Photoshop Top 40
Illustration by John Hersey

12. Camera Raw


Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

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Video: 12. Camera Raw

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #12 is Camera Raw and Camera Raw is an independent development module that runs inside of Photoshop. So here's the idea if your digital camera supports a raw file format and I'm talking about CR2 in the case of Canon or NEF in the case of Nikon or ORF in the case of Olympus or any number of other file formats that are out there. If it supports a raw file format and it very well might if it costs 500 bucks or more, it definitely does if it's a digital SLR.
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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

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There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

12. Camera Raw

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #12 is Camera Raw and Camera Raw is an independent development module that runs inside of Photoshop. So here's the idea if your digital camera supports a raw file format and I'm talking about CR2 in the case of Canon or NEF in the case of Nikon or ORF in the case of Olympus or any number of other file formats that are out there. If it supports a raw file format and it very well might if it costs 500 bucks or more, it definitely does if it's a digital SLR.

If you have got a raw file format you should definitely be shooting to it, because regardless of the appearance of your image when it first comes out of the camera you have a lot more there than meets the eye and you can develop that image and make it its very best inside of Camera Raw. So I'm looking at a series of images that I shot using an Olympus E-30, which is a state-of-the-art digital SLR as I'm speaking to you today, and I shot these images in Les Baux de Provence in the Cote d'Azur region of Southern France.

And notice that I've converted all these images from Olympus's ORF format to Adobe's DNG short for Digital Negative. The great thing about the DNG file format is that it's an open standard as opposed to being a proprietary standard that associate with a specific brand of camera. The DNG format is an open standard and hopefully will stand the test of time just like Adobe's other industry-standard formats such as TIFF, PDS, FLV and so on. So having converted these images over to DNG, using incidentally the DNG Converter Utility, which is free and available for download at

Once you got it and had it converted your images over to DNG, which I recommend if only for archiving. It's a great file format. Then I went ahead and corrected five out of the six images that you see before you inside of Camera Raw and we're looking at these images incidentally inside of the Bridge, which shifts along with Photoshop. We can see that I have made modifications based on these two little dinky icons right here. You may not be able see them very well inside the video. But the first one means that I have cropped the image inside of Camera Raw and a second little circle right here means that I've applied color adjustments inside of Camera Raw.

The one guy that has not been corrected at all, because there's no little icons right there is this first image and it looks to be something of a mess here. I am going to go ahead and press the Spacebar here inside the bridge in order to preview the image at full-screen size, and we can seem that because I shot this image in the evening, there was no way to really properly meter it. The sky is too bright the foreground is too dark the sun is coming from the right so it's doing a great job of lighting this tiny little surface right there, but not much else. However, even though the image looks to be something of a mess here on screen right now, we can do a great job of correcting it inside of Camera Raw and here's how.

We are going to go ahead and escape out of the full-screen preview and I'm going to right-click on this image, and I going to go ahead and choose this command right there Open in Camera Raw. You've also got a keyboard shortcut, which is Ctrl+R here on the PC or Command+R on the Mac. What that allows you to do is open the image inside of Camera Raw, which runs as a plug-in inside the Bridge. That just saves you from having to open Camera Raw inside of Photoshop. So you can leave Photoshop for you to do other things if you like. Also, this command allows you to open JPEG and TIFF images which are not raw images of all but you can still open them inside of Camera Raw with a high degree of success incidentally.

All right, I'll go ahead and choose this command and that brings up the Camera Raw plug-in right there. Next, I'll click on this little icon that allows me to fill the screen with the Camera Raw window. You can also press the F key if you want to do that. That way we can just focus in on the Camera Raw plug-in. I'm going to go in zoom in on the images as well. Now typically the first thing I do is correct the white balance, but because luminance is such a disaster inside this image, we are going to start with luminance options. I am going to start with the Exposure slider which allows you to brighten the lightest colors inside the image or darken and lightest colors and the thing is as you can see the modifications represented here in a histogram, if you can read a histogram that is and it's a basically a bar graph showing you the blacks on left hand side the whites over here in the right-hand side, everybody else in between.

