How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs


How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

One feature that is new to Photoshop CC is the Camera Raw filter. Using this filter you can make powerful nondestructive edits inside Photoshop.

What the Camera Raw Filter offers

The Camera Raw filter is new to the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop – Photoshop CC – so it’s not available in earlier Photoshop versions. It gives you access to most (but not all) of the features of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) from inside Photoshop.

You can use it on any image – even those file formats that ACR doesn’t support – and on any layer. So, you don’t have to be working on an image that is in one of the formats that ACR can open. You can also use the Camera Raw filter at any point in your workflow not just when you first open an image.

Combining the Camera Raw filter with Smart Objects also means that you can make an edit using the filter and come back anytime to revisit and change those edits, if desired.

How the Camera Raw Filter works

To see how the Camera Raw filter works open any image in Photoshop CC.

So that you can revisit and edit the changes made by the filter, start by converting the layer that you want the filter to act on into a smart object. To do this either right click the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object or choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Either way the result is the same and you will have a layer converted to a Smart Object. Using Smart Objects ensures that the adjustments that you are about to make can be edited later on.

If you have multiple layers that you want to apply the filter to, then select those layers in the Layers palette before converting them all to the one Smart Object.

To apply the Adobe Camera Raw filter choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter. This opens the current layer inside ACR.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Now you can make your adjustments to the image using any of the tools in ACR.

So you can, for example, adjust the white balance by clicking on the White Balance tool and click on something in the image which should be neutral gray. This is a fix that isn’t as easy to make in Photoshop itself. Other useful adjustments you can make include adjusting Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks and Clarity – settings which are easy to access in ACR and less easy (or not available in the case of Clarity) in Photoshop.

The ACR filters are also available so you can use the Gradient Filter and the new Radial Filter to adjust the image. Once you have made your changes click Ok to apply the changes to the image and return to Photoshop.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Notice that the Smart Object layer in Photoshop has its own layer mask so you can, if desired, use the layer mask to adjust the effects that you just applied to the image. Paint with black on the mask to remove them and with white to reapply them. This feature is useful for adjusting the effect of a Gradient Filter where there are objects which fall inside the area affected by the filter that you don’t want to be affected by it.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

You can also alter the Camera Raw Filter settings at any time by double clicking on the Camera Raw Filter entry in the layers palette. This reopens the layer in ACR so you can make changes to the settings.

The benefits of using the Camera Raw filter

The Camera Raw filter offers some real benefits to Photoshop users. One is that you can use the filter to sharpen an image and take advantage of the Masking slider when sharpening in ACR. This lets you limit the areas of the image which are sharpened to just the edges in the image and not areas of flat color.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

You also get access to tools which aren’t available in Photoshop such as Clarity, and the Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and Radial Filter.

The Camera Raw Filter also provides a handy way to work with a JPG image in ACR. You can, of course, open a JPG in ACR but, if you forget to do so, the Camera Raw Filter offers pretty much the same functionality at any time in your workflow.

Other options that the Camera Raw Filter provides is access to the Split Toning effect sliders, presets, the new upright correction, post crop vignette, the new chromatic aberration and defringe tools, and the noise reduction sliders.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Provided that you save your image in a layered file format such as PSD then you’ll be able to come back at any time and edit the Camera Raw Filter adjustment that you made.

Chances are that if you are familiar with using ACR for processing your raw images you’ll find that the new Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop CC is a welcome addition to your workflow.

某些 Creative Cloud 应用程序、服务和功能在中国不可用。

About camera raw image files

In digital photography, a picture is captured by a camera’s image sensor in an image file. An image file is generally processed and compressed, before being stored on your camera’s memory card. However, cameras can also store a picture without processing or compressing it—as a raw file. Think of camera raw files as photo negatives. You can open a raw file in Photoshop Elements, process it, and save it, rather than relying on the camera to process the file. Working with camera raw files lets you set the proper white balance, tonal range, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness.

To use raw files, set your camera to save files in its own raw file format. When you download the files from the camera, they have filename extensions like NEF, CR2, CRW, or other raw formats. Photoshop Elements can open raw files only from supported cameras.

