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Did you know that when you shoot JPEGs with a digital camera a lot of the photo processing goes on inside the camera before you ever get to see the photo? By contrast, when you shoot Raw you are the one who does the processing. What you get from your camera is raw data that's unprocessed, the equivalent of an original negative in Film Photography. The big advantage of shooting Raw is that you get to control the processing in the Adobe Camera Raw Editor that comes with Photoshop Elements 7. Another advantage of Raw files is that they have a higher bit depth or more color information in them than 8-bit JPEGs. So there is more latitude to edit Raw files. Not all cameras will shoot raw, so if you are interested in shooting raw check your cameral manual and see if your camera will.
When you bring Raw files from your camera into your computer, you will see a special extension on the file that represents the flavor of Raw photo that your particular camera takes. This file is skulls.CRW from the 09_10-Raw subfolder inside Chapter 9 was taken with a Canon camera and so it has an extension .CRW, but if, for example, you shot with a Nikon your Raw file would have a .NEF extension. Photoshop Elements can open and process raw photos from most popular digital cameras. You will open your raw files into Elements the same way you open JPEGs. Here I'm, for example, in the Elements Organizer and I'm just going to click on this photo and then go up to the Editor and choose Full Edit, but the file doesn't open in the Full Edit workspace instead it opens in this special Camera Raw Editor.
In the Camera Raw Editor, on the right side are a column of settings that you can use to control the way that this photo will be processed. At the top of this column is a Histogram. A Histogram is a graph of all the tones in the image from the bright whites on the right to the dark blacks on the left and all of the gray tones in-between. It is useful to keep your eye on this Histogram as you manipulate the controls in this column for a visual representation of what you are doing to the tones in the image. The first control here is White Balance; White Balance controls the overall color temperature of the photo from Warm to Cool regardless of what White Balance your camera used when you shot the photo, you can change the White Balance here. So you can set the mood for the picture by changing the lighting.
The way that I approach White Balance is by starting with this menu of White Balance presets. I open the menu and I just go through the menu entries here, keeping my eye on the photo until I see that what I like best. As Shot is the one that your camera took; Auto is Elements' best guess about the White Balance should be, and I'll just go through these one by one. I think that Daylight is the best choice for this photo. Once I have chosen a preset then I'll come to the Temperature Slider and the Tint Slider and tweak those to get just the White Balance that I want. So in this case, I might move the Temperature Slider a little to the left to make the image a little bluer and maybe add a little Magenta by moving the Tint Slider to the right.
Down in this area, you can click Auto to have all the controls set for you, but the whole point of working with Raw photos is that you can do the processing yourself, so I prefer to adjust the controls manually. I'll start here with the Exposure Slider, which sets the white point of the photo. Dragging that to the right makes the white whiter; dragging it to the left, makes the whites darker. I'll leave that slider just about there that looks right to me and then I'll go down to Blacks Slider this sets the black point in the photo. If I drag to the right, it pushes more colors to Black. I'm going to come back over this way I think the Blacks were just about right to start with.
The Brightness Slider affects the overall brightness of the photo. If you drag to the right, the photo gets brighter; to the left, darker; we will go somewhere in-between. The Contrast can be increased to extend the tonal range of the image or compressed to make the image flatter. I'll increase the Contrast a bit and this is affecting the Contrast of the mid tones. The Clarity Slider is useful for restoring any sharpness or loss of detail that might have occurred as a result of these other tonal adjustments that I made. I'll drag Clarity to the right. That's one of my favorite controls. It often makes a photo look better.
The Saturation Slider increases the intensity of all the colors in the photo. I usually prefer to use the Vibrance Slider instead. Because the Vibrance Slider affects only the intensity of the unsaturated colors; so if I increase Vibrance, I end up saturating just the duller colors. There is another tab other than the Basic Tab, which is here and that's the Detail Tab here. A click there and that changes the controls. In the Detail Tab, I usually take the sharpening Amount Slider and drag it to zero because I'm going to be bringing this image into Photoshop Elements to work with it further. When I plan to do further editing in Elements then I like to do my sharpening there because I like to sharpen at the last stage in my digital workflow.
There are two other sliders here for reducing Digital Noise in your photo, the Luminance Slider for grayscale noise, the Color Slider for colored digital noise. Down at the bottom you can choose whether to retain the 16 Bits of this image, making it a high-bit image or making it a smaller 8-bit image. I'm going to leave that at 16 Bits. When I'm all done with my edits, I'll come over to the Open Image button, and I'll click; and that opens the image directly into Elements' Full Edit workspace. Here I could do further editing, but I want you warn you that not all editing tools are available here.
Let me close this palette and show you that here in the Layers palette, for example, I can't add a New Layer and if I wanted to use the Healing Brush here I can't do that. There is no Red Eye Control here and all of this is because I brought this image in as a 16-Bit image from the Camera Raw Editor. If I had changed the bit depth to 8 Bit I could do all of the editing here in Elements Full Edit that I always do. When I'm done editing here in Elements, I would just go to the File menu and save the photo as usual. I would save in a regular format like Photoshop PSD, or JPEG, or TIFF; but the raw image would remained untouched and I could always go back and reopen the raw image in the Camera Raw Editor and make yet another copy with different controls.
So if you have the opportunity to shoot Raw with your camera I suggest you do it so that you have the flexibility to do all of the image processing yourself in the Adobe Camera Raw Editor in Photoshop Elements.
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