So we're seeing a bar graph of all the luminance levels. However, it's still difficult to get a sense of exactly which colors are clipping, which colors are getting clipped to white for example. If you want to see that what you is you press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and you drag that slider and notice as I drag it over to the right I'm getting more clipping, so everything that's not previewing in black is getting clipped to some channel or other. If we're seeing white that means we're clipping in all channels. So we're completely blowing the highlights, which is not something we want to do.

As soon as I release that slider you can see that sure enough I have a blown sky. I don't want that at all. So we will go ahead Alt+Drag or Option+ Drag this guy back down to about +0.6 in this case which is the point at which we are starting to just barely see some clipping. You probably can't even see it inside the video, but there's just a slide amount of clipping going on at that point. Now next what I want to do, now that I have brightened the sky as much as I think I can, I want to brighten the foreground details as well. So I want to breathe life into those shadows and I can do that using this Fill Light option.

I'm going to raise this value like crazy to 50 in this case to brighten up those shadows quite considerably. You should be able to brighten shadows without brightening the sky, using this Fill Light function. Then I'm going to bring up my blacks as well. And again, I want to get a sense where the clippings going to occur. So I will press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag this slider triangle over to the right just slightly. Everything that's not white in this case is going to get clipped in one channel or other. If you see black, it's mean you are going to clip in all channels. We're just getting some noisy clipping going on here, just a few pixels here and there and that's not really a problem.

So 10 is good where this image is concerned. That Alt key or Option key on Mac trick also works incidentally for the recovery option, just in case you want to take advantage of it. Now I have a feeling like this sky is way too bright so I am going to take the brightness value down which controls the color of the Midtones. So to leave the Shadows and Highlights alone, allow you to modify the Midtones independently. I'll take the Brightness value down to + 20, which makes the foreground too dark admittedly, but it does a pretty good job in the sky. We'll come back to that later. We'll adjust the foreground independently in just a moment.

Next, I am going to take this Vibrance value up to way up incidentally to +65. So that's a pretty big Vibrance modification. Now to see what we've done inside of this panel only. Notice there is a bunch of different panels of options here inside of Camera Raw. If you want to preview the effects of one panel in one panel only you turn off Preview and then you can turn it back on. So we've made some pretty terrific modifications here. You can also invoke the Preview button from the keyboard by pressing just the P key. P for preview and nothing else.

The next modification that I want to make is in this panel right there HSL/Grayscale. So I am going to switchover to it. We are not going to see every single panel or every single option incidentally. Here's what I am going to do. I am going to switchover to my Luminance values, which allow me to modify the brightness of a group of colors by itself. So it can modify the Reds by themselves or the Oranges of the Yellows and so on. What I want to do is I want to darken the sky. So I'm going to darken the blue value here. I am going to reduce the blue value to - 100 which is going to make those skies considerably darker and just to offset things a little bit to make sure that I'm not invoking too much noise inside the image, which it looks like I am, we'll come back to that in a moment.

But I'm going to adjust the neighboring color values as well, so I am going to take the Aquas, which are the next of our colors and move them down to -55. Let's also adjust the color intensity or Saturation of some of these colors independently of each other. For example, I want to make the Blues highly saturated so that the sky is very intense by dragging this value up to +50 here. I'm also going to increase the Reds value to 30 the Oranges to 50 and the Yellows to 25. Now you may wonder where in the world I'm getting these values.

Trial-and-error that's all there is to it. So I've tried this in advance and these are the values that I came up with and those values right here Red, Oranges, and Yellows makes the foreground colors more intense. Just to get a sense what we've done here in this panel, this is the before view and this is the after view, thanks to our HSL/Grayscale modifications. Of course, we didn't do anything grayscale. That was all HSL. Now if you zoom in on this sky I am going to zoom-in to +67% for example, you're going to see that I have brought all kinds of noise out inside of the sky. So this is before.

It wasn't noisy at all. Then this is after quite noisy, what gives? Well, I am here to tell you, there is actually no noise. There is noise inside the image, but it's already been corrected and we can see that it's already been corrected when I zoom it in to 100%. As soon as I zoom to 100%, it all goes away. So what in the world is that about? Well, that's a function of some options that are being applied by default here inside the Detail panel. When I switch over to the Detail panel noticed Noise Reduction right there, the color values already pumped up to 25. So I am already reducing 25% worth of the color noise inside this image.

