Ten-Step RAW Processing

The ten-step process used by Tod Dominey when he is editing his RAW files is outlined below. I have made a few comments on his process. Keep in mind this is an older video that he may update at some point given the new tools available in Lightroom, which come into play during step nine. 

  1. Lens Correction: Here you would be altering vignette issues which may alter the exposure. The profile and Chromatic corrections will likely be done automatically if you have ticked those preferences in Lightroom. If you are using Capture One the corrections are found under light fall off.: 
  2. Transformation: This correction is usually done for straightening buildings or horizon lines. The transform section of Lightroom does have an automatic option. In Capture One this can be found in the keystone tool.
  3. Crop: I recommend using the golden ratio tool in Lightroom when cropping but this is a personal decision. This could also alter the exposure of the image. You find this tool at the top of the toolbar menu, and the cropping guides can be found by navigating to “TOOLS/CropGuideOverlay.”
  4. White Balance: Adjusting the white balance will have an impact on the colour of the image. There are ways of getting this “accurate” by using a neutral area of the image with the eye dropper tool. Another way is to the custom menu in the white balance tool, which allows you to pick what kind of light was present at the time you made the image. “Accurate” can also be subjective so does it look right to you? Is it too bluish or too yellow? Here you adjust the temperature slider till you feel it is balanced. In this case, you are making it look accurate as opposed to technically accurate. I recommend this latter method, over the other methods.
  5. Exposure: In this step, he suggests that “Tone” tools which edit your exposure will also alter colour so in Lightroom he clicks the black and white button at the top of the menus. He then makes the exposure adjustments using the sliders, then returns the colour by clicking on the colour button. 
    1. Typically I never set my camera to the correct exposure on my larger sensor cameras I have found in most cases I can overexpose by a stop without blowing out my highlights. In this way a get less noise in my shadows. In my small sensor cameras, I often under-expose to protect the highlights. So the first step here is to correct the exposure. If you have overexposed by a stop then you need to bring down the exposure by a stop, and the opposite if you have under exposed.
    2. Second, watching the histogram you may notice blank areas either to the left in the “Blacks” or blank areas in the “Whites” to the right. Adjust these two sliders until the blank areas are gone.
    3. Next, it is time to adjust the “Highlights” and “Shadows” sliders, here you move these values toward the middle of the histogram. 
  6. Contrast: The contrast slider is working on the middle of the histogram to bright back a balanced tone if it has been lost. I find this slider is rather a blunt tool in Lightroom, in Capture One this is not the case. So in Lightroom, I prefer to use the “Clarity” tool which is a more subtle adjustment.
  7. Colour: The goal of this step is to fix any colour issues that the previous adjustments have created, look for skin tones that are wrong, colours that appear over saturated and hues that seem wrong like the sky the wrong blue. 
    1. These can be corrected using the “colour” panel. Typically I would start with the “Saturation” sliders first, then “Hue” and finally “Luminance.” 
    2. Once you have this done then it is time to look at how various colours are clashing or enhancing the image. Here you are both balancing the colours, and turning up or down colours that help the image or hinder the image.
    3. Then take a look at what the split toning slider might do to improve the image or not.
    4. Tod recommends stopping here and taking a break. This is a good idea as you need to get some distance from your image so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.
  8. Dodge and Burn: Here he recommends adjusting the contrast in specific areas to balance the image. Because of the age of this video, I suggest you do this in the tools outlined in the next step.
  9. Cleanup: Since this video was made, a number of masking tools have been added to Lightroom, so the need to do cleanup in Photoshop is much less necessary. This is the time then to consider the use of the tools found at the top right of the tools menu: brush, linear gradient, colour range, luminance range and healing tools. Keep in mind you may use more than one tool and or more than one mask. The goal here is to enhance things that improve the composition and de-emphasize those things that distract.
  10. Sharpening: Finally sharpening can be applied. Here I like to work at 200% zoom to make sure I have the right balance of sharpening. Before adjusting the slider I will hold down the option key and move the “mask” slider to the right until I have isolated the edges. Once I have done that I then sharpen the image, being careful not to create any edge distortion. After you have become familiar with your cameras’ images you will find there is a sweet spot that is almost the same every time.

In the following video, Todd Dominey demonstrates the 10 steps using Capture One the demonstration begins after his introduction at minute four.