Photoshop Elements does not save your changes to the original raw file (non-destructive editing). After processing the raw image file using the features of the Camera Raw dialog box, You can choose to open a processed raw file in Photoshop Elements. You can then edit the file and save it in a Photoshop Elements supported format . The original raw file remains unaltered.

Process Versions

A Process Version is a method of deciphering the raw file format. The default version used is Process Version 2012. This method of deciphering the raw file format provides you with ways to work with the most recent and improved features in the raw file format. Photoshop Elements contains three Process Versions (one current, and two legacy versions). The complete list of versions is:

  • Process Version 2012 (default, used from Adobe Photoshop Elements 11)
  • Process Version 2010 (used in Adobe Photoshop Elements 10)
  • Process Version 2003 (used in Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, or earlier)

What Process Version is applied to my raw image?

When you open a raw file that has not been opened in an earlier edition of Photoshop Elements, the default Process Version 2012 is used. However, if you open a raw file opened in an earlier version of Photoshop Elements, an older Process Version is used.

To check the Process Version applied to your raw image, in the Camera Raw 9.1 dialog box, click the Camera Calibration tab. The Process field displays the current Process Version being used.

Note: If not using Process Version 2012, an icon displayed below the raw image indicates that an older version is being used.

Can I switch between Process Versions?

Yes. In the Camera Raw 9.1 dialog box, click the Camera Calibration tab, and select the Process Version you want to use from the Process drop-down list.

Which version is best for you?

Process Version 2012 enables you to work with the latest enhancements in the raw format. However, if you have many raw images that were opened with previous editions of Photoshop Elements (and hence using older Process Versions), you may choose to apply an older Process Version to your newer raw images. This helps with consistency while processing past and present images, and helps maintain your older workflow.

What are the differences in the Process Versions?

  • Basic tab. In Process Version 2012, the Highlights, Shadows, and Whites sliders replace the Recovery, Fill light, and Brightness sliders.
  • Detail tab:
    • In Process Version 2012, the Color Detail slider has been introduced. This slider remains disabled until the Color slider is modified.
    • In Process Version 2012, Luminance Detail and Luminance Contrast have been added. These sliders remain disabled until the Luminance is modified.

Note: When switching to an older Process Version, the newer sliders compatible with the latest Process Versions are disabled.

New to photography? Learn how to process and edit raw images from your digital SLR for the best results.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Shooting in raw is one of the best ways to have total control over your images in post-processing.

A raw file is the image as seen by the camera’s sensor. Think of it like unprocessed film. Rather than letting the camera process the image for you, turning it into a JPEG image, shooting in raw allows you to process the image to your liking.

Applying adjustments to a raw image is a non-destructive method of editing your photos, unlike editing a JPEG.

Want the best of both worlds? Some digital cameras will let you shoot in raw + JPEG mode, capturing the raw image while simultaneously processing a JPEG image for easy use.

What you need

  • A digital SLR or camera that can shoot raw
  • Image processing software such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or the software that came with your camera

Remember that not all raw files are created equal, as different manufacturers will more than likely use their own proprietary file formats. For example, Nikon uses the .NEF extension, Canon uses .CR2 and Sony uses .ARW. Pentax generally uses the more open DNG format.

If you don’t have access to raw editing software, there are also a few web-based tools that can help, such as WebRaw and .

For this tutorial we will be using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CC, but the principles should be very similar for whichever editing program you use.

Basic adjustments

When you open up the raw image in Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw will automatically start. The window will look something like this:

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

From here, you can adjust values such as the exposure and temperature. Move the exposure slider to simulate the effect of adjusting your exposure in-camera. The results will be automatically reflected in the image.

Notice that as you adjust most of these settings, the histogram will also change.

Recovering detail

One of the most important reasons for shooting in raw is to be able to recover image detail in case something goes wrong. Blown out your exposure so there are white patches of highlights everywhere? You probably will be able to bring some of this detail back thanks to the raw file.

In the example below, you can see from the histogram that there are clipped highlights in the sky. If you need help reading your histogram, this article explains more.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

The highlights slider is the key here; moving it further to the left will bring back detail that was lost from the blown out highlights. Extra image detail can be recovered by adjusting the exposure slider as well.

The same process can be used to bring back shadow detail in underexposed areas.

