Using a Step-by-Step Raw Process

I've gone over workflows in Chapter 4, but here is where we really dive into the "raw" details of Camera Raw. As with all the processes I show you throughout this book, processing images in raw requires its own step-by-step progression of tasks:

1. Evaluate your image.

Take a look at your image as opened in Camera Raw. Be sure to take advantage of the histogram, the shadows and highlights, and the clipping warnings.

2. Correct the white balance.

White balance (the combination of temperature and tint) takes a little getting used to adjusting. The best way to become proficient is to experiment using the different white balance choices Camera Raw provides.

3. Adjust exposure using the Exposure control.

It bears repeating: This control is extremely valuable. That's because it's hard to get dead-on exposures with your digital camera in some lighting conditions. The Exposure control lets you fine-tune the exposure of the image as you've envisioned it.

4. Adjust shadows using the Shadows control.

Those dark areas of the image can use some tender loving adjustment once in a while — and the Shadows control helps you control clipping in those dark areas of an image.

5. Adjust brightness using the Brightness control.

There are going to be images where you'll adjust the exposure exactly where you want it to minimize clipping in the highlights like the example shown in Figure 9-1. The Brightness control gives you the option of lightening up the image a bit without re-introducing those pesky "clips."

Figure 9-1: Clipped highlights show up in red.

Figure 9-1: Clipped highlights show up in red.

About that technical term, "pesky clips" — it's a word I use to describe chunks of pixels that have no image definition, a condition known as clipping. ("Pesky" is a technical term for "colorful rude word we can't print here.")

6. Adjust contrast using the Contrast control.

If the Camera Raw default contrast setting isn't "doing it" for you, use the Contrast control to increase or decrease the contrast in the image.

In addition to the Contrast control, you can use the Curves control to increase or decrease contrast in an image.

7. Adjust saturation using the Saturation control.

Increase the amount of color in your image using the Saturation control. As with other adjustments that apply color or tone in Camera Raw, increasing saturation helps bring out the color in your image.

8. Apply the Curves adjustment.

Fine-tune the dark, light, and midtone areas of your image using the Curve control (located in the Curve tab).

9. Reduce noise, using the Luminance Smoothing and Color Noise Reduction controls.

If your images were shot at a high ISO, a slower shutter speed, or both, you could wind up with a color-speckled effect called noise. The Detail tab contains two controls: Luminance Smoothing (which reduces grayscale "grain") and the Color Noise Reduction control (which reduces those speckled artifacts found in some images).

10. Correct lens aberrations and vignetting.

If you have noticeable lens shortcomings such as aberrations and vignetting, you can easily correct these by using the Aberrations and Vignetting controls in the Lens tab.

Incorporating DNG into your raw workflow

Adobe's new DNG format (described in Chapter 2) is an attempt to standardize a raw file format that stands a pretty decent chance of being compatible with computer software 10 or 15 years from now. Many photographers who shoot with cameras from multiple makers (hey, it happens!)

want to use one standardized raw format for all their cameras — but also want some assurance that photo editors and raw converters will recognize their raw-format originals in the foreseeable future. DNG is the option that comes closest to filling the bill.



If you want to convert raw images to DNG format, the steps are simple:

1. Open the DNG Converter from the shortcut on your desktop.

2. Select the folder that contains the original raw images you want to convert.

3. Select a folder destination to which you want to copy the converted DNG files.

You can also create a new folder by clicking the Make New Folder button.

4. Click the Convert button.

In my workflow, I always copy my original raw files first—to two quality DVD discs (one for on-site storage, one for off-site storage). These days I've also started converting my raw files to DNG, using Adobe's DNG converter. Those converted DNG files get backed up to separate DVDs as well (yes, two copies!). Incorporating DNG into your raw workflow would involve only three extra steps: converting your raw images to DNG, backing up the converted images to CD or DVD, and then opening these converted files in Camera Raw at the beginning of your raw workflow.

The jury is still out on whether DNG will become the favorite raw archiving format of the future, but just now it's the only option available that

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allows photographers and studios the ability to convert all disparate raw images to a common format for image archives.

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