Deke’s Techniques 067: Filtering Images with Camera Raw

067 Filtering images with Camera Raw

I use the commands under Photoshop’s Filter menu as much as the next guy. But as a collection, I have five problems with them: 1) Let’s face it, most are gimmicks; 2) many of them are old as the hills, so they lack previews; 3) most of the filters don’t create the effects that they’re named for (Fresco? come on!); 4) in what way are they even remotely related? 5) and they rarely receive any attention. There are the exceptions—for example, Smart Sharpen (CS2), Gaussian Blur (1.0), and High Pass (1.0), although generally ancient, are flat-out indispensable—but for the most part, the Filter menu is riddled with cobwebs of our communal disinterest.

So it got me thinking: Might there be a better place to filter images than Photoshop? My answer: Camera Raw. The great thing about Camera Raw is that it offers precise edge-detection capabilities—the one tenuous string that binds Photoshop’s best filters—as well as equally precise color modification options. Plus, the values have huge ranges (compared with, say, the Filter Gallery) and the options make sense (compared with, say, the Filter Gallery).

The result is this free video, in which I show you how to create five independent Camera Raw filtering, from which I imagine you can extrapolate a few hundred more.

Here’s the official description from, with copious graphics:

The first time you try them out, Photoshop filters can be sort of fun, turning your images into a purported pastel drawing or alleged chrome effect. But as Deke points out in this week’s free technique, you soon realize that many of these built-in filters are nothing you’d actually want to use. So instead, Deke has used a familiar tool to a surprising purpose this week, by employing Camera Raw to create some filter-like recipes that result in usable effects. And you don’t need to use raw-format photos to make it work either.

He begins with this image (shot by’s own Jacob Cunningham at this year’s Bonnaroo music festival), which does happen to be a raw image to which Deke applies conventional Camera Raw processing in order to set his starting point:

Jacob Cunningham's portrait of Alicia

For his first effect, Deke uses a negative Clarity value to reduce the edge contrast and a negative Vibrance setting to leach out the most vivid colors in the image. He then adds back some saturation to return the glow of the model’s skin tone.

The Camera Raw soft glow effect

Next, Deke takes the same image, and applies a bleached effect that’s centered around the application of a drastic temperature reduction. Who really needs Instagram when you have ACR?

The Camera Raw bleached effect

The third effect emulates old school cross-processing (as if you were developing one kind of film with a process designed for another). By adjusting the temperature and tone, then setting vibrance and saturation at odds. The result is this interesting effect:

The Camera Raw cross-processing effect

The next recipe applies an etched effect, which gives our good-natured model an almost other-worldly look. This part of the technique involves tweaking the Recovery, Fill, Blacks, Contrast and Clarity values.

The Camera Raw etched effect

Finally, because you’ve undoubtedly come to expect extremes from Deke, he’ll show you how he used the Tone Curve to set the different levels inside the image at extremes with one another, resulting in this stark treatment:

The Camera Raw super etching

Five photo-processing filters in under nine minutes. And all along, you’re applying your effect to duplicates of an original smart object, so everything is non-destructive and you can riff off of Deke’s ideas without harming your original image.

And if that’s not enough, members of can watch another new movie in the Deke’s Techniques series in which Deke shares his sixth and most outrageous filter effect inside Camera Raw. It’s Deke, after all: You can occasionally question his taste but never his talent. And you never know what the inspirational effects of going over the “edge” might be.

Every week, there’s a free technique from Deke!

In case you’re wondering what that sixth outrageous effect looks like, here ‘tis:

For LDC members, the vivid HDR effect

I’m calling it a “vivid HDR effect,” and it comes in several variations (one more subtle), all of which are baked in Camera Raw and then mixed in Photoshop.

Let me know what you come up with!

Next entry:Today I Finish Recording “Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals”

Previous entry:Bonfire of the Letterforms

  • Filtering Images with Camera Raw

    I would like to know what the Deke you do with the smart objects, save them s what? Bring them back into RAW or can you do that? Just leaving hanging out. Inquiring minds want to know.


  • Past Deke’s Techniques

    Now that we are up to technique #40, how can we view the previous 39 techniques>

  • Click the dekePod link at the top of the site

    Or just click here for every single free Deke’s Techniques ever made.

    I know, it should be more obvious. The site needs a redesign.

    But imagine dekeOnline to be a kind of pirate ship. What with all our looting, pillaging, and other high-sea adventures, we have very little time to fix the ship. It’ll happen eventually, next year probably, but in the meantime, we rely on those of you fellow pirates who jump on board to land on your feet and figure it out.

    Seriously, it’s all here. You just have to know where to dig.

  • After bringing the Camera Raw images into Photoshop

    as Smart Objects, save the result as a native Photoshop PSD file.

    Then all you have to do is double-click on the thumbnail in the Layers panel to open and edit the image in Camera Raw. The results will be returned to the PSD composition.

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