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Working In Adobe Camera Raw - ACR - Adobe Camera Raw Tips
by Mark Galer, author of Photoshop CS4 Essential Skills.
Adobe Camera Raw is the gateway for opening Raw images into the main editing space of Photoshop, but Adobe Camera Raw is also a great space for optimising images quickly and easily. Many of the basic tasks such as straightening and cropping images, correcting exposure and adding a vignette can all be achieved faster and more easily than performing these same tasks in the main editing space of Photoshop. If you have not yet explored the ACR interface or are having trouble breaking old habits then the following tutorial is designed to make you think again.
These days most professional photographers capture images in the Raw format rather than the JPEG format. The Raw format offers greater flexibility in achieving different visual outcomes while ensuring a high quality finished result. The JPEG file format can offer great quality so long as only minor editing is required after the image has been captured.
The Raw Advantage
Most professional photographers have switched from JPEG capture to using the Raw format due to the following reasons:
1. Extended dynamic range (great for combating the photographers worst enemy – subjects where the lighting contrast is high).
2. Higher Bit Depth. Having access to 12, 14 or even 16 bits per channel instead of 8 bits per channel results in higher quality if you have to ‘fix’ the image after capture.
3. Flexible editing (why worry about the correct camera settings before you shoot when you can set them after?). The processing, that is normally done by the camera (white balance, saturation, sharpening etc.), can be carried out in ACR.
ACR - open to one and all (editing JPEGs in ACR)
For photographers or designers who are choosing to work with JPEG images rather than using Raw images, the ACR space still offers an advantage over the main editing space of Photoshop for quick and easy editing. You can open JPEG images in ACR from Bridge to take advantage of the powerful tools in this editing space (just right-click on the image thumbnail to access the Open in Camera Raw command or use the new icon in Bridge CS4).
Exposure and white balance
Lets take a look at how easy it is to optimise the exposure and white balance in ACR.
The Fill Light can open out underexposed shadows. Just drag the slider to the right.
Note > Good quality can only be maintained using the Fill Light slider if the quality of the image sensor is high and the ISO is low.
An example of Raw simplicity - this is how many sliders are used in the main editing space to fix the same problem!
Correcting overexposure is just as easy as correcting underexposure in ACR. Click on Auto or use the Blacks and Recovery sliders.
Give your image a black point and recover your highlights.
Apply a new White Balance setting using the White Balance Tool.
Click once on a neutral tone to color-correct an image.
Open multiple images, optimise one and ‘Synchronize’ the rest. This facility enables fast batch processing inside the ACR space. This is a huge time-saver compared to optimising images one at a time in the main editing space of Photoshop.
What follows is a comparison between four simple editing tasks carried out in Photoshop and the Adobe Camera Raw space.
Task One — Straighten and crop an image in Photoshop
1. Use the Ruler Tool (buried behind the Eyedropper Tool) and click and drag along a vertical or horizontal line.
2. Go to Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary > OK (not a procedure that is obvious or well sign posted).
3. Crop your image to trim away all of the canvas area that was added after the straightening process. Enter in width, height and resolution in the crop fields in the Options bar if you are cropping to a particular format and size.
Straighten and crop an image in ACR
1. Drag the Straighten Tool over a horizontal or vertical line (the image area is automatically straightened and the pixels surplus to requirement hidden from view).
2. Select Custom and enter the size if you need to change the format of the image and resize the image.
3. Click and drag inside the crop area to reframe your image. The shaded pixels are never discarded when working in ACR – they are just hidden from view. They can be recovered at any time by selecting ‘Clear’ from the Crop menu.
Note > ACR is a completely non-destructive working environment, i.e. you can never write over or damage the information contained in the original image file.
Because the integrity of the original file is maintained when working in ACR, changes need to be saved as a new file. Before hitting the Save button set up your Workflow Options. These include color space, bit depth, size and resolution.
Task Two — Balancing exposure in Photoshop
1. There are dozens of ways of doing this (adding to the perceived complexity of Photoshop) here is a pretty simple one. Duplicate your layer.
2. Set the blending mode to Screen
3. Add a layer mask
4. Add a Black/White linear gradient in Normal mode at 100% Opacity. (the myriad of options for the Gradient Tool make this a complex step for the novice user).
5. Duplicate the Layer, switch the blend mode to Multiply and ‘Inverse’ the mask.
Balancing exposure in ACR
1. Add an Graduated filter to make Foreground lighter (new to ACR 5 that ships with CS4).
2. Add a Graduated filter to make the sky darker.
Task Three —
Adding a Vignette in Photoshop
1. Make an elliptical selection with the ‘appropriate’ amount of feather (choosing an appropriate amount of feather is difficult for the novice user as the selection gives no feedback as to how soft the edge is being rendered by the feather setting).
2. Inverse your selection.
3. Copy, Paste and set the new layer to Multiply (the blend modes are a steep learning curve for a novice user as the names are reasonably abstract to the effect they have on the image).
4. Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate to remove saturation problems.
Adding a Vignette in ACR
1. Move Amount slider (yes it’s that simple).
Task Four — Skin Smoothing in Photoshop
In Photoshop there are a million ways and many steps. In ACR there is one slider called Clarity. Move it to the left (ACR4.5 and later).
ACR is Faster, Quicker Easier. The integration between ACR and Photoshop using Smart Objects is the new smart workflow for smart photographers. If you need to get up to speed check out Photoshop CS4: Essential Skills - the essential training package for all serious photographers and imaging professionals.
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The Photoshop Blog offers the latest Photoshop and Digital Photography news and software updates, tips and tutorials, and random thoughts from graphic artist, digital photographer and Photoshop expert Jennifer Apple. Also includes Photoshop CS3 news!