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Sally Jane Photographic Art

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial




Getting Started with RAW

Step 2 - Using ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) The Interface Explained

To open your images in ACR select all the thumbnails by clicking on one and then Ctrl+click to select them all. Now go to File>Open in Camera Raw or Ctrl+R. See below. Please note, I am not using the latest version of ACR so if you have a newer version it may differ slightly or have extra features not included in this tutorial.

open in camera raw

This will launch Abobe Camera RAW in another window. See below.

adobe camera raw

We will take our time to explore this window. You will see all the thumbnails you selected in a scrolling window down the left hand side. If you only selected one image this window will not be present. In the main window (Preview Window) will be the first image in the list or any that you click on in the thumbnail view. Above that there are some basic editing tools on a menu bar. These include from left to right, a magnify tool which allows you to zoom in each time you click on the image or zoom out if you Alt+click; the hand tool that allows your to scroll around the image although holding the space bar down while any tool is selected also allows you to do this; the white balance eyedropper tool which automatically sets the white balance if you click on what should be a neutral grey area in your image; a colour sampler eye dropper tool that gives you a reading of the colour values it is clicked on; the crop tool and next to that an extremely useful leveling tool for straightening horizons; A blemish removal tool and the red eye removal tool; a shortcut icon that takes you direct to the preferences options and then two 90 degree rotation tools either clockwise or anti clockwise. At the far right of this bar is a check box to show preview, leave this checked as if it is unchecked you won't be able to see any changes you make. You can, however,use it to switch between a before and after view. Next to the preview box there is an icon that allows you to toggle to full screen view mode.

To the right of the preview window there are all the exposure and colour correction options including a histogram. More about these options below. At the bottom of the screen, below the preview window are your saving options. The 'Save Images' tab creates and saves all the images in the thumbnail view that you have selected to a jpeg or tiff file but still retains the original RAW files as well. The text below the preview window shows you what saving options you currently have set. 'Open Image' will open the image direct in Photoshop using the settings you have set or the default settings if you have not specified any. 'Cancel' will take you out of ACR and 'Done' will save your settings but will not convert the images to jpeg's or Tiffs.

You will notice a little yellow warning triangle in the top right hand corner of the preview image. This is telling you that this image has not yet been fully loaded. when it goes away the image is ready to be viewed at full resolution. Although you can work on the image while this triangle is present it is not a good idea to make any judgments on quality or try viewing it at full size to adjust the sharpening, until it has gone away. The image will become much clearer once the warning triangle has gone.

Exposure and Colour Correction Options Explained

exposure options

Lets look at the Exposure options down the right of the screen. This contains various tabbed pallets. The first pallet which is always visible by default has a little icon that looks like the iris of a camera lens. This is the main exposure and white balance correction tab and is called 'Basic'.

First you have the White Balance controls. In the drop down box you will have all the options that were available to you on your camera. It is now perfectly OK to leave your camera's white balance settings on auto because it can all be reset here. This can be fine tuned using the sliders below.

The next section deals with Exposure. The slider can be moved either right to increase the exposure or left to decrease it. You will see the new values presented in the box above or you may want to type a specific exposure value directly into this box. Click here for more on how to use this tool.

Recovery allows you to fix blown out highlights provided they are not beyond limits. More about this later. Click here for more on how to use this tool.

Fill Light allows you to recover detail lost in shadows without changing the lighter areas. It can be used a bit like using a fill flash. Click here for more on how to use this tool.

Blacks darkens the dark areas just like moving the tab at the left end of a histogram in on the levels dialogue in Photoshop.

Brightness brightens the image just like dragging the right tab in on the levels histogram.

Contrast changes the gamer or middle range values on the histogram without effecting the blacks or whites.

The last three are more unusual. The Clarity slider, when taken fully right makes the differences between edges more pronounced while taken right over to the left causes them to become blurred in a kind of Orton effect way.

