The Affinity Photo 2 Double RAW Processing Technique

by Nov 15, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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The Affinity Photo 2 Double RAW Processing Technique

With the recent release of Affinity Photo 2, it’s made previously difficult or impossible editing techniques available. One of these, which is of great value in landscape photography is double RAW processing.

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What is Double RAW Processing

In double RAW processing, we process the same RAW file twice, using different settings. Then, by combining the two image versions using masks, we can blend them seamlessly together. Whilst this was possible in the previous version of Affinity Photo, the process lacked flexibility.

Previously in Affinity Photo, once the RAW file was processed, the adjustments made in the Develop Persona became locked into the pixel layer it produced. It then wasn’t possible to change the adjustments that were applied. This prevented you from improving the blended image. The success of the finished image was then as much due to luck as skill.

Now with Affinity Photo 2, the new non-destructive RAW editing allows you to refine the RAW adjustments after the images are blended. This makes it easier to control the finished image as you will see.

Don’t worry if all this sounds complicated, Affinity Photo 2 makes it a lot simpler.

The Importance of Double RAW Processing

At this stage, you might be wondering why bother with double RAW processing. The answer is that it makes results possible that are otherwise difficult or sometimes impossible to achieve, using a single RAW image.

One example of using the double RAW processing technique could be in exposure blending. Two versions of the same RAW file (or even different RAW files) would be produced. One version would expose the image correctly for the bright areas, whilst the other for the dark areas. The two images are then combined using Luminosity masking as in this example.

Whilst the linked example used the old version of Affinity Photo, we can still use it in Affinity Photo 2. What Affinity Photo 2 makes possible is that we can continue to refine the two layers after they have been blended.

Another example and the one used in this tutorial is to blend two images to improve the colour of the final image. Look at the example below.

Double RAW processing example in Affinity Photo 2

Here, two versions of the same RAW file have been processed (images 1 and 2). In image 1, the colour temperature was set to a low value to emphasise the blue in the sky. But in image 2, a higher colour temperature was used to emphasise the yellow. The two images were then combined to produce image 3, which has both strong blue and yellow colours.

Let’s look at the steps that made this possible.

Step 1 – Processing the RAW File

The first step is to process the RAW file, which in Affinity Photo is done in the Develop Persona.

After adjusting the RAW file, click the Develop button in the Persona Toolbar. But before you do that, you need to check a setting.

Selecting the Output option for the RAW file in the Develop Persona

When you have either the Move Tool or the Zoom Tool selected in the Develop Persona, you can set the Output type. These tools are the top two icons in the Tools Palette as indicated.

The Output option then appears as a dropdown in the toolbar with three options. The first is the original Pixel layer which creates a destructive edit. The other two are non-destructive and allow you to return to the Develop Persona to amend your settings.

I’ve found the best option to use is the embedded RAW Layer which embeds the RAW data into the image. That way you don’t risk breaking the link to the original RAW file.

After clicking the Develop button, you return to the Photo Persona in Affinity Photo and the image appears on a layer in the Layers Studio Panel. What’s special about this layer, is that you can double click to reopen it in the Develop Persona. You will then find all the adjustments you made have been saved, allowing you to change them.

Step 2 – Process the RAW File Again

Our next step is to process the RAW file again using different settings. But before we do that, we first need to copy the RAW layer we just produced.

To do this, right-click on the layer in the Layers Studio Panel. Then in the popup menu, choose the “Duplicate” option. This produces a second copy of the RAW layer which also includes the settings you applied to the original RAW file.

Next, double click the duplicate RAW layer to open it in the Develop Persona. You can then change your adjustments to produce a second version of the image.

Once you have made your changes to the image (in this example it’s the colour temperature) click the Develop button. This returns you to the Photo Persona.

You now have two copies of the same image produced using different RAW development settings.

Step 3 – Blending the Images

We now need to blend the two RAW layers together to produce our finished image. There are several ways we can do this:

In this example we will use masks, starting with the new Hue Range Mask. This allows you to blend layers based on the colour in the image.

To add a new Hue Range Mask, click the new Mask Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Studio Panel. Then in the popup menu, select the Hue Range Mask option. This adds the new mask to the currently selected layer in the Layers Studio Panel.

Adding a Hue Range Mask in Affinity Photo 2

In the Hue Range Mask dialog, you will find a colour wheel with 4 control points and a Preview option. When you click the Preview option, it displays the mask rather than the image preview.

Click and drag the four control points to reposition them on the colour wheel. The colours that appear between the two inner points are then selected and appear as white in the mask. The outer two points are the extent of the colours selected. Anything beyond these points then appears as black in the mask.

Using the Hue Range mask in Affinity Photo 2

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Using these options, it’s possible to blend the two images together in a natural way.

In addition to using the Hue Range Mask, you can also paint on a regular mask layer with white or black to reveal or hide areas of the layer.

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Summary of Double RAW Processing

As I hope you have seen in this tutorial, double RAW processing is a powerful technique. The arrival of features in the new Affinity Photo 2 has made it significantly more flexible, allowing you to produce natural results.

Whilst the example in this tutorial has focussed on using double RAW processing for colour, it’s equally if not more useful for exposure blending. To learn more about the capabilities of Affinity Photo, please see my book “Affinity Photo How To”, designed for those who understand the basics of using Affinity Photo. For those who are new to Affinity Photo or who want to ensure they have a sound skill base, please see my book “Essential Affinity Photo”.

More Affinity Photo Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Affinity Photo Tutorials page.

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