New Feature: Playlist Center! Pick a topic and let our playlists guide the way.

Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

What is Camera Raw?

From: Photoshop Elements 11 Essentials: 02 Editing and Retouching Photos

Video: What is Camera Raw?

Camera Raw is a plugin or a mini application that comes with Photoshop Elements. Its job is to take the raw data that's captured by your camera's sensor when you shoot raw photos, and convert that raw data into pixels that can be viewed on your computer monitor. That conversion is done in the Camera Raw workspace. I'll open that workspace now by going to the File menu, choosing Open, and navigating to a raw file on my computer, and then clicking Open. You can see the Camera Raw workspace open separately from Elements Editor.

What is Camera Raw?

Camera Raw is a plugin or a mini application that comes with Photoshop Elements. Its job is to take the raw data that's captured by your camera's sensor when you shoot raw photos, and convert that raw data into pixels that can be viewed on your computer monitor. That conversion is done in the Camera Raw workspace. I'll open that workspace now by going to the File menu, choosing Open, and navigating to a raw file on my computer, and then clicking Open. You can see the Camera Raw workspace open separately from Elements Editor.

This workspace comes with intuitive sliders that give you maximum control over the appearance of the photos that you process here. In this chapter, we'll look at this Camera Raw workspace in detail. But first, let's get a handle on what a raw file is and whether you should be shooting raw files as opposed to JPEGs. A raw file is the unprocessed image data captured by your camera's sensor. When you set your camera's controls to shoot raw files, the camera doesn't apply image adjustments to that data, it just records it as is. By contrast, when you shoot JPEG, a number of adjustments are applied to the image inside your camera before you even get it into Elements.

The camera bakes in the white balance settings, it may adjust color saturation and tonal values, and it sharpens the photo. If the camera captured more than 8 bits of color data, the additional data is discarded when the camera compresses the image into the JPEG format using a lossy compression scheme. So, while a JPEG is already heavily processed when you get it, a raw file is more like a negative, a vehicle to deliver just what the camera captured. That brings me to one of the biggest benefits of shooting raw over JPEG, which is that with a raw image, you retain artistic control.

A raw file isn't processed until you work with it directly in Camera Raw, where you can interpret the image data to your liking, rather than ceding much of that function to your camera, as you do with a JPEG. That's an important creative reason to shoot raw. There are some technical reasons too. The possibility of highlight recovery is one technical reason to shoot raw. If you overexpose a photo when you're shooting, the highlights will be too bright and lacking in detail. If you shot raw, you have a much better chance of recovering highlight detail using Camera Raw's processing controls than if you shot JPEG.

Another technical advantage of raw is that when you shoot a raw photo, you can set its color balance to whatever you like during processing using the Temperature and Tint controls in Camera Raw. This gives you the flexibility to change the color of a photo after shooting. By contrast, when you shoot JPEG, the camera's White Balance Settings are baked into the photo, giving you less flexibility to fix an unwanted color cast or to reinterpret the photo's color. And bit depth is another technical reason that photographers favor raw over JPEG.

When you shoot raw, your camera captures more color information, 12, 14, or sometimes 16 bits of color data per channel, depending on the camera. And that's more than can be saved in the JPEG format, which is limited to 8 bits of color data per channel. You probably won't notice the difference due to bit depth when you're editing most photos. But, if you're trying to adjust an area made up of a gradient of color, like a bright blue sky, and you make an extreme adjustment to the photo, you might notice some color banding in that area of gradient.

You're less likely to get unwanted banding if you have more color information to work with in the first place. So, you'll have more editing latitude if you start with a high bit depth raw file over an 8-bit JPEG. Nondestructive editing is an advantage of working in Camera Raw over any of the workspaces in Elements Editor. In Camera Raw, none of the adjustments that you make directly change the original file. The adjustments are just instructions that affect the preview in Camera Raw and that are actually applied to the photo only when you output a copy of a raw file from Camera Raw.

