For a long time, my solution for a faster workflow was to create my own Photoshop Actions. But in the last couple of years, I’ve implemented another third-party software into my workflow, the Raya Pro Photoshop plugin.
Let’s face it, Photoshop can be an overwhelming and time-consuming photo editor. However, it’s also one that plays an important part in most photographer’s work. Either they use it for simple color corrections or more advanced techniques, most professional photographers put their images through Photoshop at some point.
I’ve been using Photoshop for the last 10-or-so years, so I would say that I’m pretty familiar with the software. My biggest challenge, or rather annoyment, since I started using Photoshop was the fact that several of the techniques I used took a lot of time to create. Even if I’m only talking about a few minutes, it accumulates when I use it several times in each picture, and I process several pictures a day.
What is Raya Pro?
Spending time repeating the same techniques over and over again can be quite demotivating and even lead to you being sloppy in your post-processing. That’s why Raya Pro has become a part of my workflow. It’s a Photoshop Panel which allows you to make several advanced and professional-looking techniques with a simple click.
It’s a tool that’s useful for both experienced Photoshop users (to save time) and complete beginners (to learn to create professional effects).
Raya Pro consists of seven panels:
- Raya Pro HUB
- Precision Mask
- Quick Blend
- Dodge & Burn
Each panel contains several Actions which you easily can use to create professional-looking effects or techniques, such as Luminosity Masks, Dodging & Burning, the Orton Effect and Web Sharpening.
Most Important Features
I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t take some time to understand all seven panels. It’s quite a lot to get into but along with each panel, there’s a button that takes you to a series of video tutorials specifically for that panel. These tutorials are easy to follow and if you’ve already got some knowledge of Adobe software, it won’t take long for you to master the panels.
While it may seem a bit overwhelming, you’ll most likely not use all the Actions. In my experience, you’ll find a handful of Actions you use on a regular basis and mostly stick to using those. Let me make it a little easier for you and point out the ones I use in my workflow.
Exposure Blending & Luminosity Masks
One of the main features and uses of Raya Pro is to easily blend multiple images and create Luminosity Masks. (If you’re not familiar with Luminosity Masks I recommend reading this article by Raya Pro creator and dPS writer Jimmy McIntyre).
There are three ways to blend images with Raya Pro:
- With the QuickBlend Panel
- Using the Precision Mask Panel
- With the InstaMask Panel
The easiest option is to use the QuickBlend Panel. Here you can simply blend multiple exposures with one single click. However, being the easiest it’s also the most restricted so you might need to tweak it a little for optimal results. That being said, it does a good job most of the time.
The Precision Mask Panel is slightly more advanced and is divided into three sections: Exposure Blending, Color Zones and Fix Dark Blend. With this panel, you can create precise masks and further refine them by subtracting a specific color from your selection, for example.
InstaMask is the most advanced of the three but also the most flexible. Its main purpose is to create Luminosity Masks so if you want to do exposure blending you’ll need to create and apply the masks. This is my preferred panel as I’m able to further refine selections and apply either apply them to a mask or use them to create an adjustment layer.
Dodge & Burn
While creating a Dodge & Burn layer doesn’t take much time, it’s an effect that I often apply multiple times on an image; which is why I prefer having an Action (or Raya Pro) to create it quickly.
Raya Pro has its own panel dedicated to Dodging & Burning where you’re able to create much more than only the traditional 50% Grey layer (though this is what I use the most). In this panel, you can create Dodge & Burn layers that specifically target only the highlights, shadows, or mid-tones. This is a great option to have when you’re working on local adjustments.
In addition to Dodge & Burn layers, you’re also able to create different styles of the Orton Effect; a glow effect that creates a dreamy atmosphere.
Correcting Color Cast
Raya Pro is also a great tool when it comes to working with colors. Whether you want to saturate, desaturate, convert to B&W or add warmth to the highlights, it’s all done with one simple click.
Correcting color cast is done with one simple click as well. In fact, you’ve got four options to use in case one doesn’t give you a good result: Correct 1, Correct 2, Correct 3 and Manual Correct. The three first make use of different techniques that automatically remove color cast. But should those not work, you can use the Manual Correct button for better results.
Filters & Finish
The last panel I use in my workflow is Filters & Finish. While I only use this panel for the Web Sharpening tool that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend playing around with the other effects as well.
You’re also able to add your own Actions if there’s a specific technique or effect you regularly create, that’s not already on the panel.
Raya Pro has been a part of my workflow for the last couple years. While I still make the majority of the techniques, effects, or edits manually, I do use it at some point for most of my images.
It’s a plugin that is great for both complete beginners and advanced users as each panel is built differently. After some trial and error it’s pretty straightforward to use and, in my opinion, it’s never been easier to create professional looking techniques.