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In Photoshop Elements 9 Essential Training, Jan Kabili highlights the key features of this comprehensive image organization and photo enhancement application. She shows how to correct and enhance photographs, and how to organize a growing collection of digital photos. The course also explains how to use photos in creative projects like photo books, calendars, and greeting cards, and how to share work online and in print. Exercise files accompany the course.
If you shoot RAW files, you'll be happy to know that you can process them in Elements. RAW files consist of high bit unprocessed image data from your camera sensor. After you shoot RAW files, you need to convert copies of them to a format that you could print or that you could open into Elements Editor for further processing or for making creations or for sharing with family and friends. That's all done in Adobe Camera RAW; a separate interface and a plug-in for Elements that both converts your RAW files and at the same time lets you control the image processing, everything from Exposure to Contrast to Color to Sharpening.
None of the adjustments that you make to an image in Adobe Camera RAW directly change the pixels in the RAW files; those remain pristine. Your Adobe Camera RAW adjustments are just instructions about how to display a copy of the RAW file. So how do you open a file into Adobe Camera RAW? If you use the Organizer to manage your photos, you open RAW files just like any other files by selecting them in the Organizer and then going to the Fix tab, clicking the arrow there and choosing Full Photo Edit. If you don't use the Organizer to manage your files, then here in the Full Edit Workspace, go to the File menu and choose Open and navigate to some RAW files.
Notice that these files have the extension NEF which is the Nikon flavor of RAW files. Cameras from different manufacturers produce RAW files with different extensions, so Canon cameras might produce CRW files or CR2 files. Well, Nikon cameras produce NEF files but they're all RAW files. So using the File > Open command in the Editor, here in the Open dialog box, I'll select these three files and then I'll click Open. That will open the files not into the Full Edit Workspace, but rather into the separate interface, the Adobe Camera RAW interface.
Notice that I have three files open and there is a Thumbnail for each one of them in the column on the left. As I click through these Thumbnails, the corresponding image appears here for editing in the Document Window. It makes sense to open multiple images if you've taken several shots of a scene and the lighting stayed the same because what you can do in Adobe Camera RAW is to process just one of the images, and have your adjustments apply to all of the open RAW files. So that's a real timesaver particularly if you shot a lot in the same light.
You maybe wondering what information Adobe Camera RAW is using to know how to display the RAW data for my camera sensor as it's doing here in the Document Window? Well, when you first open a photo into Adobe Camera RAW, it reads the metadata that comes with the photo, and learns from that metadata the brand and, in some cases the model of the camera that you used to shoot the photo. Then it displays the photo using information that it knows about that camera. So you can see up here that the Camera RAW can tell that I shot this photo with a Nikon D90 and so it's displaying it using some default settings that it applies to photos from Nikon D90s.
But I can totally change the way that this image looks here in the Document Window by using the Processing sliders in the column over on the right. There are three tabs; the Basic tab, and a couple of others. The Basic tab is the most important one because that's where the essential controls are for processing a photo. At the top of this column, there's a Histogram. It's just like the Histogram in the Histogram panel in Elements Full Edit Workspace which I explained in an earlier movie in this chapter. The left side of this chart represents the darkest possible tones in an image, the right side represents the lightest possible tones and the area in between represents the possible gray tones in the image.
Then this mound of color is really made up of individual bars, each of which represents a particular gray tone in this photograph and the height of the bar characterizes the frequency of that tone in the photo. So I can see from this Histogram that there really are no black blacks or white whites in this photo but there are quite a few different tones of gray. My goal when I'm processing most images is to get some dark darks, some white whites, and to have the rest of the Histogram spread out in between, so that there's a full range of tones in the image.
To process this image, I'll start at the top of the Basic column with White Balance. The purpose of White Balance is to neutralize a color cast in an image that may come from the lighting conditions in the scene. Sometimes your camera doesn't get White Balance right when you set it to Auto. So one of the advantages of shooting RAW is that I can set the White Balance from scratch right here in Adobe Camera RAW. There are a couple of ways to do that including the White Balance Eyedropper up here, but I prefer to use this White Balance menu of preset White Balance settings.
