Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

The Next Step: Camera Raw—Beyond the Basics

  • Print
  • + Share This
Scott Kelby covers some more advanced Camera Raw topics such as sharpening, fixing chromatic aberrations, and noise reduction.
This chapter is from the book

“The Next Step” is really a pretty decent name for this chapter, because (a) it’s about what you’d do next in Camera Raw, after you’ve got the essentials down, and (b) it’s also the name of a song by jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel (from his album of the same name). Now, as far as jazz guitarists go, Kurt certainly is good (hey, I did listen to a 30-second clip of his song in the iTunes Music Store), but my favorite jazz guitarist in iTunes is Barry Greene. Now, I actually know Barry Greene (have known him for years—he’s a great guy and an unbelievable guitar player), and while I’m proud to know him, I’m embarrassed to tell you how I know him—he was once the guitar player in my band. That, in and of itself, isn’t all that embarrassing, but it’s when we played together, and what we played. It wasn’t jazz. That’s right, it was in the early ’80s and we played in a disco band. That’s right—I’m not ashamed of it—I was the keyboard player in a disco band. For years. With Barry. An equally embarrassing admission is...I liked it. Sadly, I dressed the part of the ‘80s disco keyboard player, with long coats, thin ties, I had blonde highlights in my hair, I wore bolos, gloves with the fingers cut out, white boots, you name it. We all did (we thought it was cool. We were wrong). Worse yet, I still have our band photo, and because I want to give you the ultimate mental break before we head into more advanced Camera Raw stuff, I posted it, just for you, on my blog at (when you go there, in the search field on the right, type in “Rumor Hazit,” the name of our disco band back then, and you’ll find a link to the photo). Now, you may notice that besides wearing devastatingly cool stage clothes, I had a slightly different (thinner) appearance, as well. So when you go there, I have but one request: be kind.

Double-Processing to Create the Uncapturable

As good as digital cameras have become these days, when it comes to exposure, the human eye totally kicks their butt. That’s why we shoot so many photos where our subject is backlit, because with our naked eye we can see the subject just fine (our eye adjusts). But when we open the photo, the subject is basically in silhouette. Or how about sunsets where we have to choose which part of the scene to expose for—the ground or the sky—because our camera can’t expose for both? Well, here’s how to use Camera Raw to overcome this exposure limitation:

Step One

Open the photo you want to double-process. In this example, the camera properly exposed for the room, so the bright light outside the windows is totally blown out. Of course, or goal is to create something our camera can’t—a photo where both the inside and outside are exposed properly. To make things easy, we’re going to open this image as a Smart Object in Photoshop, so press-and-hold the Shift key, and the Open Image button at the bottom changes into the Open Object button. Click that button to open this version of the photo in Photoshop as a Smart Object (you’ll see the advantage of this in just a minute).

Step Two

Your image will open in Photoshop as a Smart Object (you’ll see the layer thumbnail has a little page icon in the bottom-right corner). So, now we need a second version of this image—one we can expose for the foreground. If you just duplicate the layer, it won’t work because this duplicate layer will be tied to the original layer, and any changes you make to this duplicate will also be applied to the original layer. So, to get around that, go to the Layers panel, Control-click (PC: Right click) on the layer, and from the contextual menu that appears, choose New Smart Object via Copy. This gives you a duplicate layer, but breaks the link.

Step Three

Now double-click directly on this duplicate layer’s thumbnail and it opens this duplicate in Camera Raw, but this time, you’re going to expose for the view outside the windows, without any regard for how the room in the foreground looks (it will turn really dark, but who cares—you’ve already got a version with the room properly exposed on its own separate layer). So, drag the Exposure slider way over to the left, until you can see some detail through the windows. Here you can see the ocean outside the windows.

Step Four

You now have two versions of your photo (as seen here), each on different layers—the brighter one exposed for the interior on the bottom layer, and the darker version on the layer directly on top of it, and they are perfectly aligned one on top of one another.

Step Five

Now, at this point I usually try a little trick first that automatically combines the two images into one, and while it doesn’t work with every photo, when it does, it’s a thing of beauty. Go to the Layers panel and double-click right below the top layer’s name (not on the thumbnail—right below the layer’s name) to bring up the Layer Style dialog’s Blending Options (seen here). At the bottom are two Blend If sliders, and if you drag the top one to the right, it will blend the darker areas from the layer below it. The problem is it’s a very harsh blending (you can actually see harsh jaggy edges), that is unless you press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key before you start dragging. This splits the slider in two, and gives you a smooth blend (look at the half of the slider circled in red here—it splits the slider nub in half).

Step Six

In our example, I dragged the top split slider all the way to the right, and it created a blend of the outside exposure and inside exposure (as seen here), but it also did one thing I didn’t like: Take a look at the light bulbs in the hanging light fixture over the dining table. They look, well...kinda lame. So, luckily, you can bring back any areas from the original background layer by doing this: click on the Add Layer Mask icon (at the bottom of the Layers panel—it’s the third icon from the left), then get the Brush tool (B), choose a soft-edged brush, press D, then X to set your Foreground color to black, and paint right over the area that doesn’t look good (in this case, the hanging lamp), and it returns it to its original condition. Basically, you’re covering up the blending with a black mask. More on masks later in the book.

Step Seven

Unfortunately, most of the time we have to blend these two images manually using layer masks, which just takes longer. Let’s start by deleting our duplicate layer, then go back to Step Two and make a copy of your Smart Object layer, and lower the exposure and all that stuff, but stop before you use the Blend If sliders. Instead, go to the Layers panel, press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key, and click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This puts a black mask over the layer with the photo exposed for the outside, covering it so you only see the lighter image on the background layer (as seen here). Remember: The darker outside version is still there—it’s just hidden behind that black mask. Now, press the letter B to get the Brush tool, then click on the down-facing arrow next to the word Brush in the Options Bar and choose a medium-sized, hard-edged brush from the Brush Picker (this helps to keep you from painting outside the lines). Now, press the letter D to set your Foreground color to white, and start painting over the areas of the photo that you want to be darker (in this case, the windows). As you paint with white directly on that black mask, the white reveals the darker version beneath the mask. Just be careful not to paint on the walls, curtains, etc.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020