That means that you can reopen a raw file into Camera Raw at any time, and tweak a setting or reprocess the whole file in a completely different way. There are other advantages to working in Camera Raw too, like the ease of making adjustments using its intuitive sliders, and the ease of applying the same adjustments to multiple photos, as I'll show you how to do later in this chapter. All that I've just said in praise of raw files doesn't mean that you have to abandon shooting JPEGs. There are some advantages to JPEGs over raw files too, and you should weigh those in your decision about what kind of photos you want to shoot.

For one thing, as I said, JPEGs are already processed in the camera, so a JPEG will often look better right out of the camera than a raw file, and that means you won't have to spend as much time processing it. For another, JPEGs are smaller in file size. So they take up less storage space on your drives. Another advantage of JPEG is that you don't need Camera Raw to process a JPEG, and that means you don't have to bother keeping your Camera Raw plugin up to date. If you are going to use Camera Raw and you want to have access to all its newest features, and its support for the latest cameras, you will need to keep an eye on updating it from time to time, either from the Adobe website directly or by using the Update command in the Help Menu in Elements Editor.

If all that has you convinced to give raw files a try, or even if you want to take advantage of Camera Raw's intuitive controls to adjust your JEPGs, which I'll show you how to do shortly, stay tuned for the rest of this chapter, where we're going to dive deep into the Camera Raw workspace.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 6m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 10s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
    3. Overview of the editing workspaces
      3m 34s
  2. 43m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 21s
    2. Making the most of the tools in Elements
      4m 6s
    3. Arranging the panels
      4m 32s
    4. Zooming and panning
      4m 3s
    5. Viewing multiple photos
      3m 51s
    6. Undoing
      5m 15s
    7. Cropping
      3m 46s
    8. Resizing
      7m 18s
    9. Saving images and examining formats
      6m 2s
  3. 19m 23s
    1. Understanding layers
      7m 59s
    2. Managing layers in the Layers panel
      4m 33s
    3. Creating new layers
      6m 51s
  4. 38m 28s
    1. Why use selections?
      4m 20s
    2. Selecting with the marquee tools
      3m 56s
    3. Selecting with the lasso tools
      6m 40s
    4. Selecting by color and tone
      6m 22s
    5. Refining a selection
      4m 51s
    6. Selecting hair
      5m 42s
    7. Hiding content with a layer mask
      6m 37s
  5. 46m 54s
    1. Why use adjustment layers?
      5m 15s
    2. Adjusting color with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      4m 32s
    3. Correcting lighting with a Levels adjustment layer
      3m 32s
    4. Adjusting part of an image with an adjustment layer
      5m 19s
    5. Exploring auto adjustments
      3m 55s
    6. Improving shadows and highlights
      2m 14s
    7. Removing a color cast
      1m 47s
    8. Fine-tuning with Color Curves
      3m 16s
    9. Converting to black and white
      2m 26s
    10. Correcting camera distortion
      5m 32s
    11. Reducing noise
      2m 56s
    12. Sharpening
      6m 10s
  6. 20m 51s
    1. Creating a panorama
      5m 6s
    2. Merging bracketed exposures
      6m 0s
    3. Removing people from a scene
      5m 25s
    4. Combining group shots
      4m 20s
  7. 29m 24s
    1. Removing blemishes
      3m 42s
    2. Reducing wrinkles and circles
      4m 16s
    3. Enhancing eyes
      5m 19s
    4. Removing red-eye
      3m 15s
    5. Adjusting skin tone
      2m 21s
    6. Removing dust spots
      4m 7s
    7. Removing content
      6m 24s
  8. 52m 36s
    1. What is Camera Raw?
      5m 18s
    2. Using the latest Camera Raw controls
      3m 16s
    3. Camera Raw basics
      6m 22s
    4. Making use of the histogram
      3m 45s
    5. Setting white balance
      3m 44s
    6. Adjusting lighting
      4m 28s
    7. Adjusting color saturation
      2m 9s
    8. Cropping and straightening
      3m 58s
    9. Reducing noise
      3m 33s
    10. Sharpening
      3m 38s
    11. Synchronizing edits to multiple photos
      3m 36s
    12. Outputting from Camera Raw
      6m 14s
    13. Using Camera Raw with JPEGs
      2m 35s
  9. 48s
    1. Next steps
      48s

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

No

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.