The POWER of shooting in RAW
As digital photographers, we have a serious advantage of shooting in RAW. A RAW file is basically just that; a file that contains the raw (or uncompressed) image data that needs proper processing in order for it to become visible on media devices. In a case that our camera settings aren't perfect, the ability to correct it in processing is very easy and usually not visible.
In the photo above, I had set up this entire scene. I mounted my camera on a tripod and made my camera settings. Between the chaos of trying to take a self portrait with two wiggly and impatient boys and the fact that the sun was setting more quickly than I thought, a few frames became over exposed and washed out from the back lighting (double whammy!). Out of all the photos I snapped with my remote, this one was my favorite and because I shot in RAW, I was able to salvage it in Lightroom.
Step #1: Exposure
The first thing I did was correct the exposure. The photo was way overexposed and needed adjusting.
Step #2: Increase blacks
Since this photo was backlit, it was very washed out and a lot of the details were lost. To add more depth, I increased the blacks by bringing down the blacks slider. You can also add more shadows by adjusting the shadows slider, but the blacks slide will give you more contrast and you won't lose as much detail.
Step #3: Contrast
Next, I ran my 'laughter' preset from the Retro Magic
collection to give it a more polished look and also added some contrast to add more depth.
The final image is still bright from the sun flare, but now is exposed more properly and added depth with the contrast from the shadows. If I hadn't shot this in RAW, I would not have been able to save the photo without losing detail. I try not to use RAW as a crutch, but it can be a Momma's best friend when you are trying to be in the pictures with your wiggly clan!
(Here's the before and after from my Lightroom screen. It's amazing what a few little adjustments can do for your photo's final look!)