Saturday, June 28, 2008

Quick highlight recovery from RAW files

On a recent trip to Yosemite to capture the waterfalls, I used an ND4 on my D300 to give a slower shutter speed. In some shots the mixed (full sun and shade) lighting caused the highlights to blow.

The RAW converter supplied, Capture NX has highlight recovery capability of up to 2 stops.

Here's the original jpg (I always shoot RAW + basic jpg).


and here's the detail of the blown area


photoshop levels shows the damage


Here's what it looks like in Capture NX


First save the file as .tif with no adjustment.

Then we need to recover the highlights and save as a different file. We'll combine them later.


Drill down into RAW adjustment


and move the slider to -2


gives the following result


Save as .tif, and then open both files in photoshop. On the file that was converted with no changes, drag the layer onto the the file that we converted with the recovery ie put the straight conversion over the recovered highlights layer.

Add a layer mask, and then paint on the mask to selectively reveal the recovered layer below. I use a brush with about 30% opacity and 30% flow. Zoom in and use a brush size to allow you to gradually build up the effect. I found 50 pixels about the right size.


And here's the final result


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