In our latest Raw Tuesday post on using the raw format we look at some of the more specific ways in which the raw format can give you an advantage. This week we take a close look at how to edit raw files and manage your raw workflow in a way that makes sense for you. We’ll also follow on from last week’s discussion of the Adobe Camera Raw interface and explain how to customise the process of editing raw files using ACR.
Raw converters may look quite different from one another, but they tend to incorporate the same basic controls. Adobe Camera Raw, the most widely used software for editing raw files, is what we’ll focus on here (Note: it’s not difficult to ‘translate’ the controls we’re about to describe into their equivalents in other programs.).
Much of the time, the Adobe Camera Raw workflow is extremely straightforward – potentially even foolproof. You can’t open raw files directly in Photoshop or Elements, but as soon as you try to open one (in any of the ways you normally open files), Adobe Camera Raw leaps into action to process the file.
Customise the process
Without prompting or configuration, it applies a default set of tweaks designed to add a bit more punch to the average shot with a reasonably even distribution of tones across the range from darkest to lightest: a modest boost to the Blacks and Brightness, a touch of contrast enhancement, plus a hint of sharpening and noise reduction.
The processed image is now ready for you to open into Photoshop or Elements – but to be honest, any old raw converter, even your camera’s built-in algorithms, could do this much, and you’re getting little if any benefit from the extra depth of tonal and colour detail that shooting raw has given you.
The real advantage lies in the powerful tools that Adobe Camera Raw offers you to customise the process, to alter the settings that were used to capture the image, and to ‘develop’ your digital negative in the way you want – or the way that best suits the individual image, instead of relying on generic adjustments.