Learn to Edit your RAW files

Capture the best information

When I capture an image, at the location, I pre-visualize the post production.  I learned when studying Ansel Adams, the Weston Family and John Sexton.  In the camera, we capture the detail needed to create an interpretation of it later.  In the past, using film, I used the mantra “expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights”.

Digital cameras do a great job of recording a broader range of tones than black and white and color film, but it’s still important to remember that if you are lacking detail in the file, although not impossible, it’s harder to “get it” later.

My thinking process in the field runs something like this:

On location, in the camera

  1. Seduced by the light, I choose the proper lens for the composition.
  2. Many times my hot spot on the lens is somewhere around f16-22.  I like deep depth of field when the subject calls for it.
  3. Evaluate the highlights and see how much underexposure they will need. Clouds in particular need quite a bit of underexposure to hold detail.
  4. Let the shadows fall where they will.  Oftentimes the LCD view of the images will show and image that looks too dark and lacks shadow detail, but this is where digital captures really shine.

Upload and Process the RAW files.

In the LIGHTROOM, I still use the important technique of proper edit, exposure, development.  Mike Yamashita, a National Geo Photographer once told me that if I get any more than 4 good images on a roll of 36 exposures, my standards are too low.

Using Adobe Lightroom:

  • Import from SD or CF Card, add keywords, copyright, organize.
  • Run through the first edit for out of focus, overexposures, boring images. (x-mark for rejection). Be honest but not brutal.
  • Create Collections of my favorites from that photo adventure.
  • Begin using the Develop Mode.
  • In Develop Mode I open the panel (Command/Control D)and usually begin with exposure, white balance and contrast adjustments, saturation and clarity are also important.
  • These days I like the fine tuning available to me in the HSL Panel.  Sometimes when warming up and image the sky turns a bit aqua so HUE is the adjustment. Specific saturation is then applied to hues in the image, and I really like the ability to adjust LUMINANCE at will on individual colors.
  • Compare these adjustments to those we used to employ in the DARKROOM, like dodging, burning, edge burning, contrast filters, etc.
Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.11.38 PM

Before edits, RAW. 1/8 second at f22, -1/3 EV

Canyon hiking, Zion National Park

After editing in Adobe Lightroom. I underexposed the image in the camera to hold detail in the highlighted sandy floor of the canyon. ©Kit Frost

As you can see from this example, the RAW file looks bad, boring, and dark in the shadows while overblown in the highlights.  But since I underexposed by 1/3 EV, the highlights maintained detail as I had planned.  I knew it “felt” like a warm subject, so I interpreted it with a bit of saturation, clarity, highlight recovery and added a vignette. I often use a vignette to create a subtle or not so subtle darkness at the top of the photo.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.12.24 PM

Before Lightroom, 1/8 sec at f22, ISO 100, 1/3 Exposure Bias

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.12.14 PM

After Lightroom adjustments, warmed up the sky, Contrast, Opened up the shadows at the bottom, added a vignette.

In the case of stormy weather, the white balance tilts closer to cool.  And I tend to respond to warm tones better so I often adjust the white balance and tint accordingly.  Interpreting landscape to “feel” like it did to me at the capture is my constant challenge, and when I achieve it, my great joy.

Camera Settings:

  • Most of my photos are either under or overexposed to hold shadow or highlight detail. I use Aperture priority mode and the exposure bias button.
  • I use AUTO White Balance and if I need more warming or cooling, I use Lightroom’s develop mode.
  • In the camera menu I set the picture control to VIVID, this gives me a tad more saturation and contrast in my jpegs (choose high quality jpeg if you don’t care for post-production)
  • I prefer ISO 100 for large prints, but will sometimes photograph using higher ISO when I’m not pre-visualizing a print.
  • I photograph using RAW and normal jpeg
  • I edit the RAW capture using Adobe Lightroom



Monument Valley Photo Workshop: Participant Photos

As a student of Kit Frost’s 2014 Monument Valley Workshop, I was very impressed with the entire experience. Having been an amateur photographer for over 40 years, I had never attended a photography workshop and had yet to explore the Utah Southwest. Kit was an extremely capable teacher / mentor and has a unique way of connecting with individual students to help instill their own unique way of seeing the world and capturing their vision within their own photographs.

