Photoshop Top 40, Feature #12: Camera Raw

A couple of years ago, I petitioned a group of 50 or so photographers to seed me with raw images for some Camera Raw videos I recorded for The project went swimmingly, but I was troubled by the number of photographers (12? 15?) who told me they didn’t shoot raw, even though they owned digital SLRs. Why not? Because the few raw images they had captured didn’t look as good as the equivalent JPEGs.

Fair enough I guess. But it’s rather like saying that your film negatives don’t measure up to your Polaroids. The first are waiting to be developed and the second are processed by robots. Initially, you may marvel at the work of the robots—machines are a clever lot!—but in time you’ll discover that you can do a better job yourself.

Both raw files and negatives contain deep information that will ultimately yield superior images. But where negatives require you to dabble in precarious and sometimes toxic chemicals, raw images have been known to submit to the slightest of numerical adjustments without the slightest provocation. And Photoshop provides a tool that makes yesteryear’s fully equipped darkroom look like a zoetrope: Adobe Camera Raw. Essentially a free subprogram that ships inside Photoshop, ACR is a fully fledged image-editing application unto itself, replete with white balance, histogram, exposure controls, and more.

Typically, I feature a photo from guerilla image vendor Fotolia. But this week, I proffer one of my own, captured in the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence. This is one of those classic raw images that begins life tragically and blossoms so well.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click here.)

Photoshop Top 4 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe. dekePod subscribers will get the videos automatically.

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  • Awesome, finally Camera

    Awesome, finally Camera Raw!

    P.S. A small hint (dunno if you know it or not):

    If you want to see a full “before and after” image in ACR (and not only the changes from one panel) you can go to Presets panel in ACR (the last one of panels) and then turn on/ off “preview”.

    Damn, who would tell i can give a tip to a master of Photoshop smile

    Cant wait for top 10,


  • Comparing the before and

    Comparing the before and after in Photoshop eliminates the zooming in and out that ACR would necessitate.

    The master knows what he is doing wink

  • Ohhhhh

    So THAT’S why my chromatic aberration tweaking never seemed to work! I wasn’t zoomed in to 100% ARGH… nice of them to tell us that wasn’t it?

    I’m loving this series and I thought I knew it all but I continue to learn! Well I don’t know it all really but a lot. Some. A reasonable amount.

    Also I love that hint about the sky and the luminance for the blue value, looks fabulous for landscapes.

  • I need more time!

    I’ve been shooting in Camera Raw for over a year now, luckily my compact shoots in raw, and my SLR obviously does.

    The only problem is that I find it so hard to find the time to ‘develop’ all my images in lightroom/photoshop.

    I know I just need to be more disciplined, but when I get home from work I’d rather sit on the couch and watch How I Met Your Mother, especially when it gets dark at 4.30!

  • I agree with my fellow deke users!

    Hey guys IM new here and I just finished watching the entire photoshop 101 series (all 3 parts) and am really in the program at the moment.

    I love camera raw and i agree its high time that it got its spot light.

    I use it a lot even on my JPEG images, mostly for monochrome fxs that are in the ,,program,,

    Oh! and btw since im new here I just want to now can I send some kind of Private msg to a certain user?


  • Perfect for me

    This feature, for me, has been the most valuable so far. I shamefully only shoot in JPG, never used RAW with my SLR, but I’ve been thinking of making the switch. Now I can see the power of shooting in RAW for those most important shots. Thanks Deke!

  • NEF & Nikon Camera JPG

    Camera Raw (& the nearly identical Adobe Lightroom) are GREAT tools to “fix” images after they come out of the camera,  I originally bought Lightroom just so I could make quick batch color corrections to images, but I am constantly finding new methods to improve my images.

      .  .  .  but .  .  .

    I have compared well-exposed NEF and JPG images and find that when Nikon renders them into JPGs in-camera, they look better than Adobe’s “best guess” as to how that image should look -right out of the camera. 

    I am told that Nikon does not share proprietary algorithms for image processing with Adobe.  And for me. even after working on the NEF images using Adobe, it is hard to beat the in-camera processing to recreate the subtle gradations of shadow and color when I do a side-by-side comparison.

