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Number 164
San Saba County, Texas
Nikon D5500 Photo

East Texas Piney Woods
Anderson County, Texas
Nikon D800E Photo

Adobe Camera Raw ... It's not just for Raw files

Did you know that you can easily correct Exposure, White Balance, and much more on any Jpeg picture from any digital camera using Adobe Camera Raw software (Version 4 and newer) for Windows or Mac that's included free beginning with Photoshop Elements 5 or newer (Windows), Photoshop Elements 4.01 or newer (Mac), Photoshop CS3 or newer, and all versions of Photoshop Lightroom?

Adobe Camera Raw is easy to use, intuitive, instantly responsive with its on-screen adjustment previews, and most importantly, non-destructive with your original Jpeg files. Camera Raw adjustments and corrections are not "burned in" to the original pictures, they are retained as tag files that accompany and modify the original files when they are opened into Photoshop.

Similar to working with Raw files, changes made to your original Jpegs in Camera Raw can be undone and returned to their original state at any time thereafter, with the original Jpeg file information remaining untouched. Because of this, you can now consider your original Jpegs to be like digital "negatives" for use as a lifetime source for future post processing and printing. With that in mind, it's a good idea to have a long term cataloging plan before you copy your original pictures from your memory cards to your hard drive so you can easily find them in the future. It's wise to make permanent backups of your original files in another location (CD, DVD, external hard drive, etc.) in case something bad happens to your computer. You might even want to create your own website to showcase your photos. (That's how I got started with Lonestardigital.com). Having your own website gives you your own private space in a remote website hosting server as another place to store your backups.

Prior to Adobe Camera Raw version 4 (published in 2007), Jpegs that needed White Balance or Exposure work were difficult to correct, requiring strong Photoshop skills and time consuming work to get acceptable results.

  • For exposure correction, the traditional Photoshop process involves working in Levels, dragging the shadows slider to the right for overexposure, dragging the highlight slider to the left for underexposure, and / or moving the middle slider left or right to achieve a new midtone balance, followed by a Brightness and Contrast adjustment to tweak the results. Advanced Photoshop users often apply advanced masking techniques before working in Levels to make exposure corrections to shadows, highlights, or specific color ranges. Photoshop CS2 & newer includes an 'Exposure' adjustment tool found under the Image > Adjustments menu that has control sliders for Exposure, Offset, and Gamma. The Exposure adjustment tool is easy to use, works surprisingly well for underexposure, but works poorly on overexposure.

  • For White Balance correction, the traditional Photoshop process involves trial and error sampling with the eyedropper tool in Levels to find the best baseline white, gray, or black points; trying different looks in Variations; or applying different warming or cooling filters in the Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter tool. The Photo Filter tool is the easiest to use, and reasonably effective for some White Balance corrections. Aftermarket Photoshop Plug-ins for White Balance corrections can be as or more complicated to use than traditional Photoshop processes. Most work out of reduced size preview screens that make it difficult to properly evaluate adjustments.



Underexposure after correction

Underexposed Jpeg
Indoor flash photo, too dark
White Balance a little too cool
Corrected with Adobe Camera Raw
Adjusted Exposure +1.0,
White Balance Temperature +5, Recovery +10

Overexposure after correction
Overexposed Jpeg
Washed out sky
& highlights
Corrected with Adobe Camera Raw
Adjusted Exposure -1.0,
Fill Light +30, Recovery +10

Easy Exposure & White Balance correction was the main reason I switched from Jpeg to Raw back in 2001 when Nikon Capture 2 software was introduced with its user friendly White Balance and Exposure Compensation tools. Three years later, my excitement about further industrywide improvements to Raw conversion software motivated me to publish a short web article titled "Why shoot Raw?".

As time went on, I continued shooting Raw because of the technical processing advantages and the enhanced quality of the images they provided, but I missed the practical side of shooting Jpegs.

  • The down side of Raw files is that they require a computer with special Raw conversion software to process, view, or print pictures. Cameras and megapixels advance year by year, requiring faster computers with bigger hard drives, more processing power, more memory, and updated software to recognize the new camera Raw file format changes.

  • The up side of Jpegs is that every computer, every web browser, and every kind of imaging software knows what Jpegs from any kind of camera are and can handle them with no problem. Other than having larger file sizes due to more & more megapixels, Jpegs haven't changed since digital cameras were invented. Jpegs can be quickly and easily loaded up & viewed on any computer or portable image viewing device, viewed in any e-mail, and printed anywhere without any special software or equipment.

Dual format shooting options became standard in later model high-end cameras, providing both a Raw and Jpeg file of the same picture. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds. I could share, view, or print the Jpeg copies right out of the camera anywhere & anytime, and still have the Raw files for advanced post processing.

But dual format also means fewer total pictures per memory card because of the space taken by the additional Jpeg files. And it takes considerably longer to transfer the dual set of Raw plus Jpeg picture files into a computer.

So should you shoot Raw? Jpeg? Or both??

If you want the absolute best image quality your camera can deliver, shoot Raw.

If you prefer the simplicity & ease of working with Jpegs, Adobe Camera Raw can now give you nearly all of the technical processing abilities of a Raw file.

If your camera can shoot Raw plus Jpeg at the same time, do it. Even if you don't want to work with Raw files now, save them for the possibility that one day you might make the change. Your experience working in Camera Raw will make it easy. And then you can go back to your old photo archives, dig out the Raw versions, edit photos, and make your favorite pictures even better!

More... (The complete Lonestardigital article on working with Camera Raw In Photoshop Elements, Photoshop, and Lightroom can be found under "Photoshop Articles" in the main menu.)

LCD Flat Panel Monitor

Laptop Computer Screen

View the best display quality possible
by using your LCD panel's native screen resolution.

All LCD panels are built with a fixed quantity and ratio of display pixels. This fixed quantity and ratio is called native resolution. Native resolution is the maximum resolution an LCD panel can display. Generally speaking, the larger the LCD panel, the higher the native resolution.

Be sure your computer's display screen resolution is set to match your LCD panel's maximum native resolution. When this is done, your LCD panel will perform exactly as it was engineered.

Set to Native Resolution

Yes, you can choose a different resolution setting, but it will degrade your display quality. In many cases, what people consider to be a poor quality LCD monitor or laptop screen is simply the result of displaying other than its full native resolution. That's because the output pixels don't line up perfectly with the screen's pixels and the details become slightly blurred.


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