Raw Photo Editing – Urban Night Photography
In this raw photo editing tutorial I will show you how I edited a RAW photo I took in Dublin in 2015. Urban night photography is not always simple to get right because of extreme contrast between city lights and dark areas which usually demands for at least two exposures. That’s why RAW photo editing is recommended. A RAW image holds a lot more data and it’s easier to recover overexposed or underexposed areas.
In the case of this photo of the Samuel Beckett bridge in Dublin, Ireland, the conditions were extreme. Constant wind and rain made it difficult to find a good location and keep the lens clean as well as the rest of the equipment.
Final result of this RAW photo editing
Editing night photos in Lightroom or Camera RAW
The first thing I do when I edit my RAW photos is import them in Lightroom to make the basic edits. If you don’t have Lightroom you can use Camera RAW which comes packed with Photoshop. So just open the RAW photo in Photoshop and it should open it in Camera RAW which is essentially the same as Lightroom in terms of editing.
I always start by reducing the Highlights and adding light into the shadows and Darks. For this photo I also increased a bit the Contrast and Clarity and pumped up the Saturation but you can make any edits that you want.
The next step on my raw photo editing process is correcting distortions. This photo was taken using a wide angle Tokina 11-16mm lens so distortion on the edges especially is very likely to appear. If you pay attention to the edges of the photo you will notice a lot of chromatic aberration. With the Lens Correction module you can correct geometric and color distortions easily.
Editing a night Photo in Photoshop
Making some of the edits like cleaning the Photo or using gradients can be done in Lightroom but I feel more comfortable doing it in Photoshop so here it’s up to you.
I prefer to clean the image in Photoshop using the Spot Healing Brush Tool because it works faster and it’s easier for me than in Lightroom. I also used a Curves adjustment layer and a layer mask to give a blue tone to the sky. And a couple of Color Lookup adjustments with advanced blending options to change the tones of the entire image. (watch video for more info). Here you can use any editing technique and any adjustments you want and like, you have total freedom.
With just a single Curves layer you can change and enhance the tones of the entire image. If you know how to work with the channels. If you want to automatically correct the white balance of the picture you can use the automatic correction trick which adjusts the channels for you. But for a creative effect, manual adjustments are required.