Adjusting images in Camera

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Camera Raw is a powerful enough tool that it's a good idea to get a handle on some of its new features before you go on a tweaking rampage. Here's the quick tour — followed by a small rampage.

One of the new convenient features of Photoshop CS2 is the addition of auto adjustments in Camera Raw. When you open a raw image in Camera Raw, auto adjustments for Exposure, Shadows, Brightness, and Contrast are automatically made. For some images, auto settings for these adjustments may be sufficient; however, I encourage you to look at each one and move the sliders to the left or right to see whether you can get a better result.

The steps to make overall adjustments in Camera Raw include these:

1. Adjust White Balance and Tint.

White balance can be adjusted using either the White Balance selection box or the Temperature control. Both will adjust the white balance of the image if needed. Changing the settings in the White Balance selection box will adjust both the Temperature and Tint to match the Camera Raw pre-determined color conditions for that particular setting. As an example, the Daylight white balance setting changes the (virtual) Temperature to 5500K and the Tint to a setting of +10. For finer tuning of the white balance, you can adjust the Temperature and Tint separately by using the adjustment sliders for both of those adjustments.

This adjustment is best used on photos that used the wrong white balance setting when they were shot — say, a photo shot in bright sunlight while the digital camera's white balance was set to Florescent. (Yikes.) The wrong white balance setting results in odd color shifts, as in the photo shown in Figure 1-11. For this photo, I actually like the result I got as shot, where the Cloudy and Florescent settings show incorrect color for the photo. But strictly realistic it isn't.

As shot Cloudy Fluorescent

Figure 1-11: Adjusting the white balance.

As shot Cloudy Fluorescent

Figure 1-11: Adjusting the white balance.

2. Adjust Exposure.

The Exposure control is a digital camera user's best friend. I'm not one to abdicate the fact that all of your photos have to be properly exposed when you click that camera shutter. (Hey, we all know that doesn't happen in the real world! At least nowhere near often enough.) The biggest challenge for photographers is capturing images that are correctly exposed and sharp. You can't really correct unfocused images, but the Exposure adjustment allows you to correct an image that's under- or overexposed. As with other adjustments in Camera Raw, increasing or decreasing the exposure to obtain the results you want doesn't degrade the quality of the image file.

Click the Auto check box to let Camera Raw automatically adjust your exposure. Camera Raw will choose the optimum setting to the point at which the image isn't under- or overexposed, just shy of the point at which the shadows and highlights start to lose definition (called clipping).

Figure 1-12: Clipping in the highlight areas appears in red if the Highlights check box is checked.

Changing any of the control settings in Camera Raw can cause clipping. Clipping occurs when too much of an adjustment — such as adding too much brightness or contrast — renders parts of an image unusable by creating areas that are (for example) too light or too dark. Areas that are too bright and contain no detail are called blown out.

You can monitor if your changes are causing clipping by clicking the Shadows and Highlights check boxes located on the Camera Raw palette. Clicking these boxes will show you areas of the image that are too light or too dark. Shadow areas that are clipped appear in blue; highlight areas that experience clipping show up in red, as Figure 1-12 shows in an enlarged portion of the image.

3. Adjust Shadows.

Camera Raw lets you adjust shadow areas (the very dark parts) of your image by increasing or decreasing the brightness in these areas while not affecting the highlight areas. Try the Auto setting for

Shadows first, or you can move the slider to the left or right to get the effect you want. Make sure you keep the Shadows check box checked to limit and monitor clipping. If clipping occurs while you're making a Shadows adjustment, move the slider until the clipping in the shadowed areas disappears.

4. Adjust Brightness.

The Brightness control allows you to increase or decrease how bright your image appears independent of the Exposure setting. The Brightness setting is best used in conjunction with other Camera Raw adjustments, such as Contrast and Saturation. Changing the contrast and saturation may require you to increase or decrease the brightness of the image slightly to compensate for the harsher changes.

5. Adjust Contrast.

The Contrast control simply allows you to darken the dark areas of an image while brightening the lighter areas of an image. The Auto setting for Contrast may be the optimum setting for Contrast, but feel free to move the slider to the right to increase contrast in the image until you get the result you want.

Figure 1-12: Clipping in the highlight areas appears in red if the Highlights check box is checked.

6. Adjust Saturation.

Before you adjust a raw photo, it may appear dull and lacking in contrast. Don't worry! The color information is still in the file — all you have to do is increase the Saturation control to bring out the color. (Personally, the Saturation control is my favorite! I can't wait to get into Camera Raw, tweak my Exposure, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast, and then increase the saturation and watch my photos "come alive".)

There isn't an Auto setting for saturation. You have to do it by hand, increasing color saturation by moving the Saturation slider to the right. Figure 1-13 shows the original image and the image adjusted in Camera Raw.

7. Click Open.

Clicking the Open button will then open your converted raw image into the Photoshop window, where you can make further adjustments and edits to your heart's content. You can also click the Done button to save your Camera Raw settings for the image and return to Bridge without opening the image in Photoshop.

At this point, Camera Raw saves your changes, but not to the original raw file. Camera Raw leaves the original alone, but it does add your changes to a sidecar file, a file created to contain changes you've added to the original raw image. These files are small, and are given an XMP file extension.

Adjusted in Camera Raw

Figure 1-13: Original image, and the image adjusted in Camera Raw.

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