Shooting in raw format: the real benefits of digital negatives

A quick guide to noise reduction

Is shooting in raw format really worth going the extra mile for? In this tutorial we take a look at all the benefits.

Shooting in raw format: the real benefits of digital negatives

Raw files are often referred to as digital negatives because, unlike JPEGs, they contain all the unprocessed data for an image and are a much better choice when editing.

Images produced from Raw files generally have more detail, smoother tonal gradations and better colours than their JPEG counterparts.

The downside to Raw files is that they require bespoke software to unravel and convert them into a universally recognised format.

Fortunately, Photoshop comes with Raw conversion software called Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), which springs into action when a compatible Raw file is opened. Any work carried out in ACR is non-destructive and can be undone at any point.

Because Raw files are specific to each camera model – unless it uses the DNG file format – Adobe produces regular updates to Adobe Camera Raw to continually expand its compatibility.

So if you’ve bought a new camera, you may need to download the latest Adobe Camera Raw update before you can work on the raw format files it produces.

Although its primary function is to allow raw files from a huge range of cameras to be opened in Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw has a fairly comprehensive collection of adjustment tools arranged in tabbed sections labelled Basic, Tone Curve, Detail, HSL/Greyscale, Split Toning, Lens Correction, Camera Calibration and Presets.

These allow a good deal of image processing to be done at the file conversion stage. There are also tools to correct sloping horizons and make crops before the Raw files are opened in Photoshop.

SEE MORE: Photoshop for beginners – master your photo editing workflow in 24 hours

Working in Adobe Camera Raw

Selecting the Convert to Greyscale option in Adobe Camera Raw’s HSL/Greyscale panel turns the image monochrome, the sliding controls underneath enabling you to choose how individual colours will be represented.

Once you are happy with the black and white version, it can be toned using the controls in the Split Toning panel. Up to two colours can be applied – one to the highlights and the other to the shadows.

Once the colour of the tone is selected using the rainbow-like hue slider, its saturation can be adjusted.

SEE MORE: Adobe Camera Raw – the secret to using it for just about everything

Shooting in raw format: working in Adobe Camera Raw

Click on the infographic to see the larger version

Strip the original colour
Taken on a bleak and colourless day, this image is almost monochrome from the outset. But it lacks contrast and needs a little more impact. The old Victorian style of the pier lends itself well to split toning treamtment, as it will give the final result a timeless quality.

Tweaking the contrast
After brightening the image using the Exposure slider in the Basics panel of ACR, the shot has been rendered black and white by selecting the Convert to Greyscale option in the HSL/Greyscale panel. Adjusting the oranges in the Greyscale mix has the most impact.

Raising the tone
To enhance the picture’s sense of drama, a yellowish hue has been applied to the highlights, while a bluey-purple tinge has been added to the shadows. It can be helpful to increase the saturation of the tone while you adjust the hue control to select the desired colour.

Camera Raw in Photoshop Elements

Camera Raw comes with Photoshop Elements 12, but it doesn’t have the same set of features as the Photoshop CC version. There are only three tabbed panels – Basics, Detail and Camera Calibration. All the Exposure, Contrast and Saturation controls in the Basic panel are present, but the noise control options in the Sharpening panel are limited to Luminance and Colour sliders.

PAGE 1: Tricks for using Adobe Camera Raw
PAGE 2: Localised editing tricks


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