Vibrance enhances colors that are not already highly saturated while Saturation enhances all colors equally. With Saturation you can easily blow out certain tones while enhancing other but vibrance will protect those brighter tones and enhance the rest. Vibrance is also more subtle. Vibrance is not available on some earlier versions of ACR.

acr curves

The next tab looks like a graph. This is the 'Tone curves' dialogue box shown here on the right. Click on the tab and you will see this window. I have to confess that up until I started creating these tutorials I hadn't bothered with this set of tools but now I've practiced with them they are excellent. Basically you can use curves to do much the same thing as in the Basics tab but here you can fine tune it to get the highlight and shadow detail just right. Click here to find out more about these tools and how to use them.

acr sharpeningThe two triangles that look like little mountains indicate the tab for the sharpening and noise reduction options. Click on this and you will see the dialogue box shown here to the left. Before sharpening or using any noise reduction it is best to make sure the image in the preview window is displayed at full size so you can see the effects. The sharpening options are similar to those displayed in Photoshop's Sharpening dialogue boxes.

Noise reduction help to eliminate noise from high ISO settings. I find this is more effective on some cameras files than others as it is very resolution dependant. Of the two cameras I have that shoot in RAW one is an 8 mega pixel camera and the other a 12. These noise reduction tools are most effective on the images taken with the smaller resolution camera when the images are viewed at full size.

For a detailed tutorial on how to use the Sharpening and Noise reduction tools follow this link. hue and saturation controls


The next tab, that looks like zig-zag lines, takes you to the hue, saturation and Luminance controls, or HSL/Grayscale as it is called, shown right. Here you can fine tune the colors individually or even replace them with a different shade. A small check box allow you to convert the image to grayscale. Clicking on Default sets everything back to zero.

Hue allows you to alter the shade of a particular colour.

Saturation increases or decreases the depth of that particular colour.

Luminance increases or decreases the brightness value of that colour.

It's a bit like the Hue/ Saturation controls in Photoshop except you can't fine tune the range of the colors you select.

acr split toning The next tab, with two rectangles on it, is the tab for the split toning dialogue box, shown left. This allows you to change the hue and saturation for the highlights or shadows individually. The balance slider moves the cut off point between the shadow and highlight. For a tutorial on split toning follow this link.

acr lens correction tab

To the right of the split toning tab there is a little tab with some vertical lines on it that if you look closely represent a cut through of a stack of lens glasses. This tab takes you to the controls for fixing lens problems such as Chromatic Aberration and Vignetting. See image right. Once again, I find the controls to fix Chromatic Aberration work better with some cameras than with others. Vignetting, however, work fine with all. A tutorial on Lens correction can be found here.

acr profiles

Next to the Lens Correction tab in my version is a tab with a camera on it. This was an optional ad-on and provides a set of customised camera profiles for correcting colour specific for individual cameras. Personally, having tried them, I don't find them much help so if you don't have this tab don't worry.

acr presets

The last tab, with the little sliders on it, is the custom presets tab. See image right. Unless you have saved your own presets of imported some this box will be blank. You can see I have three presets listed which contain settings I use for specific lenses with my D300 camera and one for my point and shoot camera. You may have noticed on the title bar just below the tabs there is a tiny icon to the far right that looks a bit like a paragraph formatting symbol with a little triangle next to it. When you click on this it brings out a list where you can select to 'Save Settings' This allows you to save all or a selected few or your settings to be used again without having to go through them all individually. When you do the name you give on saving will show up in this box as a preset. Click here for a tutorial on creating and applying custom presets.

I will explain in more detail how to use most of these features in the next tutorials as well as the other tools available.


Back to RAW introduction,

RAW - Camera Settings

Importing your RAW files

Creating and Applying Presets

ACR Basics & Exposure Tools

ACR Sharpening & Noise Reduction

ACR Curves tools

HSL/Grayscale tools (Hue, Saturation and Luminance)

Split Toning tools

Lens Correction tools

ACR Top Menu Bar (Crop, rotate and blemis removal etc)

Saving your settings and converting your RAW files

Bridge and Converted RAW Files



Recommended Further Reading for Photoshop

Return to introduction & contents page

"A-Z of Digital Editing"


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e-mail - Images@sally-jane.com

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