This image has a lot of detail in the underexposed shadow areas that can be brought back with a bit of tweaking. Lexy Savvides/CNET

To recover shadow detail, use the same technique as for recovering highlights. Simply move the slider until you see detail appearing again.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

White balance

Rather than setting a white balance value in the camera, when you shoot raw you can use any white balance setting and then adjust it in post-processing. From the Camera Raw interface, choose an option from the drop-down menu that best suits your needs.

There is another tool available in Camera Raw that provides white balance adjustment — the white balance dropper. At the top of the window, simply select the white balance tool, and click on the part of the image that should be white. Then, Camera Raw will automatically adjust the colour temperature to make that component a true white. This is exactly the same as taking a manual white balance reading in-camera.

Making images pop

The examples above have mostly been working with images with quite obvious faults. Sometimes, there may be nothing wrong with your image at all but it looks a bit dull. Here is how to make an image pop with a few simple tweaks to the raw file.

Below is an image taken on the camera’s metered exposure. It looks OK, but could use a bit of work to make it look even better.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

First, let’s brighten things up a bit by increasing the exposure. I have also brought up the contrast a bit.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

The image still looks a bit cool, so I’m going to change the white balance option to warm things up a bit. For outdoor situations, the cloudy white balance preset adds a more warmth to the scene. You could also achieve a similar effect by moving the temperature adjustment slider. I have also taken this opportunity to pull up the white value, and recover some of the lost highlights in the wall by bringing down the highlight slider.

Finally, to really make things look defined, boost the clarity slider a little bit to the right. The clarity tool looks for edges and defines midtone contrast. Use it sparingly for the best results.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Here is a comparison of the before and after image to give you an idea of how you can make an image pop using raw adjustments:

Once you have applied some basic adjustments, click Open Image to enter into Photoshop and continue editing as you need.

This is a basic walkthrough of editing raw images — stay tuned for a more in-depth look at raw adjustments soon.


The histogram is a useful but often misunderstood tool that your camera provides to help you get the correct exposure in your images.

In this article, we’re going to look at how to read a histogram, and how to use it to your advantage. Getting the best exposure (there is no such thing as the “correct” exposure, as it’s all subjective) in-camera should be your goal every time you click the shutter.

Using these tips should help you increase your photographic success rate!

What is a histogram?

Here’s the dictionary definition:

A histogram is a bar graph of a frequency distribution in which the widths of the bars are proportional to the classes into which the variable has been divided and the heights of the bars are proportional to the class frequencies.

Huh? Anyone else confused? So what does a histogram really do? And how do you read it?

Let’s have a look!

How to read the histogram

A histogram is a graphical representation of the pixels in your image. The left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows, the right side represents the highlights or bright areas, and the middle section represents the midtones (middle or 18% gray).

The heights of the peaks represent the number of pixels of a particular tone (with each peak corresponding to a different tone). Each tone from 0-255 (0 being black and 255 being white) is one pixel wide on the graph, so imagine the histogram as a bar graph all squished together with no spaces between each bar.

Have a look at the diagrams below:

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

What can we learn from a histogram?

There are many things we can learn about an image just by looking at its histogram.

We can tell that an image is well-exposed if it reaches fully from edge to edge without a gap on one side of the graph, and it isn’t heavily going up one side or the other. In an ideal world, the graph should just touch the left and right edges of the histogram, and not spill up the sides. The graph should also have a nice arch in the center.

However, this “ideal histogram” doesn’t always apply in every situation for every scene. Here are a few examples:

When the histogram tells you to adjust your exposure

Gaps on either end indicate you are missing information and your exposure can be shifted safely without losing detail. When your graph is shifted too far in one direction or the other direction, so that it does not even touch the other edge, you can safely shift your exposure to cover more of the range of tones. Let’s look!

What do the spikes up the sides mean?

Spikes up the left or right edge of the histogram indicate “clipping” of that tone and a loss of detail in that area. Clipped areas are often unrecoverable, especially in the highlights.

It is generally advised to expose so that your graph just touches the right edge (which indicates that you’ve kept your highlight details). It is usually easier to recover some shadow detail and retain a decent image than to try and create highlight detail that isn’t in the file.