So I usually open this menu and just start clicking through the various presets until I find the one that I think looks best. Now, some obviously are not very good for this sort of photo but I think that the Auto choice which is Adobe's best guess at White Balance for this particular image isn't a bad starting place. Then I'll tweak that setting to taste using the Temperature slider which offers a tint from blue to gold and the Tint slider from green to magenta. So in this case, I might decrease the Temperature slider a bit, adding a little bit more blue to the tint on the image.
When I have a photo of a person, I'll sometimes drag the Tint slider a little bit toward magenta to warm up the skin. Down here is an Auto button. If I click that button, that will set all of these sliders automatically. But I try to avoid that, because one of the purposes of shooting RAW is that I get to do the processing and make the image look the way that I want it to rather than just accept some automatic settings. I'll start by setting the Tonal values in the image; the brights, the darks, and the gray tones. I'll use the Exposure slider to lighten the image, and to set a white point that we'll apply to the brightest tones in the image.
As I do that, I want to make sure that I don't push the highlights so bright that they lose detail. So I can take the optional step of enabling this Clipping Warning up here at the top-right of the Histogram. When there is a little white box around that arrow, that means that the Clipping Warning is on. So now, if I took the Exposure slider and dragged it way over to the right, I would start to see these areas of red in the Document Window indicating where the image is getting pushed so far toward white that I am losing detail in these highlights.
So I don't want to go that far with the Exposure slider; at that point, I'll back up toward the left, and I could back up all the way until I don't see anymore of those red warnings. But let's say that I really did want the image to be this light. In that case, I can try to regain the highlight detail in those areas by using the Recovery slider here. I am going to turn the warning off for a minute, so that you can see the clouds in that area and then I'll drag the Recovery slider to the right. And as I do, I'm bringing back some detail in the areas that were blown out to pure white just a moment ago.
So the fact that you can recover blown out highlights in RAW is another advantage of shooting RAW as opposed to JPEG. After the Exposure and Recovery sliders, I'll move down to the Blacks slider and I'll drag this one to the right to set the black point. You can see that as I do, the dark areas in the photo are getting darker. There's also a clipping warning for the shadows, but I'm not as concerned about losing detail in the shadow areas. So I am not going to bother to turn that one on. I am not going to use the Fill Light slider for this image.
What this slider does is to lighten the darkest areas in the photo to bring back detail there. This slider comes in most handy if I'm dealing with a backlit photograph, like a photograph of a person's face with the light behind her and her face is too dark. In that case, I can move the Fill slider to the right and it's like adding a little fill flash on the camera. Next, there's a Brightness slider. I can move this slider to darken or brighten the image without disturbing those white and black points that I just set. So if I think this image needs to be a little darker, I'll drag this slider slightly to the left.
I don't use the Contrast slider much because I've already set the contrast, or the tonal range, by setting the White and Black points which expanded the tones across the tonal range and that's the contrast in the image. But I will use the Clarity slider. This is one of my favorite sliders. I am going to zoom-in a little so you can get a better view of what this does by selecting the Zoom tool up here in the toolbar at the top of Camera RAW, and I am going to click on this area back here. Keep your eye there as I drag the Clarity slider to the right.
What the Clarity slider does is to increase contrast in the mid-tones. So as I drag to the right, it's intensifying the detail here at the top of this mountain. The Clarity slider is particularly useful if you have a lot of texture in an image. To go back to fit this image in the Document Window, I'll double-click the Hand tool up here at the top of Camera RAW. You may remember that those are the same shortcuts that you'll use in Elements Editor when you're zooming and panning. Sometimes I also need to vary the Color Saturation in an image which can be affected by some of these other sliders.
There are two sliders for Color Saturation. I usually don't use the Saturation slider because what it does is saturates all the colors in the image and so you can sometimes get a result like this where parts of the image are oversaturated. I am going to double-click this slider to send it back to its default of 0, which is a nice shortcut to know, and instead of the Saturation slider, I usually use the Vibrance slider. I am going to drag that to the right and it will increase the Saturation but it does it in an intelligent way without over- saturating colors that are already saturated.
The Vibrance slider is particularly useful when you have a photograph of a person and you don't want to over-saturate the skin. So those are the essential settings for processing an image here in Camera RAW. At the top of the Camera RAW interface there is a Preview check box. If I uncheck that, you can see where I started with this image before it was processed, and how the image looks now after just dragging those few intuitive sliders. There is another tab over here in this column; the Detail tab. I am going to click that so that you can see that it contains controls for reducing digital noise and for sharpening.
