to clipping

    best regards

    1. On September 2, 2017 at 3:40 am Jim Welninski replied:

      Hi Marc,

      Thanks for your comment. I take most photographs through three editing stages: the RAW edit, the creative edit, and finishing. It’s kind of like making a meal. First there’s preparation (assembling ingredients, chopping, etc.), then cooking, and then plating the dish. For me, a RAW edit is simply a way of getting file in tonal shape for the creative edit. Bringing up the blacks and decreasing the shadows in this prep step retains the apparent darkness and tonal balance of the file without allowing anything to be even close to getting crushed on the low end. This technique makes for less work later on when I’m trying to create more separation in the shadows. I’m not just looking to peg my darks at the left of the histogram during this step. I want to have plenty of room to do work in the shadows later on. Also, I would brighten the entire photograph right before I sent it to the printer. I usually save that step for for later in the process. However, my work does lean toward the darker side! I rarely place whites at the clipping point. But that’s a creative decision on my part. You may feel differently and that’s ok.

      Keep in mind that there is no “right way” to approach this. This is just my way and I’ve found that it works very well for me because it saves me a lot of effort later on. It’s much easier to add deep shadows later in the editing process than it is to take them away. My way of handling RAW prep is based on the needs of my entire workflow. I know how I work and how I’m going to want my edit to proceed before I even begin. It’s also a response to watching my students work. I would see them get frustrated because they wanted to tonally open a particular area but couldn’t because they didn’t have the room. So I needed to give them a way to avoid getting “tonally trapped” in their edits.

      Regarding dull or muddy prints, usually they’re caused by having too many different dark tones in too small an area on the histogram. That means no tonal separation in the shadows. No tonal separation means a muddy print. Pushing blacks up early in the edit alleviates this. Essentially, I’m giving my blacks and shadows more room to spread out. I can always make them darker later on. Then the only tones in the darker zones are the ones I’ve decided to put there. Because of that, the prints are never muddy. Again, what I’ve showed here is only a prep process before the real editing begins. I’m trying to give myself maximum flexibility because I like having options! Hope this helps!

  3. On September 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm Heike wrote:

    I can’t even count how often some creative editing in the end ruined the shadows in my images, so thank you so much for this video, especially for showing the little curves trick!
    One question: at the end of the video you use the soft light blend mode to increase the contrast. Why soft light blend mode and not a contrast slider?

    1. On September 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm Jim Welninski replied:

      Hi Heike!
      I’m glad that you found it helpful. As for using the blend mode, it’s an old habit. I will reach for a blend mode before anything else because I like the way they look. It’s really that simple! I much prefer them to any contrast slider I’ve ever seen. Just a personal preference. If the contrast slider works for you, go for it! My view is that it makes no difference which tool you use, it’s the result that counts. ????

  4. On September 2, 2017 at 9:47 pm marc labro wrote:

    hallo Jim, can you please share the image, even with a watermark, to try ?


    1. On September 3, 2017 at 12:51 pm Jim Welninski replied:

      Hi Marc,
      I’m afraid I can’t share this particular image. However, this technique will work with any photo you already have. Think in terms of tones. Watch your histogram and stay away from the edges at this stage. Leave yourself plenty of room to move the tones around later in the edit. And remember, the goal is for you to master the idea and the approach. It doesn’t matter if your photo doesn’t end up looking like mine. What’s important is the PROCESS of creating work because that means engaging with your own vision and growing as an artist. I think that’s far more important than the work that results from it. When you engage the process and worry less about results, you own it.

  5. On September 3, 2017 at 8:29 am Kathleen Nelson wrote:

    This was a very helpful video, Jim. It was easy to follow, and I learned some things I didn’t even realize On1 could do (I’m fairly new at this). I will be practicing this on some of my older RAW photos that will certainly benefit from these initial prepping stages.

    Thanks much.

    1. On September 3, 2017 at 12:52 pm Jim Welninski replied:

      Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for taking the time to share! I’m so glad you found this helpful. Keep working!

  6. On September 25, 2017 at 3:12 am Barbara Hayton wrote:

    Thank you, Jim, for a very practical and helpful video. I’ve never learned about looking at the value in the histogram and using that in curves and making a mask to copy and paste. Besides the video, I enjoyed reading all the comments and your replies which explained the thought process more and not so much a “do this”, “don’t do this” approach. I hope you do a lot more videos on ON1.

  7. On September 25, 2017 at 6:48 am Priscilla Steelman wrote:

    What WONDERFUL tips for that oh-too-common problem. ………..solved! Taking the time to do what you showed us how to at the front—sure makes the end result MUCH more perfect!

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