How Did You Do It? “Edit My RAW File” Contest Winner Tells All!

Our “Edit My RAW File” contest winner Donnis Sealey was kind enough to do a write-up on what was done to the RAW file to produce the winning image. Thanks, Donnis!!!

Winning photo
Overall Winner – Edited by Donnis Sealey

Photo for editing contest
This is the “before” photo that several people requested in the comments below [updated]
Step 1: Adjust image in Lightroom (Adobe ACR works similarly)

  • Exposure/brightness – In LR4 these are combined but LR3 and earlier they are not. If using LR3 or below, I try to keep my exposure between 0.0 – +0.40 and brighten mostly with the Brightness slider
  • White Balance – adjust if needed
  • Curves – usually take shadows a tad bit darker and the lights and darks a tad lighter
  • Clarity – increased to 25 or less
  • Noise Reduction – Luminance & Detail set between 50-75
  • If needed slightly adjust Fill Light, Blacks & Contrast (use sparingly)
  • Export as PSD 16-bit file
*You can touch up the larger blemishes in Lightroom/ACR or wait and do it in Photoshop
Step 2: Retouch & Final Adjustments in Photoshop
  • Duplicate background (Command+J) to work on. I usually do this just in case I mess something up and also to compare the changes I have made.
  • Using the Healing Patch Tool get rid of the larger blemishes.
  • Run ‘DC Skin Fix' action – this is one that I have created and works perfectly 99% of the time. Don't just smooth the skin on the face but anywhere else as needed. Get it here for free: https://digitalcoutureblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/automate-with-actions.html
  • Whiten the eyes and teeth slightly and sharpen the eyes.
  • Next I wanted to change the color of her dress… unless it's a Christmas theme I am not big on a red and green color scheme. Also, if someone with fair skin or light hair wears red or a vibrant pink it will reflect that color more-so than others.  I wanted something natural that fit with the surroundings and also brought the attention to her face.
    • First I roughly selected the dress with the lasso tool and while this area was selected I created a ‘Hue/Saturation' adjustment layer
    • In the Adjustments panel check the box that says ‘Colorize' and then adjust the sliders until you get the color you want (since the adjustment layer is its own separate layer you can always go back and tweak as needed)
    • Next I zoomed in and cleaned up the selection with my brush tool – the edges of the dress and hair are crucial and softening the lines or using a brush at 50% opacity to clean up the edges can make a huge difference
    • Last wherever her skin was reflecting red I brushed over those areas lightly at 10% opacity until it looked right
  • Next was the background
    • I made it wider and taller, stretched out the left side of the existing background, then added a forest scene as the top layer
    • Next I added a layer mask and painted away as needed, using a small brush to get in close to the details (being extra tedious with the hair) and a large brush to blend the backgrounds together.
  • Last step was to flatten and add any actions/filters – I used a couple of MCP actions from their Fusion collection to get a warm, light glow.
NOTE: One of the easiest ways to completely mess up a picture is to over-smooth the skin and over-whiten the eyes and teeth. I look back at some of my old pictures and shake my head because it was so overdone. An easy way I helped keep myself from plasticizing anyone's skin is to make a layer copy, completely get rid of wrinkles, pores and under-eye circles and then set the opacity between 40-60%. Anything above that will likely look like plastic. Normal and beautiful people have pores and wrinkles, the goal is to minimize them and not completely get rid of natural textures.

9 thoughts on “How Did You Do It? “Edit My RAW File” Contest Winner Tells All!”

  1. Thank you very much for the right ups and links! Very well done and I enjoy reading how professionals edit! Congratulations on being the contest winner.

  2. This article was excellent, the only thing that would’ve made it better would be a before and after.

  3. You did an amazing job! Very creative to change the dress color and add the forest background! I am so impressed! I mostly do my editing with Adobe camera Raw and PS… does lightroom offer any benefits that raw and ps don’t offer? Thanks a ton!

    Michelle D.

  4. Thanks so much for the detailed explanation and the link! I love your edit. And it’s so nice to see someone willing to share what they know with others. A very well-deserved win.

  5. Wonderful idea with the background! The step-by-step was very helpful as well. Your blending technique is awesome and has inspired me to have some composite photo fun for myself! Congrats on the win and thanks for the contest you guys! It was fun to observe. I might give it a try if there’s a next time.

  6. I was suggested this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You are amazing! Thanks!|

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