Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More

February 14

7 min. to read

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Find out how this image was made-over using Luminar

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image1 Final Results of Image Makeover

Each month we check in with Luminar users in our Facebook group to find great images that need a fresh eye and an expert's touch. This month's image is by David Hoult and was enhanced in Luminar by Robert Vanelli.

The Image

David Hoult captured this image of a mountain lake scene. He did a good job with composition and chose a beautiful location. When asked what he would want to have corrected, he said he would like the colors to pop and the mountain haze reduced.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image2 Original Image by © David Hoult

The Image Makeover Process

To enhance the image, I broke it down into a few stages. This helped me unlock the best photo by paying attention to details.

Why Use the Raw Develop Filter?

Raw files straight from our camera are unprocessed. Sure, the camera's LCD preview looked good, but it’s not the highest quality image a camera can create. I need to get to a good starting point before I can get creative with filters and presets. A few quick adjustments in the RAW Develop Filter will build that starting point I need.

Developing the Raw Image

I like to begin with the accent AI filter first, even if I'm working on a Raw image. I know this may sound lazy, but I like to see what the software thinks the image needs before I decide on how to process the image. Once I get the image looking good with Accent AI, I apply the Raw Develop filter. I start at the top of the controls with Temperature and work my way down to Clarity—making mental notes on how each control affects the image.

For David’s image, I added a little more warmth to Temperature to regain some color. I adjusted Tint but realized it looked better at its default value—double clicking on the control’s name restores its default value. I kept my eye on the dark sky and went back and forth adjusting Highlights and Shadows until I had a good blend of details. I did the same for Whites and Blacks (pulling those in opposite directions to add contrast) and finished by adding Clarity to get the image to pop.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image3 Using the Accent AI and Raw Develop Filters

Once the image is looking properly exposed, I check for Lens distortion by clicking on the Lens tab. Again, I start at the top and work my way down. I’ve noticed adding a positive value to distortion made, the image appear to move back into the scene whereby adding a negative value made the image appear to move closer. I liked the positive value.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image4 Moving the Distortion Slider to the right

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image5 Moving the Distortion Slider to the left

I moved to the Transform tab where I could straighten or fix the aspect of the image, but David did a great job keeping the image level.

Now it's time to get creative

Now that I had a good starting point, I added a new adjustment layer. By keeping all of my creative effects on their own layer, it's very easy to experiment with adding a few filters. I even faded a little sunrays into the scene using the Sunrays filter. I found that Brilliance and Warmth were a great addition to change the mood of the scene. I also used the Polarizing filter to enhance the details in the sky and water by improving contrast there.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image6 Adding some Sunrays, Polarizing and Brilliance/Warmth filters into the image

I also used the Erase Tool to remove a couple distracting elements. These changes are automatically added to their own layer.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image7 Using the Erase tool to remove unwanted objects

To finish out the image, I like to use presets. Again, I added another adjustment layer for greater control over the presets. I browsed through a few default presets and decided to use Abandoned Places from the Outdoor category. Additionally I could adjust the opacity of the preset overlay layer and the blending mode even for greater control.

Image Makeover with Raw Develop and More Image8 Adding a Preset to the end to polish the image


The next time you edit a Raw image, try adding the Accent AI filter first as it's a quick way to unlock a better image. Then apply the Raw Develop Filter to refine the photo to perfection. Once you have a solid base, add a new layer and experiment with Luminar’s many built-in presets. Don’t forget to share your results with us on the Skylum Photography Facebook page!

Written by

Robert Vanelli

Photographer, Educator and Author

Vanelli is a working sports and portrait photographer, educator, and author living in Florida. After a successful career as a three-time, Triple Crown Karate champion, Vanelli turned his attention to teaching the visual arts. As an experienced educator, Vanelli has created videos for LinkedIn Learn, has written hundreds of articles, taught at major photography conferences and has developed many photography and digital workflow programs including Click for Kids. Currently, he is the Director of Education at Skylum Software, teaching workshops, writing for Photofocus and creating tutorials for the Vanelli and Friends series.

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