Some of the greatest functionality in Photoshop comes from creating accurate layer masks. I even wrote an article to that effect last week! The trouble with layer masks and Photoshop, in general, is that there is so much for us to remember that it can all become a little difficult, to say the least. The number of new editing techniques that I come across on a weekly basis means that many of these invaluable methods slip through the gaping holes in my memory. Photoshop Panels like Raya Pro help to fill those holes and much, much more.
What Is Raya Pro?
Raya Pro is a Photoshop Panel with a wide range of Actions built in. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the panel is reserved for Landscape and Cityscape photographers but I assure you, it’s usefulness reaches much further. The panel includes three main sections: Blend, Enhance and Finish. The blend panel contains five instant Digital Blending techniques, including Luminosity masks, and makes the task of blending exposures an absolute breeze. Enhance, has various effects for editing your images; adding contrast, altering colors, sharpening and adding creative effects such as the Orton effect. Finally, the Finish tab will help you resize images, identify and remove sensor dust, and even add some of your own actions.
Who Is Jimmy McIntyre?
With the number of photography educators out there, one of my biggest criteria before committing to a purchase, is the educator themselves. Are they worth my time? Do they know what they’re talking about and are their images aspirational? If the answer to those questions is no, then, personally, I would steer well clear and invest my money elsewhere. So, who is Jimmy McIntyre?
Jimmy is another travel photographer, whom I have recently stumbled upon, living an enviable lifestyle. Perpetually travelling the globe, soaking up new cultures and producing stunning imagery as he does. Jimmy has been doing so for the last five years and, by his own admission, owns barely 40kgs of possessions. He has taught photography on four continents, been published in national magazines, written for some of the largest websites in the world, sold 1000’s of courses and been named as one of the top photographers to follow on 500px.com by Fstoppers.com.
Taking a look at Jimmy’s work, both on his own website and 500px.com, I can certainly see that Jimmy knows a great deal about the capturing and editing of Landscape and Cityscape photos. His photos aren’t half bad either! With that box ticked (good educator / photographer), let’s see if Raya Pro also stacks up.
More About Raya Pro
Jimmy puts out a lot of educational content, both free and paid for. It’s so useful when making a purchasing decision and, in this instance, is a wonderful way for us to see Raya Pro in action. Take a look at the video below where Jimmy takes us through some of the more instantaneous blending techniques Raya Pro offers.
In this next video, Jimmy shows us some of the ways that Raya Pro makes Luminosity masking much easier. I’ve written a few articles on luminosity masks. For those that missed them, my general opinion is that luminosity masks are one of the best abilities that Photoshop provides us.
Negatives Of Raya Pro
Whenever I review an item, I approach it from a very critical standpoint. Most of us cannot afford to buy every piece of photographic equipment or software that we want. Hence, my aim is to provide a balanced snapshot to aid you in your decision. With Raya Pro, there is little I can criticize. There is definitely a learning curve with the panel but the same can be said for any complicated piece of software.
In all honesty, I struggled here. The only other thing I could critique was that with a couple of the actions, the names of the created layers didn’t match the name of the action. That criticism, however, is being very picky.
Some may say this panel is something that you can live without and they’d be correct. However, the same can be said for any Action or Preset system. The beauty of systems like this and others is the speed gain they provide. And, if your memory is like mine, they also allow you to have all these techniques you have learned right at your fingertips, without referring to some notes you took x number of years ago; I once had a document listing all sorts of editing methods. That was a pain!
The Mastering Raya Pro Course
As well as Raya Pro, Jimmy sent over the Mastering Raya Pro course and I’m very thankful he did. Initially, I struggled with the panel. I did the man thing and thought I didn’t need this course (aka the instructions). Because of this, I found the panel a little frustrating. Then, watching the videos and realizing where I had been going wrong, I learned its simplicity, and it fast became a very useful tool. As such, I definitely see the value in this $25 add on!
What Does Mastering Raya Pro Include?
I was very surprised at how comprehensive this course was. I was expecting something fairly simple for only $25 but it’s actually quite detailed. You learn basic shooting theory for HDR images, exposure blending techniques, how to use Raya Pro and get a brief insight into a fantastic photographer’s editing style; something which I always enjoy.
The main focus of the course is certainly on exposure blending, as one would expect. Jimmy touches on everything that Raya Pro is capable of and demonstrates all of the techniques on a variety of images. You’ll be shown everything from the quick and easy (Blend If) to the complex and versatile (Luminosity Masks). Each method is demonstrated on multiple images and laid out in a very logical step by step fashion. As we progress through the videos, Jimmy introduces more and more techniques with increasing associated difficulty. The culmination being a video which combines everything we have learned and shows a start to finish exposure blending workflow.
I was making notes as I watched this video, with the intention of listing the topics covered and its negatives. I soon realized that this was a futile endeavour as this course covers far too much for me to summarize in one or two paragraphs. If you decide to purchase Raya Pro, I wholeheartedly advise you to also get this course. Even if you believe that you’ll know all the techniques taught, it’s worthwhile to gain a full grasp on the panel itself.
Is this an essential, must-have, can’t live without purchase? No. Had I not been provided with a copy to review, would I purchase this myself? Yes. I think that says it all.
If you have an amazing memory and can work in Photoshop at the speed of light, then I have no trouble in advising you not to purchase. For those mere mortals amongst us, Raya Pro is an excellent addition to Photoshop, which can serve to speed up and enhance your workflow. For $44.99 for just the plugin or $69.99 including the Mastering Raya Pro course. I call that a bargain.