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How to process raw images in Photoshop Elements

Theano Nikitas | Feb. 10, 2014
Most digital cameras (with the exception of many compact cameras) offer the option to shoot both in Raw and Raw + JPEG formats. Whereas JPEGs, as a compressed format, get various in-camera algorithms to produce an image that the camera thinks is best, Raw files get no in-camera's adjustments. Because the data is relatively untouched, users can adjust various parameters such as white balance and exposure after the fact on the original shot.

Use the Exposure slider to lighten (move right) or darken (move left) the image. Watch the Histogram to see a graphic representation of the changes. The Histogram doesn't always have to be evenly distributed across shadows, midtones and highlights. Since the sample image is dark, the graph is heavily weighted on the black/shadows side and that's okay.

Tonal range
To bring back some tonal range and details in the bright side of the model's face, I adjusted the contrast highlights and whites. The change is subtle but necessary. For most adjustments, less is more.

Even with a slight adjustment to the Exposure, the blacks of the model's jacket and hat are clipped. Adjusting the Shadows slider lightened the jacket to the point where it looked almost grey. To maintain a rich black, I moved the Blacks slider to the right until the majority of the blue clipping warning disappeared. Viewed at 100 percent, the black clipping warning is still visible (in blue), along with a couple of tiny red warnings for highlight clipping on the jacket's silver buttons. Any additional adjustments, however, causes the jacket to lose some of its rich black.

Use the Clarity slider to restore details or sharpness if previous adjustments have softened them. This is not the case in this image, so I left Clarity at its default setting. Vibrance is also left at default but I increased the saturation just a bit to bring more color to the model's face.

To crop the image, if needed, click on the Crop icon in the viewing panel. Adjust the size and aspect ratio that you think works best and hit Return. If you're not happy with the crop, click the Crop icon again and make your final adjustment.

To finish, you can click the Save Image button and choose the DNG format. Click Done to apply changes and exit ACR. Alternately you can click Open Image and make final edits in Photoshop Elements Editor, and then Save As a JPEG for printing or posting on the Web.

Since there is so much depth to ACR, take time to explore all of its features. When you're comfortable with the Basic adjustments, click Detail (second icon to the right of Basic) to adjust sharpness and reduce noise. Also check out Camera Calibration (third icon to the right of Basic) for different process versions and camera profiles.


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