164 Digital Darkroom
Multi-RAW processing means combining multiple ver-
sions with differing exposures and color values from
a single RAW original. Typically, these versions aren’t
“straight,” meaning they are applied using a blending
mode (see sidebar), and at some reduced percentage
If you’ve processed two exposures from the same origi-
al (let’s say one is much brighter than the other), you
can drag one of the images onto the other image in
Photoshop to create a single, two-layer image. If both
images are the same size, its easy to align the two layers
precisely. (The trick for precise alignment is to hold
down the Shift key when you drag one image on top
of the other.)
The requirement that the images be the same size for
precise alignment is a good reason to wait until you
are entirely through with combining RAW conversions
before you do any cropping of your photo.
Quite often, I’ll add a layer mask (see sidebar, page 163)
to one of these multi-RAW layers and plan to either
“paint in” specific areas, or to apply an overall gradient
to let the layer blend in smoothly.
With all of the layers converted from RAW in place,
my next step will be to proceed to enhancements in
Blending modes are used to describe how a layer mixes with the
layers beneath it (layers are described in the sidebar on page 162).
Besides the default blending mode (called normal blending mode),
I often use specialized blending modes when I multi-RAW process. I
also use these blending modes at later steps in Photoshop.
Here are some of the blending modes (besides normal) that I
Color: Color blending mode applies the color from the top layer,
using the luminosity (black and white values) from the layer
underneath. Color blending mode can often be used to selectively
Luminosity: Luminosity blending mode uses the luminosity
information from the top layer and the color information from the
Multiply: Multiply blending mode darkens the image overall, or
“burns” specific areas if applied selectively. In small doses, multiply
blend can be used to enhance colors.
Screen: Screen blending mode lightens the image overall, or
“dodges” specific areas if applied selectively.
Soft light: Soft light blending mode superimposes the pixels in
the top layer over those in the bottom layer, with a bias towards
lowering the effective contrast in the result.
This photo showing Yosemite Falls and the Merced River in winter
went through many stages in the digital darkroom.
Top, page 164: I was intrigued by the RAW original as it appeared
on my computer monitor, but wanted to lighten it and add color
Bottom, page 164: Following multi-RAW processing, the photo was
Above: I used color, luminosity, and multiply blending modes
applied selectively to create the color impact I wanted (note
particularly the color on the cliff to the right of Yosemite Falls).
All: 18–70mm zoom lens at 18mm, 1/400 of a second at f/11 and ISO
166 Digital Darkroom
At sunset, from the top of
Wildcat Peak, I watched the
clouds roll in through the
My original RAW capture
seemed awfully washed out
to me, but I wanted to see
how far I could go with it.
To create this layer, I con-
verted a duplicate to LAB
color (see sidebar on page
169). Taking the luminance
channel (the L channel in LAB
color), I applied an inversion
(reversing the levels of blacks
and whites). I blended the
inversion on top of the origi-
nal using soft light blending
In order to amplify the blue
in the image, still in LAB color,
I worked on the B (blue and
yellow) channel. To create
this layer, I blended the result
with amplified blue on top
of the original photo in color
Combining the layers I had created using blending modes and LAB
color created a painterly (and somewhat over-the-top) effect.
All: 70–200mm VR zoom lens at 130mm, 1/320 of a second at f/9 and
ISO 100, tripod mounted.