In some scenes, however, it may not be possible to keep the graph within an acceptable range. For example, you’ll struggle to get great results if you are photographing a scene with extreme contrast, such as:

  • Sunset
  • Bright sunlight and deep shadows
  • A building interior where you also show the area outside the windows

In all of those cases, you will not be able to keep from clipping either your blacks, your whites, or both.

The graph above shows an image with extreme contrast, lots of blacks, a spike of white, and not much in the middle.

Is this wrong? Can you correct for it?

No, it’s not wrong.

And you can’t really “correct” for it, but you do have a decision to make when you see something like this. Do you shift the graph left and maintain highlight detail, or shift it right and keep shadow detail?

There is no right or wrong here. It’s all how you interpret the scene before you. If in doubt, shoot both and decide later. The graph above comes from the image below, so as you can see it is not the incorrect exposure at all. There are simply no midtones in the scene:

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Here’s another example of a scene that will potentially go off the graph on both ends:

Using advanced techniques like image merging and blending, HDR, or careful post-processing, you can compress the tonal range of a scene to fit within the histogram and therefore have details in all areas.

For the image above, I’ve used four bracketed images (taken two stops apart) and the HDR tone mapping process to bring the dynamic range of the scene down within a printable range.

One more handy thing on your camera: the “blinkies”

To help you establish how far you can go when exposing, most cameras have a setting called “highlight warnings.” It will make any overexposed highlights flash or blink when you preview your images on the camera LCD. Many people affectionately call these “the blinkies.”

To do this on a Nikon camera, preview an image and press the Up or Down button (near the OK button) until you see the highlights flashing or outlined. This is the “highlight mode.” If you choose this setting, your camera will remember to use it for the next image you preview. You may need to activate the “highlight warnings” feature in your settings menu first, however.

To do this with a Canon camera, press the Display or Info button (depending on your model) until the blinking highlights show up on the screen when previewing images. You may also need to turn on this feature in the menu settings. Check your camera manual if you aren’t sure how to do this.


By using the tools your camera provides you, it’s easier to understand how to adjust your image exposure. There is a lot more to know about the histogram, and you can use it when you process your images in Photoshop or Lightroom, as well.

Just keep in mind that, if you shoot in JPEG format, nailing the exposure in-camera is even more critical. If you shoot in RAW format, you have some leeway to make adjustments later, but it’s still a better idea to get it right in the first place.

In part two of our infrared tutorial, you’ll learn how to process those red eerie images into spectacular false color Infrared photographs to be proud of. Using Photoshop and Lightroom, you will learn how to gradually eke out more detail from your RAW shots, and color them to taste. Let’s begin.


Processing infrared (IR) photos is as much a creative process as any other genre of photography, but certain formulas can be applied in IR photography to ensure you get some jaw-dropping photographs.

I’m going to show you how to process a false-color IR photograph, giving it a yellow and aqua hue, and I will also show you an alternative. Bear in mind there are many other colors you can process IR photos into that look equally stunning, such a Red/Blue.

1. Converting To DNG

To process your shots, I would first recommend you download DNG Profile Editor from Adobe Labs (free after registering). This program allows you to create a profile for your camera to use in Camera Raw and Lightroom, or any other program that accepts these types of profiles.

It also allows you to go beyond the normal white balance value thresholds, allowing you to cool the image down significantly more, which is especially important to obtain the correct colors. Alternatively, you can also use Nikon View/Capture and Canon DPP, as they will allow for greater white balance adjustments as standard, still not as much as a custom profile however.

To create a profile, first convert one of your RAW files to DNG format. This can be done in Lightroom in the export pop-up menu, or by using the Export to DNG command after right-clicking a photo. This will only need to be done once. You do not need to convert all your photos to DNG format, as once the profile has been created, it can be applied to any other RAW format.

2. Calibrating The Profile

After DNG Profile Editor has downloaded, run the program and open your newly converted DNG shot by going: File > Open DNG Image

After it opens, click on the “Color Matrices” tab.

The bottom set of the 4 slider sets, called White Balance Calibration, allows you to alter the white balance of the image. Scroll the temperature slider all the way to the left (cooler) side. It should make your bright red shot turn into a brown/orange color.

