Whilst Adobe Lightroom has gained a lot of popularity when it comes to processing and managing RAW images, Adobe Camera Raw is based on the same software-engine and so can produce just as good results. Whichever software package you use (Lightroom or ACR), the point is that you can process most of your images without even touching Photoshop. I would say about 75% of my photos barely touch Photoshop as they simply don’t need it.
Another positive to Adobe Camera Raw is the fact that it comes bundled with Photoshop, and therefore integrates smoothly with it.
In this tutorial we are going to look at the basic settings of Adobe Camera Raw, and show how you can process a RAW image to a high standard, quickly and efficiently.
Below are the before and after images, the first shot is the RAW file straight from the camera, the second the finished processed shot. As you can see the first image is a little dull, we want to boost the colours, contrast and definition. The shot in this tutorial was captured in Whitstable, England, with a Canon 50D DSLR paired with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm ultra-wide lens.
Adobe Camera Raw Interface
Below you can see the main workspace area that you will be greeted with once you’ve opened your RAW image file. Above the image are a range of basic controls, including zoom, crop, rotate etc, these are pretty self-explantory, we want to look at the basic image processing controls on the right-hand side of our image.
Let’s look closer at those controls, below you can see the exact settings I used for this shot. Whilst we can adjust the white balance (without loss of quality) in Raw files, there was no need with this particular shot as the original image was captured in near-perfect conditions. The temperature slider simply warms the image up (or cools it down), again I had no need for this so I left that and the tint slider alone.
The highlights were ok, but I recovered some of the shadow detail in the image by giving this a boost (of +22). The original image was a tiny bit too dark so I adjusted the exposure slider by just a touch. I gave the image contrast a general boost (of +16).
I boosted the whiteness of the cloud for an extra contrast boost with a +5 on the white slider, and also lightened the blacks in the image with a boost of +10. The clarity slider is similar to the contrast one, the difference being the clarity slider focuses on the midtones of the image, so I increased this a little too.
The vibrance slider boosts the least saturated colours in your image, in this case I chose to leave that alone and opt for a global colour-boost with the saturation slider. The saturation slider is best used sparingly, I very rarely boost it by more than 15% as most image will start to look unrealistic and over-processed, as a general rule I prefer natural-looking images.
Below is another look a the final image that is the result of the slider adjustments we have just studied. We have successfully achieved our goals of boosting contrast, clarity and colours in an extremely quick manner.
With a little practice Adobe Camera Raw is extremely quick and initiative to use, if you want to process a load of images in the same style there is also a batch processing facility to aid things further. We have only gone over the basic setting in this quick guide, there are lots more settings you can use, including individual colour correction, split-toning, lens correction and much more. All in all it’s an excellent piece of software that is well worth checking out further.