Aside from her technical knowledge and her ability to capture amazing images, Kit was able to help me “feel” the geography and connect with the natural world in which we were situated. Her personable style and excellent communication skills then helped me to capture imagery that was forming in my mind. 

Click on the thumbnails to see larger images, and to comment.

While I have always felt I was a reasonably accomplished photographer, Kit taught me to see with light and “paint” my compositions with light and shadow in a way that elevated the final images to a level I had only hoped to achieve.

Friends and family have been astounded with the quality and composition of the images I made at the workshop and I am so very pleased with what I gained over the four days. I am looking at local scenes and geography much differently now. “Chasing the Light” has become much more than a catch-phrase, it has become a way of interpreting what I am seeing in everyday life and imagining how those scenes can be captured within the camera. Thank you Kit for opening my eyes to the light. My photography will never be the same.    Tom Fulton, 2014


Lessons Learned

We returned recently from our 2014 Monument Valley Photo Workshop.  And wow, the photo opportunities were awesome.  Although the spring winds in Utah and Arizona were sometimes epic, we explored locations to teach the participants composition, right place-right time, cloud shadows as subject, avoiding the “cliche” in a well-photographed environment too.

Our locations included multiple views of the San Juan River as it flowed through the canyons of Utah.  We made photographs using wide-angle lenses to capture the expansiveness of the Goosenecks of the San Juan, ate lunch at river level at the Sand Island Recreation Area, and photographed the big views from up on Muley Point to see the next level of the canyons and the tiny river cutting through.

iPhoneography, we hiked down from the Goosenecks overlook to get a better vantage point. ©Kit Frost

iPhoneography, we hiked down from the Goosenecks overlook to get a better vantage point. ©Kit Frost

We photographed with our iPhones, Smartphones, DSLR’s, and Point and Shoot Cameras.  And uploaded images to Instagram.

A mix of moments from our workshop.  Monument Valley

A mix of moments from our workshop. Monument Valley

Lesson: Find an interesting foreground. Lead the viewer through the frame.

Lesson: Find an interesting foreground. Lead the viewer through the frame. ©Kit Frost

Create a framing of positive and negative space to make a new image of a classic subject. ©Kit Frost

Lesson: Create a framing of positive and negative space to make a new image of a classic subject. ©Kit Frost


Monument Valley has been the backdrop of many movies, from Stagecoach to Thelma and Louise.  It takes some imagination to create images that are “different”.  We were blessed with clouds (and blown by winds) so we could use the sky in our images too.

Working with what is presented to us is very important in Workshop Photography.  We cannot control the subject or the sky or the wind or the crowds.  We CAN work with these elements to create images that are unique.

Keep coming back, as we will add more images as the participants submit them for this blog.


Use shadows to create positive and negative space in the big scene.  See if you can find a shape that matches the distant scene. ©Kit Frost

Lesson: Use shadows to create positive and negative space in the big scene. See if you can find a shape that matches the distant scene. ©Kit Frost

And just in case you think I’m kidding about the Epic winds.  John Ford’s Point was so windy, that we dared not take our DSLR’s out of the car.  Here’s a link to our You Tube video. And another short clip Here.


Private Lessons will Improve Your Photography

Chasing the Light in the Slot Canyons, Fall Utah Color, California Coastal Flowers

Photography Workshops in the Slot Canyons, Fall Utah Color, Ancient Ruins of the Southwest, California Coastal Flowers

Kit Frost has been teaching photography for 40 years.  Let her share her love of the grand and intimate landscape with you.  Let Kit share her simple methods and teach you:

  • How to operate your camera properly
  • How to make better photo compositions
  • Learn which of those bells and whistles are important and which to ignore.
  • Learn how to use your video functions (optional)
  • Learn to upload to your laptop or tablet. (optional)

Kit will travel to your location, or why not meet her at one of the stunning National Parks.

