How To Edit RAW Photos in Adobe Camera Raw

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In this article I’m going to cover how to edit photos in Adobe Camera Raw. If you ask most professional photographers these days, they (and I) will tell you that shooting in RAW mode is the best option for serious digital photography.

Why this mode? Well, because it provides better options for editing images outside the camera. Unlike JPEG images, all the digital data captured in the camera and converted to RAW is retained on the camera media card. This means that RAW image files will often be three to five times larger than JPEG files (see screen shot below). JPEGs files are smaller because they are what’s called a lossy format, which means that some data is not retained.

Adobe Camera Raw

Most people can’t see a difference between an image shot in JPEG or RAW mode. They will look the same on camera”˜s LCD screen, but when viewed on a computer, you may notice some differences; such as a lack of color saturation, contrast and sharpness in RAW images. RAW image settings are not touched in the process of capture. This provides photographers better control over editing their images.

All current dSLR cameras and some compact digital cameras feature RAW mode capability. You need to adjust your camera’s menu settings to shoot in RAW mode. You also will need a RAW image editor to edit these images. The icons for RAW and JPEG images may looking something like this:

Adobe Camera Raw

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Adobe Camera RAW

When you shoot RAW photos, you need to process them in a RAW image editor. The most popular applications for this are Adobe Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. But a RAW editor comes installed with the latest versions of Photoshop CS, and it’s called Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). It works similarly to Adobe Lightroom, so basically, unless you’re doing high volume photography, ACR should be sufficient for your RAW editing needs.

To open RAW files in Adobe Camera RAW, you can select File>Open in Photoshop, and then select your RAW files, which will open up in the RAW editor. Or you can select and drag the files on the Photoshop icon and they will open in the editor.

Adobe Camera Raw

ACR looks like this in Photoshop CS3:

adobe camera raw download

Editing in ACR

Adobe Camera RAW contains basic and advance editing tools that you find in applications like Photoshop, iPhoto, and Lightroom. Here’s a break down of some of the basic tools:

adobe camera raw download

One of the biggest advantages of shooting in RAW format is that you can correct the White Balance settings (see #1) in the editor. This can’t be as easily done with JPEG files. So if for example, you shoot a photo in Tungsten WB in an outdoor setting, you can change it Daylight WB in ACR and get the correct white balance exposure.

adobe camera raw download

The Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, and Brightness tools (items 2-7 in the screenshot above) can help you correct exposure issues. The Recovery tool helps you reclaim loss in detail in the white areas, and Fill Light helps add light to the shadow areas.The Blacks works similarly to add darkness to the shadows of images, by dragging the slider slightly to the right. Brightness and Contrast works like most other image editors.

The Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation tools work really well for portrait shots. They basically boost and intensify colors without destroying the skin tones. Experiment with slightly dragging these sliders right or and left slightly to get the desired effect.

This panel also includes a Histogram tool in which you can click the top red and blue buttons to bring up highlight and shadow warnings in an image.

adobe camera

Other Tools

ACR includes other tools such as Sharpening, Curves, Grayscale Conversion, Chromatic Aberration, and a Preset feature which allows you to save editing and adjustment settings that can be applied to future images.

adobe camera

Converting to Original Settings

Like with all image editors, you can revert back to the original previous settings by clicking on the button on the right side of the panel and selecting Image Settings or Previous Conversion.

adobe camera

Saving Images

The four buttons at the button of ACR are for saving images, opening them in Photoshop, or clicking Done to apply settings without opening the image in Photoshop.

While Adobe Lightroom and Apple”˜s Aperture are leading RAW editors, there’s no reason you should fork over the money for one of those applications before you take advantage of Adobe Camera RAW, which comes at no extra cost in Photoshop CS.

Let us know us know about your experiences with RAW photo editing. Just because it’s a tool used by most professional photographers doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible to serious shutterbugs.

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Comments (2)
  • Bakari

    Thanks for letting me/us know that. I haven’t stepped to CS4 yet, so it’s good know what the added features are.

  • hfng

    A great summary on what ACR can do! The latest version has adjustment brushes which are excellent.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.