Evaluating Images

The first step in processing raw images is to evaluate your image. Chances are, the first time you really view an image other than the thumbnails in Bridge is through the Camera Raw preview. When you first open an image in Camera Raw, Auto Adjustments are automatically applied. (That would explain why your raw images actually look pretty good!)

If you want to see what your image looks like without Auto Adjustments, press Ctrl+U (^+U on a Mac) to toggle Auto Adjustments on and off.

The image shown in Figure 9-2 represents an unprocessed image loaded in Camera Raw — with and without Auto Adjustments applied.

Figure 9-2: Raw image with (on left) and without Auto Adjustments.

For the most part, Auto Adjustments work pretty well to get me started for many of my images, and I view images with Auto Adjustments applied when evaluating for further adjustments. To evaluate images:

1. Open an image in Camera Raw.

2. Make sure Auto Adjustments are turned on.

You can either press Ctrl+U (^+U on a Mac) or click the Camera Raw menu and choose Use Auto Adjustments (see Figure 9-3).

3. Check the Preview, Shadows, Figure 9-3: Using Auto Adjustments. and Highlights check boxes

(which are located along the top of the window, above your image).

To make sure your adjustments will be view- _ Z Z

. . . , J „ , , HPrevisw 0Shadows able later, make sure the Preview button shown -

in Figure 9-4 is checked. Also make sure the Shadows and Highlights check boxes are checked; you'll want to know if any clipping is present when you evaluate the image.

4. Evaluate white balance.

Figure 9-4: Checking the Preview, Shadows, and Highlights check boxes.

Look at the image and evaluate whether or not there is a blue or yellow cast to it. If so, you'll need to adjust the white balance of the image.

5. Evaluate exposure and shadows.

Check to see not only whether the image appears underexposed or overexposed, but also whether there's clipping in the shadow or highlight areas. This is where adjustments can get tricky. You'll want to use a combination of the Exposure and Brightness controls to adjust your image to gain the correct exposure and minimize clipping (as in the shadow area shown in Figure 9-5).

When evaluating an image, enlarge the Image Preview so you can check more closely for clipping. Use the Zoom tool to enlarge the image from 100 to 200 percent, and then check the Figure 9-5: shadow and highlight areas. image.

Clipping in the shadow areas of an

6. Evaluate brightness and contrast.

Almost all raw images will have a need to have the contrast increased. Auto Adjustments will make these adjustments to an optimum setting.

7. Evaluate saturation.

Auto Adjustments don't affect saturation; when it comes to judging how much color you'd like to introduce into the image with the Saturation control, you're on your own. Often you can saturate to taste (so to speak), but be careful; oversaturation "blows out" parts of your image with too much color intensity. Pay special attention to the red and yellow areas; these colors are often the first to become oversaturated.

8. Check for sharpness and noise.

When you're working with raw images, it's easy to overlook the controls that aren't in the other control tabs. Same goes for evaluating your image:

a. Click the Details tab.

b. Slide the Sharpness control slider all the way to the left.

c. Enlarge the image in the Image Preview by clicking the Zoom tool, or by pressing Ctrl++ (that's the plus-sign key on your keyboard). You press on a Mac.

d. View your image enlarged and check it for sharpness and image noise.

I often view an image in Bridge, but until I open it in Camera Raw and zoom in, I won't know whether the image is sharp enough for me to even want to proceed!

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