  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Redwoods National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • to name a few.

Learn special techniques when you’re ready:

  • Using your digital camera to record video
  • Add a simple, inexpensive mic to improve sound
  • iPhone and Smartphone too
  • Time Lapse
  • Night Sky photography

Tuition varies with length of time, but Kit suggests that you set aside 2 hours.
$75. per hour

Please contact Kit to make arrangements and to confirm your reservation.

Photographers take a break to pose for the camera at Monument Valley Photography Workshop, 2013

Photographers take a break to pose for the camera at Monument Valley Photography Workshop, 2013

Five New Years Resolutions for Photographers

Improve your Photography in 2014

Commit to photograph a minimum of once a week.

  • Photograph subjects that are available to you.
  • Something in your home, office
  • Use your iPhone or digital camera.
  • Make it easy for you to keep this commitment

Buy a bunch of flowers and practice at home, or on your lunch break.

  • Use your iPhone, smart phone or digital camera
  • This is NOT about great photos, but like any sport, you need to practice seeing.
  • Don’t complicate this one, KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)

Selfies are the easiest subject, go for it.

  • Include some hint of your location in the frame, a “sense of place”
  • Sitting at your desk, on your coffee break, lunch
  • No need to share if you’re shy, this is about practicing using your camera

Upload your photos to your computer, tablet

  • At the end of 2014, you’ll be glad you can see your improved skills
  • Share with your friends
  • Share on your blog
  • It’s fun to get comments as your vision improves in 2014

Once a month, go out and make a day of making photos.

Nothing improves my photography more than practice
If you’re serious about your desire to improve then give yourself the gift of time


Join a Photo club
Take a class
Go spend money on that piece of gear you’ve been drooling over
Take a workshop, spend time with other photographers who love to be behind their cameras. (shameless advertising, www.kitfrost.com)





Photographing water and wind

A few weeks ago, while photographing in Zion National Park, two issues came into play in making this photograph.  Shutter speed and wind.  First, in order to show the “lines” of flow in water, I like a slow shutter speed (and love the digital preview to check it).  And second, wind blowing the secondary subjects can mean that the photographer must be patient and wait for the best moment to press the shutter.

Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”  Ansel Adams

You can see by this image that the wind was blowing the trees on the other side of the river.  I like how the water flowed over the rocks and the feeling of action in these images, but prefer the bottom image because it captured the leaves and branches  as well as the flow of the water.

In this capture, the leaves were blown by strong, gusty wind. ©Kit Frost

In this capture, the leaves were blown by strong, gusty wind. ©Kit Frost

Notice the Golden leaves across the creek in this image they are sharp and NOT windblown. ©Kit Frost

Notice the Golden leaves across the creek in this image they are sharp and NOT windblown. ©Kit Frost

There were about 12 other photographers working this subject along with me.  We enjoyed each others’ company and chatted while waiting for the wind to calm down.  I set my camera up, locked on the cable release, and enjoyed the moments of wind, and then the moments of quiet.  The shutter speed I chose, after a few trial images, is 1/8 of a second, and I chose f25 for deep depth of field; to capture detail across the Virgin River.  While there, many people stopped, took a quick photo, and left.

Related articles

Learn to work with Shadows in your Photos



In the two examples I used the shadows to form a frame around the subject. I asked a friend who was hiking ahead of me to stop in the light, so i could show scale as well as shape in the photo. In the other example, late day light, or lack of, in the canyon, gave me an opportunity to play with the abstract forms of dark, light, blue sky, and contrail too. Try it. The late afternoon light and short days gives us lots of chances to practice. Meter for detail in the highlight and underexpose, that will give you deep, dark, shadows and you can always choose to “open up” using the fill light or shadow fulchrum in Lightroom if you want more detail visible.