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Adobe Camera Raw 2.x

by Tim Grey

(NOTE: In order to show the Camera Raw 2.x dialog in all it's glory, most of the screen captures in this tutorial are larger than usual. You will have to scroll horizontally to see the entire image if you're using a monitor resolution of 800x600 or smaller.)

In Real World Digital Photography, 2nd Edition, we provided a detailed look at the various controls available to you in the Camera Raw dialog box in Photoshop CS. To help you gain a better insight of an appropriate workflow for your RAW images, we also wanted to provide a step-by-step guide to processing an image in Camera Raw.

The original image.

The simple fact that you are capturing images in RAW clearly indicates that your highest priority is image quality. A RAW capture contains the actual values recorded by the imaging sensor when you took the photograph, without any in-camera processing that might lead to a loss of detail or other quality problems. An appropriate workflow will help you ensure you are making full use of the information available in your digital images.

Follow the Light

Photography is all about light, and as photographers, we’re constantly thinking about the light as we photograph a scene. Light dominates our thoughts during the photographic process, and light continues to be a defining element when converting your RAW captures to “real” digital images. In the case of a RAW capture, the property of light we’re most concerned with is the color temperature, so those are the controls we’ll start with when converting an image.

The White Balance controls in Camera Raw.

As a starting point, you can select an option from the White Balance dropdown menu. The As Shot option will leave the white balance compensation based on the color temperature set by your camera at the time of exposure. You can select an option that is closest to the lighting conditions for this image, or allow Photoshop to calculate what it thinks is best by selecting the Auto option (which does not equate to the “Auto” white balance setting in the camera).

Chances are, the White Balance dropdown won’t provide a perfect compensation for the color of light in the image, and you’ll want to fine-tune to perfection. This is the job of the Temperature slider. Shift the slider left and right, observing the change in the image as you do so (digital photography is still a very visual process, after all). Moving the slider to the right will compensate for light that has a higher Kelvin temperature (what photographers would call “cool” light), warming up the image. Moving the slider to the left will do the opposite, producing a cooler image (in terms of lighting, not popularity).

The image after adjusting the White Balance temperature and tint sliders.

When you have the Temperature slider adjusted to a value that produces the best color in the image, adjust the Tint slider to fine-tune. This will shift the image tones between green and magenta.

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Copyright 2004 by Tim Grey. All Rights Reserved