I'll start with Noise Reduction. As I explained in an earlier movie about reducing noise in Elements Editor, digital noise is an inevitable byproduct of shooting digitally and there are two kinds of digital noise; there is color noise and there is luminance noise. Now you can't accurately tell if you have noise in an image or whether you're reducing the noise by using these sliders unless you're zoomed-in to 100%. So I am going to double-click the Zoom tool and that zooms me into 100% and then I'll get the Hand tool and I'm going to pan the image in this Document Window up here to look at the sky.
There isn't much noise elsewhere in the image because as you can see here I was shooting at a relatively low ISO of 200. But I do see a bit of grayscale or luminance noise in the blue sky. So I'll go to the Luminance slider and I'll drag that to the right until that graininess is almost gone from the sky. I don't want to go too far with Luminance, because I don't want to blur the rest of the image too much. There also are Sharpening controls here in the Detail tab. I explained earlier that I generally sharpen my image for output at the end of my workflow after I've resized the final copy of the image, but you can also do a little sharpening at the beginning of the workflow here in the Adobe Camera RAW interface.
I am going to pan to a part of the image that has more detail than this, so that you can see the effect of these sliders. The Amount and Radius sliders are just like the Sharpening sliders that you can access from Elements Editor, which I covered in an earlier movie in this chapter. They work together. So increasing the Radius defines how many pixels out from a perceived edge are going to get sharpened and dragging the Amount slider determines the strength of sharpening.
Then there is a Detail slider. When the Detail slider is set to 0, it's difficult to see any of those changes to the Amount or Radius slider but if I drag the Detail slider way over to the right, you can see the changes that I've made to Amount and Radius. What detail is doing is trying to suppress the glowing halos that you sometimes see around a sharpened area. So it's sometimes useful to be at 0, it's sometimes useful to be higher. It's just a subjective decision. Then there is a Masking slider. What a Masking slider does is protect part of the image from the sharpening.
So when I'm working with a photo of a person's face, I'll generally increase the Masking slider and that will protect the smooth areas of the face from being sharpened. In this case, I'm going to send all the sliders back to their defaults by double-clicking each slider. And just this little bit of sharpening is enough for me for a capture sharpening, later I'll do more sharpening of the image after I'm done working on it in Elements. I am going to go back to Fit-in View by double-clicking the Hand tool.
There's always more that I can do to this image. Here is a Crop tool that I can use to crop it, a Straighten tool if the horizon needs straightening, a Redeye tool if there's a person in the photo who has red eye and more. But when I'm all done with everything, I'll go down to the Depth menu at the bottom of the Camera RAW interface, and I'll set that to either 8 bits or 16 bits. This will determine how I'm going to bring the image into Elements for further editing. If I know that I'm going to be sending the file by e-mail after I edit it in Elements, I'll leave this at 8 bits.
But if I think I'm going to be preparing the file for print, I'll set it to 16 bits. Generally, after I'm done working on a file in Camera RAW, I will bring it into Elements because there are so many things that I can do in Elements Editor that I can't do to an image here. The purpose of Camera RAW is to process the image globally. But if I want to make local corrections to color or tone, I'll bring the image into Elements Editor. If I want to use layers or layer masks, or individual editing tools, I'll bring the file into Elements Editor.
If I want to add text or retouch portraits or combine photographs or add effects, filters, layer styles, shapes and more; in all those cases, I'll bring the file into Elements to do that work. But if I don't want to bring the file into Elements, I have two other choices. If I click Done which I am not going to do right now, Adobe Camera RAW will close but the settings I've chosen here will stay with the image so that the next time I open the image here, all those settings will still be intact.
Alternatively, I can save the image in the .DNG format which is a universal open source flavor of RAW that was created by Adobe to make sure that RAW files could be opened in the future even if individual camera manufacturers stopped supporting particular formats. But as I said, in most cases, I'm going to Open Image. Now, because I have three images adjusted the same way, I'm going to select them all over here before I click Open Image by clicking the Select All button and then I'll click Open Images.
In just a moment, all three images will open into the Project Bin here in Elements Full Edit Workspace ready for me to do further work on them.
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