Post Processing » Using Camera Raw in Photoshop CS5
*Click on images to enlarge*
If you are shooting to JPEG or TIFF, your camera is interpreting the raw image file according to its own proprietary settings. The white balance, noise reduction, color settings, gamma, compression, etc. are all designed and applied by whatever parameters each company thinks is best. Some cameras will let you add your own presets so the conversion becomes more individualized, but it is still limited and can sometimes lead to exaggerated or undoable results.
Use the Raw setting on your camera to save the images as unprocessed files. With all the digital info intact, you’ll have more control over the final exported images. When you shoot in Raw, the only camera settings that affect the image are the ISO speed, shutter speed and aperture. The resulting unprocessed file is analogous to a photo negative. The information that exists in the original file can be accessed and manipulated with precision by programs such as Adobe Photoshop, and then exported - leaving the original file untouched.
Adjusting the Raw file
Here is my original raw image file, looking flat and unremarkable:
When I open the image in Photoshop Camera Raw, you see the image surrounded by user controls:
The tools across the top of the panel will be the starting points for the individual adjustments that you can apply. Select the Preview box so you can monitor the affect you are having on the image as you go along.
On the right, below the histogram showing the image’s tonal range, are the image adjustment tabs. Each tab brings up a different set of adjustment options for a specific setting. I’ll primarily stick to the Basic and Detail tabs today, but you’ll get the idea of the workflow. Here are shots of each tab, giving you an idea of the scope of available adjustments:
| Split Toning tab
I’ll go to the Basic tab first and see what I can do to bring the image closer to what I experienced the day I shot it. Adjusting the White Balance can have a huge affect on overall image appearance, especially in uneven lighting situations, like clouds or glare.
I’ll select the White Balance Tool in the Toolbar:
and click on a part of the image that should be white or gray. The kayak paddle will do nicely:
The selection changes the overall image immediately; you can experiment by clicking around your image until you get the effect you want, without worrying about any permanent changes to the original image.
There is also a preset dropdown list you can use for quickly adjusting the image:
You can select or deselect the Preview box to see how the changes have affected your image. I chose the Cloudy preset and it gave my image a nice warm feel.
The other slide controls in the Basic tab allow you to fine tune the image’s tone, or you can choose to allow Photoshop to correct the image by using the Auto option. I usually start by using the Auto option and tweaking things until I get what I like. Here I’ve boosted the Vibrance and Clarity on top of what the Auto selection gave me:
Next I’ll go to the Detail tab to apply some Sharpening adjustments to my image. To get the best idea of what affect my changes have on the image, I will set the Zoom to 100% in its level box on the lower left. I can move the image around with the Hand tool until I locate a n area that needs sharpening. First I over exaggerate the Amount but fine tune the rest of the controls - I can back off the Amount later. The Radius and Detail sliders are best kept on the low side, you can play with them until you get the desired affect on your image. The Masking slider will increase or decrease the areas of the image that will get sharpened, according to the strength of the edges. When the Masking slider is set to a high value, Camera Raw sharpens the parts with the strongest edges. So, for example, in my image the water will get less sharpening than the boats and trees, and the water won't get a grainy over-sharpened look. Then I back off the Amount to 60%.
I’m pretty satisfied with my changes, so I’ll click on the Save button and get a dialog box with some options for saving:
These options will serve this application, so I’ll save as a JPEG. I could choose another format, like Photoshop, Tiff or as a Smart Object.
When you use Camera Raw, the settings and adjustments are saved in either the Camera Raw Database or in 'sidecar' XMP files that are stored with the images in the same folder. They look like this:
These files remain with the raw images if you move them to another disk, folder or computer.
Here is my exported JPEG with all my adjustments:
I hope this short introduction demonstrates how useful Camera Raw can be. Remember that it is non-destructive and your original image is untouched, so play with it and see what you can come up with. You may surprise yourself!