Photoshop Tutorial: The 5 Steps to a Double Raw Conversion

Following on from the previous post, here’s a walk through of the ‘Double Raw Conversion’ technique I mentioned about and that I use to create high contrast images with lots more detail showing through. This is a technique that I use on most images and especially when I’m looking to turn the image to black & white.

All credit goes to the King of F.A.D. (Freak Amazing Details) … Calvin Hollywood from whom I learned this technique …

Step 1: Open your image in Camera RAW
The first step in the Double Raw Conversion involves opening your image in Camera Raw and then sending it into Photoshop as a Smart Object. Normally when we’re in Camera Raw we have the option to simply ‘Open Image‘ however if we hold down the SHIFT key the ‘Open Image‘ dialogue box changes to ‘Open Object‘ as you can see below…

Clicking on this now opens the image in Photoshop as a Smart Object. Once in Photoshop we then create a duplicate of this Smart Object layer but we need to do this in a particular way…

Step 2: Create a ‘Copy’ of the Smart Object Layer
We now need to make a copy/duplicate of this Smart Object layer. Now, if we simply pressed CMD/CTRL + J this would indeed make a copy however any changes we make to this copy of the Smart Object will be made to both layers. This we don’t want to happen, so there’s a way we can create a copy/duplicate so that any changes we make only affect that layer and that is by going to the Layer Menu, selecting Smart Objects and then New Smart Object via Copy

We now have a copy/duplicate of this Smart Object Layer so the next stage is to double click on that layer to open it back up in Camera RAW…

Step 3: Create a Desaturated High Contrast Image
Now that we are back in Camera Raw we are going to create our high contrast image by having a play around in the Basic Module…

I tend to stick to using the Clarity, Fill and Black Sliders and then reduce the Saturation to -100 before returning to Photoshop. The reason for this is that I’m happy with the colour of the original image but I want to increase the contrast and details. Desaturating the image allows us to use the contrast and details without affecting the colour as you’ll see in the next step…

Step 4: Change Blend Mode
Once back in Photoshop we then change the Blend Mode of this ‘black and white’ Smart Object layer to ‘Luminosity‘ which means we’re only seeing the contrast and details showing through…

Step 5: Add a Black Layer Mask
The final step is to then only reveal the contrast and details in those parts of your image that you want it to show through. So, all we have to do then is to add a Black Layer mask to hide the effect and then with a white brush, paint it back in to where we want to see it. In this particular image I only wanted the contrast/details to show through on the models’ clothing…

So, there you have it…the 5 quick and easy steps to a Double Raw Conversion; a technique I use on virtually all of my images and especially those that I’m going to be converting to Black & White which I do 100% of the time using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

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As always if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the mean time,

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March 7, 2011 - 7:34 pm

Glyn - @Rishi…That’s great to hear; thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.


March 7, 2011 - 8:44 am

It’s InSync Monday!!! » BrandonJFX - [...] a technique that get’s great detail and contrast out of your images. So check it out right here, and leave him a nice comment [...]

March 6, 2011 - 3:58 am

Rishi - This is awesome. I’ve tried hunting down tutorials on this on the net, but they’ve always somehow left me confused. This is clean, precise, and easy to follow!

March 3, 2011 - 11:18 am

Glyn - @Ian…Thanks for dropping by and commenting mate, and thanks too for the kind words.

March 3, 2011 - 11:17 am

Glyn - @Heather…You’re so welcome; don’t mention it :) Hope the indoor shoot went well; would love to see what you got up to if you’re able at some point.

Best wishes,

March 3, 2011 - 11:15 am

Glyn - @Tim…Yeah I intend to be over a couple of times this year mate and certainly a few next, so I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers :)

March 3, 2011 - 10:57 am

Ian Pack - Hi Glyn, thanks for sharing this one. I’m more of a lighting guy than post-production, but this just goes to show that with the right light and knowledge of post-production you can easily create the image you previsualised.

Cheers, Ian

March 3, 2011 - 3:30 am

heather - Again, thank you for teaching! I will try this technique tomorrow. I have my first official indoor photoshoot – super stoked! Thanks again.

March 2, 2011 - 12:49 pm

Tim Skipper - Cool effect Glyn. BTW you coming to the states any time soon?

March 2, 2011 - 11:29 am

DaveT - Thanks Glyn,

March 2, 2011 - 11:03 am

Glyn - Thanks Ward. Might have been a different story if I’d done what I was originally going to and recorded a video. Hearing my accent may have made you say otherwise…lol :)

March 2, 2011 - 10:58 am

Ward - After your last blog I googled double raw conversion and saw an explanation. Yours is clearer and easier to follow. Thanks, I like your blogs.

March 2, 2011 - 10:19 am

Glyn - @DaveT…Hey mate, glad you liked the ‘walk through’ and good to hear that Matt K’s book has turned up; be sure to check out the final chapter…it’s a killer!


ps> Re the pin stripes on Richard’ suit, they were brought out using a different technique but one I did a video for a while back now but on a car. Here’s a link to the video where the ‘enhancing the details’ section is towards the end; hope it helps :)

March 2, 2011 - 8:09 am

DaveT - Glyn,

Forgot to ask – is this the technique you used to bring out the detail in the pin striped suit? I suspect it is, but just thought I’d check.


March 2, 2011 - 8:07 am

DaveT - Excellent. Your clear explanation and examples makes this process so easy to understand.

I like the tip about using the smart objects, it makes so much sense and is a time saver. Having recently shifted up to CS5 I can at last use smart objects, so I look forward to having a go with this technique.

BTW my copy of ‘Layers’ by MK has arrived.

Thanks for the tips.


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