In our latest Raw Tuesday post on using the raw format, discover how using Camera Raw tonal adjustment sliders in the basic tab will let you process your image exactly how you want it to appear. Below is a guide to each slider and what it can do for your images.
When you open a raw file for the first time in Adobe Camera Raw, the program automatically applies the Camera Raw Defaults to it. If you’re using Camera Raw simply as a means of converting raw files so that they open in Photoshop/Elements, then its job is done.
But if you’re content with ‘one-size-fits-all’ settings, you might as well have let your camera do the conversion instead.
The real benefit of using Camera Raw is that you can use its tools to process the image exactly as you want. As a general rule, you’ll work through the tabs one by one, using the sliders more or less in sequence.
The Basic tab contains the key tonal and exposure adjustment tools, but Camera Raw also offers a wide array of options for adjusting colour and correcting image flaws such as noise or dust spots.
Using Camera Raw’s tonal adjustment sliders
This can be used to darken or lighten your shots. It functions just like your camera’s exposure controls: its readout is even in exposure values. The slider affects mostly highlights and light midtones, and since most of the captured data should be in this range, quite dramatic changes to your images are possible.
The Recovery slider affects the lightest tones in your image, pulling back seemingly clipped highlights without reducing exposure globally. It can flatten contrast in the highlights, though, so you may need to boost the Exposure or Brightness setting in order to compensate for this.
This slider lightens shadows without affecting highlights and light midtones that are correctly exposed. The darkest tones in your image won’t be affected, but high values can soften contrast and introduce noise, so use the slider with care. That said, you can get impressive results, even with JPEGs.
Use this to set an image’s ‘black point’ – the brightness of the darkest tones – in a similar way to the Black Point input slider in the Levels dialog. It’s useful for restoring contrast after heavy Fill Light adjustments, but the slider should be used sparingly – the default value of 5 for raw files will often need reducing.
The Brightness slider primarily works on an image’s midtones – the effects fall off towards the shadows and highlights. This slider is best used to fine-tune exposure without introducing clipping – particularly where contrast is high and highlights or shadows are already close to being clipped.
Increasing the Contrast setting has an effect similar to creating an ‘S-shaped’ curve with Curves or Adjust Color Curves – lighter midtones are lightened and darker midtones darkened, increasing the contrast between them, but the lightest and darkest tones are affected less, minimising clipping.
Increasing the Clarity setting will enhance the contrast in your image only within the midtones. The Clarity slider is therefore an ideal method for adding punch to your shots when a lot of fine detail has been captured within that part of the tonal range.
This slider intensifies or weakens colours in the same way as its counterpart in the Hue/Saturation dialog in Photoshop. The Vibrance slider works a little differently: increasing the setting boosts less-saturated colours more than already-saturated ones, enabling you to make more subtle adjustments.
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