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How to Transform Your RAW Images into Works of Art
Getting started with camera raw and Photoshop CS3

The heart of CS3's RAW processing is the Adobe Camera RAW plug-in, developed and constantly updated by the eminent Thomas Knoll, one of the original creators of Photoshop. Camera Raw has come a long way in a relatively short time and has become the RAW processing tool for many photographers.


Before you do anything, you'll want to have the most recent version of Camera Raw. Every few months or so, it is updated to support new digital cameras. Occasionally, minor behind the- scenes improvements are also made. It's therefore best to periodically download the latest version. It's free.

You can update to the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw by going to or by using the Adobe Update Manager (Help→Updates) from within Photoshop or Bridge. I've had mixed results with the Update Manager, so I suggest you check out the Adobe site from time to time. The update is available through other sites as well, which you can find by Googling the words "Camera Raw Updates."

Which Version?

You can tell which version of Camera Raw you are using by selecting Photoshop→ About Plug-In→Camera Raw... from the main Photoshop menu. In Windows, the "About Plug-In" location is under the Help menu. The dialog box containing the version number will appear.

From the main menu bar in Bridge, you can find the Camera Raw version number by selecting Bridge →Camera Raw Preferences. (With Windows, Camera Raw Preferences are under the Edit menu.) The version number is at the top of the Preferences dialog box.

From Camera Raw you can find the version number by selecting the open preferences dialog box icon located in the toolbar. The version number appears in parentheses at the top of the dialog box.

After You Download

After you download the Camera Raw plug-in file from the Adobe site, do the following:

1. Close Photoshop and Bridge.

2.On a Mac, go to the Finder; in Windows, open My Computer and double-click Local Disk (C).

3. On a Mac, navigate to Library/ Application Support/Adobe/Plug-Ins/ CS3/File Formats. In Windows, navigate to Program Files\ Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\CS3\File Formats. (Vista doesn't use the "My" grammar, but the path is the same.)

4. Move the existing plug-in to another location or simply rename the file. Keep this version in case you need to revert to your original version.

5. Place the Camera Raw plug-in from 5. the download into the same folder as in Step 3.

The next time you fire up Photoshop or Bridge, the new version will become available. It's not necessary-or desirable-to replace or throw away any Camera Raw cache folders. Just replace the plug-in itself.


Let's start our overview of Camera Raw with the Workflow Options dialog box, which offers important choices that are key to getting the most out of your RAW images. (Open the Camera Raw plug-in from either Bridge or from Photoshop's Open command.)

At the bottom of the Camera Raw workspace is a link (Figure 4-7).

Figure 4-7

Click on it and the Workflow Options dialog box appears as shown in Figure 4-8. Here you will see options for Space, Depth, Size, and Resolution. The most recent settings will be selected. Let's take a look at each option and see how it relates to your overall workflow.

Figure 4-8

Space: Here you can choose from a variety of color spaces, including the ones you see in Figure 4-9. Just keep in mind that since we are working with RAW files, you can apply any color space of choice (at any time) without actually changing the underlying image data.

Figure 4-9

Depth: In Camera Raw, you can choose between two depths: 8 Bits/ Channel and 16 Bits/Channel (Figure 4-10). Most digital cameras save approximately 12 Bits/Channel of color data. To get the most out of the RAW data when it is opened from Camera Raw into Photoshop, I work with 16 Bits/Channel for as long as possible, even though it results in larger file sizes. (If you are working on multiple RAW images, there may be times when 8 Bits/Channel is more efficient.)

Figure 4-10

Size: Your digital camera is capable of a specific maximum image size. You can either reduce that size via camera settings or better yet, do it later in Camera Raw and Photoshop. As you can see in Figure 4-11, any size under the actual size set by your camera is marked with a minus sign at the end. Any size over the actual size is marked with a plus sign at the end. The actual size of your camera has no markings at the end. When should you go over or under the native size set by your camera? The fact is, this setting doesn't actually "resize" the RAW file. It only tells Photoshop how to size the RAW file when it's opened. I generally recommend resizing in Photoshop when quality is an issue, and using Camera Raw size settings when appropriate and a speedy workflow is the main concern.

Figure 4-11

Resolution: The resolution value is relevant only when it's time to print your image. It's a value used by a printer driver to determine how many pixels to print per inch/centimeter. The default of 240 pixels/ inch is generally considered a suitable number for most desktop printers. Changing these settings doesn't change the number of total pixels in your image, only the distribution of those pixels when it comes time to print. Again, I want to emphasize that changing these workflow settings doesn't do anything to the actual RAW file. It only creates a Camera Raw setting that is applied when the RAW file is opened in Photoshop; the settings can be changed at any time.

NOTE: At the bottom of the Workflow Options dialog box is an option to Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects. When this is selected the Camera Raw Open Image button changes to Open Object. Smart Objects are Photoshop layers which enable you to work non-destructively on image content, much like you do in Camera Raw. You can't paint, dodge, burn, or clone Smart Objects unless you rasterize them first, but many other Photoshop functions such as masks and filters can be applied without changing the original characteristics of the image. You can also reopen a Smart Object into Camera Raw and make nondestructive changes there.


Many Camera Raw tools will seem familiar to seasoned Photoshop users. There are navigation tools, zoom tools, color sample tools, cropping tools, and retouching tools, to name a few. In this section, we'll take a look at all of them.

The Camera Raw toolbar is located at the upper left corner of the work area. Clicking on the tool icon selects that tool, but for most of the tools, there are keyboard commands as well.

Navigation Tools

Some processing decisions-such as color and exposure corrections-are more easily made when the entire image is visible in the viewing area. Other tasks, such as sharpening and noise reduction, benefit from enlarging or magnifying an image so details are readily discernible. Get the view you want via the Zoom and Hand navigation tools, which are found both in the toolbar and in the lower-left corner of the Camera Raw window.

Zoom Tool

To select the zoom level in Camera Raw:

1. Click on the pop-up window on the lower-left side of the viewing area.

2. Choose Fit in View to make the entire image visible in the viewing area. (The Fit in View option will set different files to different zoom amounts, depending on the original file size.) Double-clicking on the Hand tool (found in the toolbar at the top of the viewing area) also makes the entire image visible in the viewing area.

The keyboard shortcut Ctrl-0 will also set the image to Fit in Window size. Use higher magnification percentages to zoom in. You can also use the Ctrl-[+] and Ctrl-[-] keystrokes to zoom in or out. Plus and Minus buttons are also found in the lower-left corner of the Camera Raw viewing window. Standard Photoshop magnifying keyboard commands also work. Place your cursor over the area you wish to be centered and then use Ctrl-click to zoom in, or Ctrl-Alt-click to zoom out.

3. You can also use the toolbox Zoom tool. Select it by clicking on the icon or using the keystroke Z. Hold your cursor over the area you wish to zoom in or zoom out. Use Option-click (Alt-click) to zoom out, or just click if you want to zoom in. You can also simply drag the cursor over the area of interest and release to zoom.

The Hand Tool To navigate a zoomed image with the Hand tool:

1. Click the Hand tool icon (found at the top of the viewing area or use the keystroke H.

2. Place your cursor over the image area and click and drag the image into position. The open hand becomes a clenched fist until your release your mouse.

3. Select the Hand tool at any time by holding the space bar. Your cursor will change to a hand.

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