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Photoshop ships with a file browser called Bridge, because it serves as a kind of bridge between your images and Photoshop. Photoshop and Bridge are independent programs and they both offer a very powerful plug-in called Camera Raw, which is the topic of this chapter. The primary purpose of Camera Raw is to process photographs captured with a mid range or professional level digital camera and saved in your camera's RAW file format. This format varies from one camera vendor to the next.
Canon calls its format CR2. Nikon uses NEF. Fuji uses whatever Fuji uses and so on. Whatever the format, this RAW file represents the unprocessed data captured by the camera's image sensor. Such a file is typically several times larger than an equivalent JPEG, but it also contains way more information, including a wider range of luminance data. Think of it this way, if Photoshop lets you edit a photograph and integrate it into a larger piece of artwork; Camera Raw lets you develop the photo, meaning that it really is a digital darkroom.
You start by adjusting the white balance, which is the basic color cast of the image. Then you expose the photo, correct the contrast and enhance the colors. You can even modify certain areas of a photo independently of others. The amazing thing is that every modification is nondestructive, as with Smart Objects, you can not harm an image in Camera Raw, plus you can correct multiple images at a time, something Photoshop can't do, and you can copy modifications from one image to another.
Camera Raw works inside Photoshop, it works inside Bridge, and it's fully compatible with Adobe's other photo development program, Lightroom. Plus, it lets you edit regular, old, everyday JPEG and TIFF images. If you are a photographer, Camera Raw is your development tool. If you are an artist or designer, Camera Raw lets you precisely manipulate the work of others. If Camera Raw costs an extra 300 bucks, I would tell you to buy it, but as long as you have Photoshop, it doesn't cost anything, and here's how it works.
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