Adobe Camera Raw Basics

Adobe Camera Raw

Camera Raw is a nondestructive image editing program. It processes and stores analog-to-digital data before being converted to JPG and written onto memory card.

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography package and is tightly integrated with Photoshop, Bridge and After Effects for seamless functionality. The Creative Cloud Photography Suite allows for both global adjustments as well as local edits using brushes and filters for editing purposes.

Basic tab

The Basic tab offers tools to quickly make initial adjustments to images. Use sliders to set white balance, tone and color balance. Furthermore, add or modify filters for a customized appearance of an image.

White balance tools can help correct many common image flaws, such as an uneven mixture of light and dark areas or an imbalanced distribution of red, green and blue channels in an image. To adjust white balance simply drag either side of the control to achieve your desired position.

To see how your changes affect an image, a histogram of RGB values for pixels in the preview image can help illustrate their impact. A white image contains all three ribbons equally distributed; yellow, magenta, or cyan images have two of these colors in excess while black or gray images lack one or more.

Camera Raw allows you to copy and paste settings from one image file to another by using Adobe Bridge or the Edit > Copy Camera Raw Settings command. Syncing camera raw settings across multiple images by selecting them all and clicking Synchronize can also help keep things consistent across the board; additionally, Camera Raw saves its settings as an XMP sidecar file as well as embedding them within Digital Negative (DNG) files for safekeeping.

Contrast tab

The Contrast tab provides controls that allow you to alter an image’s contrast levels. Higher values increase contrast, while lower ones decrease it. A preview image displays each adjustment made and their impact.

The default settings don’t reflect the brightness and contrast of real world images, but they still work well for many types. Depending on your image, additional adjustments may be necessary in order to achieve desired results.

Histograms display the number of pixels at each luminance value (shadow, midtone or highlight). A raw image’s histogram consists of three ribbons representing red, green and blue color channels; any clipping in any channel will alter this histogram; for instance if shadow clipping occurs the left spike will indicate it while right spike indicates highlight clipping.

If your image lacks vibrancy, the Contrast slider can add some dimension. Just remember not to overdo it – a little goes a long way.

If you need to enhance the saturation of colors, try increasing Vibrance instead of Contrast. Vibrance adjusts colors more naturally while Contrast can oversaturate them unnecessarily.

Highlights tab

The Highlights tab allows you to make localized adjustments to images to improve contrast and brightness in specific parts of the photo. It provides various brush tools and masking tools that let you make precise color or luminance range adjustments without altering other parts of the picture.

The Snapshot button (eye icon) lets you quickly evaluate a set of adjustment settings in a preview mode. Clicking Cancel will remove all snapshot changes; when reopening your file, your original set of adjustments is restored. Alternatively, click Star icon or Presets > Save Treatment + Profile to save snapshot as preset so it can later be applied across Camera Raw, Lightroom and as filters in Photoshop.

Camera Raw stores its settings in a database file known as a Camera Raw file or sidecar XMP file, indexing them based on the image files themselves to retain settings even when moving or renaming files. You can use Export Settings command to copy and paste Camera Raw settings between image files.

Adobe has designed Camera Raw as part of a Photoshop workflow, enabling you to continue editing RAW images after making adjustments in Camera Raw by merging all layers to one layer or pressing Shift+Command+Option+E or Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E.

Midtones tab

The Midtones tab provides tools for fine-tuning tonal adjustments made with Basic, Contrast, Highlights and Shadows tabs. Utilizing its controls can make your images more balanced and uniform in tone.

These sliders differ from those seen in Adobe Camera Raw’s original plugin released in 2012. In that version, if you wanted to switch back to an old layout simply by choosing from a process version drop-down list in Calibration tab.

Adjust the contrast of an image by increasing or decreasing midtone intensity; higher values create more dramatic contrast while lower ones diminish it.

In addition to an exposure slider, this tab also features a Brightness control. Like its counterpart, this adjusts brightness without altering highlight or shadow clipping; you can also use this control to fine-tune overall image brightness without affecting exposure or contrast settings.

This slider determines the level of saturation in your image from -100 (pure monochrome) to +100 (doubled saturation). Unless there is an obvious reason, we advise leaving this setting unchanged by leaving this slider at its default value of 100% saturation.

Sharpening tab

Sharpening sliders enhance image edges. However, overextension may make images appear overly crisp and contrasty; to prevent this happening it is wise to apply sharpening as an additional step in your image processing workflow.

The Amount slider increases the level of sharpening applied to an image and also adjusts how much detail exists within a specific area. A higher value will produce sharper images with sharper edges while lower values produce softer ones with fewer details and blurrier edges.

This adjustment is a variation on the Unsharp Mask filter and employs its same logic: by locating pixels that differ from their neighbors and increasing contrast for those pixels to emphasize their differences.

Note that Lightroom does not match up perfectly to the settings on your camera due to an anti-aliasing filter in front of its sensor, making LR’s sharpening settings differ from your camera. As such, it is wise to experiment with different settings before making a decision on one you like best; print-sized images may require increasing output sharpening while JPGs viewed on mobile devices may need decreasing it; to achieve optimal results it’s advisable to make these adjustments in Lightroom before exporting them elsewhere like Photoshop or Lightroom.

White balance tab

The White Balance tab adjusts the color of your image. Use this tool to correct for color casts caused by lighting sources or environment; such as yellow-tinged sunlight or blueish tones from incandescent or fluorescent lighting sources.

Camera Raw uses the white balance setting you made in your camera when selecting As Shot; otherwise it analyzes and makes approximate tonal adjustments before providing additional controls for additional adjustments on Basic, Highlights, Midtones and Recovery tabs.

Your color and tone can also be customized manually by dragging sliders or entering rating values. Your adjustments include Temperature for setting color temperature; Tint to correct green or magenta tinting; and Exposure which varies image brightness or darkness.

To quickly and roughly adjust the tone of your image, select an area with neutral-colored or mostly gray content in it and use Temperature and Tint properties to achieve exact neutrality (if possible). Premium presets also provide useful help here: portraits for various skin tones, Cinematic travel photos, Vintage and more are available here.

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