If I zoom out, notice that it comes right back and I get this little alert message here, this very subtle alert message. Notice this that says Zoom preview to 100% or larger to see the effects of the controls inside of this panel. So if you're not seeing the image at 100% or bigger, you're not going to see the effects of these options. It's kind of a zinger, something you have to watch out for. I think it's of a questionable value, quite frankly, but that's the way it is. Another option that's available to us here where correcting colors is concerned, color sort of aberrations, is the Chromatic Aberration values.

So if I zoom down to this region inside the image, you can see that there is this little green stripe across one side of this detail here and there's a sort of a magenta stripe across the other side. That fringing is something that we can fix that's what's known as a Chromatic Aberration. It's basically something that you see around the perimeter of the image. It's a function of the lens element distorting the various colors inside of that photograph. So what you want to do in order to correct there is a switchover to the Lens Corrections panel right there and you have two Chromatic Aberration options, Fix Red/Cyan Fringe or Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe.

What you want to do is just play around with them and see which one works. Now this happened to be kind of a magenta green fringe as I was saying which is going to be closer to Red/Cyan is my sense. And I am going to go ahead and reduce this value. If by the way you don't really know which way to go. So what you do as you try increasing the value at first and if the effect gets worse, my goodness, you should go the other direction. So I'm going to go ahead and reduce this value to -30. Actually, it works pretty well for this detail right here, and notice by the way I'm viewing the image at 100%.

If I zoom out to something less than 100% such as 66.7%, then my Chromatic Aberration suddenly reappear. We don't even get a warning in this case. So these options right there are only visible if you're viewing the image at 100% or better. But they will show up inside a Photoshop. So when you open the image inside of Photoshop, it doesn't matter what zoom ratio you're looking at. You will see the effects of these options. In other words the image will be corrected. So it's really sort of a weird thing that you have to watch out for that.

Anyway, I am going to go ahead and zoom into to this portion of the image as well, because we still have a little bit of Chromatic Aberration action going on there. Thus we have the sort of blue edge going on. I am going to go ahead and take this Blue /Yellow Fringe value up to +10 in order to try to mitigate that. You're never going to get totally rid of Chromatic Aberration, but you can help it a little bit. Now I am going to zoom out from the image so that I can take in more at a time. You will now see inside this image the noise across the sky. You will see the Chromatic Aberrations as well to some degree or other, because they're no longer previewed, thanks to the fact that we're viewing the image at 25%, which is less than 100%.

So the final thing that I want to do is I want to switch over to one of these tools right here, the Graduated Filter tool. What the Graduated Filter tool does is it allows you to correct one portion of an image independently of another portion. So I am going to go ahead and grab this stool and I am going to drag from about here. What I want to do is lighten the foreground. So I am going to drag from the top here of the store way here to about there inside the image and then release. So what we are seeing is a green circle right there which is showing you the beginning of this selective color adjustment and then the red circle which is showing you the end of that selective color adjustment.

I am going to go ahead and pump up the brightness where there specific correction is concerned to about +20 and then I am also going to take the Exposure value up to 0.25. Again, this is trial and error. I've come up with these corrections on the fly. So again you can see it before and after of this specific correction by turning off the Preview checkbox and then turning it back on. So see how that foreground brightens a little bit. If you don't see that overlay which is to say this green and red item on screen right here, then go ahead and turn off the Show Overlay checkbox.

Notice that it has a keyboard shortcut is well of the V for I suppose Overlay. There it isn't and there it is the depending on how you want to work with that option. Now then if you want to switch back to your previous collection of panels over here in the right-hand side of the screen they just go ahead and switch away from that Graduated Filter tool to one of your navigation tools such as the Hand tool and then all of these options miraculously come back. Let's get a sense of what we've been able to achieve here. I'm going to go ahead and click on the Open Image button to open the image inside a Photoshop.

Let's zoom in here and now we'll be able to see it before and after of the entire color adjustment. This is the image as it was originally captured by my digital camera and this is the image as it appears corrected inside of feature #12 Camera Raw here inside Photoshop.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40 .

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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
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