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Photoshop ships with a plug-in called Camera Raw that allows you to process images captured with a mid-range or a professional level digital camera and saved in your camera is so called Raw 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 far more information including a wider range of luminance data. Think of it this way. If Photoshop lets you edit an image and turn that image into anything you like, Camera Raw lets you develop it. It really is a digital dark room. You start by adjusting the white balance, which is the basic color cast of the image. Then you expose the image, correct the contrast, enhance the colors and straighten and crop as needed. You can even adjust certain areas independently of others.
The amazing thing is that no matter what, without the need for layers, every modification is parametric. In other words, you can't 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. And best of all, Camera Raw works inside the Bridge, it works inside Photoshop, and it's fully compatible with Lightroom. If you are a photographer, you have to know Camera Raw. If you are an artist or designer, it's tempting to skip it, don't. Of all Photoshop's big plug-ins, say for Web, Liquefy, Vanishing Point, Camera Raw is the most essential. It offers features that are altogether missing elsewhere inside Photoshop, which is why we'll explore it in such glorious and grandifying detail in the following exercises.
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