    But of course, even in my studio, it is hard to get perfectly exposed images every time, and I am a big fan and heavy user of Lightroom.  These programs are great for adding impact to even perfectly captured images.


  • E-Mail

    Heye Deke,

    that comment’s nothing related to this topic ... I’m just having a problem finding your e-mail address. You definitely need a imprint or contact page with your mail address!!! I’ve been looking for your address several times but I always get frustrated when I can’t find anything :(...

  • I’m not trying to hide my contact info

    I just find that I get to questions in a more timely manner when they’re posted to the site, and everyone gets to see the answers!

    That said, if you have a hankering to contact me directly, and you’re feeling glacially patient, I can be reached at the fairly obvious

  • It is very informative

    I read your passage and gathered more information about photography and photoshop.

  • Use at your own risk

    And then be prepared to use again after Deke “loses” your first email. Or maybe it’s just me. wink

  • What about NX2?

    Do you have an opinion about the relative merits of NX2 and ACR? I’ve just moved to Nikon full-frame and I am wondering whether to add NX2 to my workflow.


  • Wow!!  I love your lessons

    I keep thinking I know so much about PS and love, love, love using it but when I see some of your lessons it just makes me realize how much I still don’t know.  Thank you for doing these lessons.  They are truly wonderful and very appreciated.


  • RAW-NEF- NX2

    RAW is the only way to go…with 12 & 14-bit image processing on the camera, the color depth, and dynamic range has so much more info than a processed and compressed jpeg. Working backwards from having a robust RAW file with oodles of color depth and dynamic range, (I can get 3-stops of lighting form a RAW with my camera), you begin to see which cameras will provide you the most head room from which to work. If you are unfamiliar with this I would suggest visiting DxO Labs, they have an independent analysis of all the camera bodies regarding RAW performance.

    Here are my workflows…

    (a) Web page photo shot under “normal” conditions

    Camera RAW—> Adobe RAW—> PS

    (b) High end photo…needs to be pristine…

    Camera RAW—> DxO Labs—> NX2—> PS

    NX2 is excellent for histogram manipulations and applying and stacking filters (masks) quickly. It also has a pretty good batch processor.

    DxO Labs is excellent for sharpening and lighting / shadow issues. With this program I no longer use a UV filter or polarizer. And the preset and batch processing capabilities here are second to none.

  • Image problems @ intermediate magnifications

    When I enlarge an image on the screen it looks fine at 25%, 50% and 100% but screwed up at intermediate magnifications. Straight lines look a little wavy. This is on images after being corrected in Photoshop. Is there a fix for this? Why does this happen? Clients are sometimes shaken by this. Thank you for your help!

  • Prior to CS4, 12.5%, 25%, and 50%

    Were the only reliable zoom ratios below 100%. Other ratios dumped pixels, resulting in jagged transitions and inaccurate renderings of smooth lines and edges.

    This has been mostly addressed in CS4 thanks to Photoshop’s enhanced support for OpenGL video cards. Now images look great at the primary incremental ratios (8.3, 12.5, 16.7, 25, 33.3, 50, and 66.7) and a bit soft at the others. Layer effects may display inaccurately at ratios below 100%, but you can get a better sense of what those look like by creating a merged layer (Cmd-Shift-Opt-E or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E).

    If using CS3 or earlier, and presenting to clients: Create a duplicate file, flatten it, and use Image > Image Size to size the image to show off well at 50%. For example, say most of your image fits on screen at 16.7%. Then use Image Size to downsample it to 33.3% (twice 16.7%). Now zoom in to 50% and it should look great.

  • Top post. I look forward to

    Top post. I look forward to reading more. Cheers

  • Great blog post.

    Great blog post. It’s useful information.

  • You really know your

    You really know your stuff… Keep up the good work!

     digital camera brisbane

  • Cheers for the info. It was

    Cheers for the info. It was a good read.

    best digital camera

  • Great post. Cameras really

    Great post. Cameras really create memories for lifetime.Nikon D400 is going to be one of the most sought after SLR photo camera of 2011.

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