2. Exporting The Profile

Now, go-to: File > Export [Name of camera] profile, and save the .DCP file to this directory. On Windows 7, make sure you enter your Windows profile name inside [NAME-OF-USER]. Remove the square brackets too.
Windows 7: C:\Users\[NAME-OF-USER]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\CameraProfiles

For Mac: /Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/CameraProfiles:

Give it as sensible name, such as “[Camera name] 720nm IR Profile.”

3. Activating The Profile in Lightroom or Camera Raw

Now open Lightroom or Camera Raw. In this example, I will use Lightroom, but the steps are interchangeable as the interface and controls are almost identical.

Navigate to the Camera Calibration Tab. Under the Profile heading, click the Adobe Standard dropdown and select your new profile. Scrolling back up to the white balance slider under the Basic tab, you will notice you now have a much larger threshold for changing the White Balance.

4. Adjusting White Balance

Scroll the temperature slider to around the middle of the bar and scroll the tint to around the same place, adding a little bit more magenta. See the screenshot for some idea of the color to aim for. You can also use the eyedropper to aid correcting the white balance

5. Other Exposure adjustment

Now adjust the rest of the photo to suit your vision. Be sure to add a lot of contrast and boost the blacks as IR photos can look a little flat straight out of the camera. Using the “Tone Curve” is also a great way to add contrast and tonality to your images.

Saturating colors to around +20 on the slider gives a great punch to the colors, but don’t go too far, otherwise they will clip.

Save back to RAW (original in the export menu), remembering to change file names so you don’t overwrite your original photo.

6. Channel Mixing in Photoshop

Now import the image into Photoshop. Here you need to make adjustments to the Channels, Levels and HSL.

First, to get the aqua sky and yellow foliage, go to the Channel Mixer: Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer.

Now swap the red channel with the blue channel, and the blue with the red. In the Output Channel, select the color red. In the Source Channels, set the red channel to 0%, and the blue channel to 100%.

Then select the blue channel in the Output Channel drop down. In the Source Channels, set the red channel to 100%, and the blue channel to 0% and hit OK.

7. Levels & Other Adjustments

Next go to Image > Adjustments > Levels

Select the red channel and reduce the Highlights slider around 30 points to bring out some red in the foliage. Then drop the Mid-Tones slider (slide to the left) and increase the value around 20 points to bring out even more color.

Select the blue channel. Increase the Mid-Tones value (slide to the right) and decrease the value around 30 points. Then increase the Blacks slider by around 10 points. You should end up with an aqua sky and yellow foliage.

If you want to play around with the colors, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.

Play with the hue slider to get some really striking combinations of colors, and adjust the saturation to suit. This is your opportunity to go wild, be creative and make your photograph truly unique.

8. An Alternative Processing Style in Photoshop

Another processing style to try is to make foliage pure white, and leave the strong aqua and blue tones in the image. This makes the image really stand out and gives the photo a haunted sense. You can do this after doing the steps above, or for speed, just simply start this step straight after you mix the channels as detailed above.

After Channel Swapping, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Select the reds Channel from the drop-down box. (The default value is Master).

Now, click on the eyedropper icon (circled in the picture) and select a red/magenta/brown area of the photo. Use the Saturation slider to de-saturate some of the tones in the image. Should any color be left in this red/magenta/orange/brown tonal range, select the Eyedropper icon with the + symbol next to it (circled in the picture). This adds to the colors which have already been selected.

Remember to adjust exposure and contrast after this step to suit to make it pop.

Conclusion and Final thoughts

So you know what to look for when buying, how to set up your camera, and how to take and process those flat monotone images into something special that stands out.

The last thing I can suggest is to experiment with settings and subjects, and you’ll find that not only will you progress you skills in IR photography, but you will find yourself shooting in IR a lot more often than you thought. It can become quite addicting because of how fun it is!

Be sure to post some links to your shots in the comments below. Thanks for reading this tutorial. I hope you enjoyed it and learnt a lot.

Here is a list of best free Raw Image Editor Software for Windows. These software not only let you open and edit Raw photos, but also Bitmap photos. In the following list, you will find dedicated Raw Image Editors as well as general Image Editors that support Raw and other image formats. Some of these software to edit Raw photos are packed with advanced Image editing tools, while some let you perform basic image editing.

Using these Raw image editor software, you will be able to carry out various adjustments and manipulations on your photos, such as: Color adjustments, Levels adjustments, Lighting adjustments, Photo enhancement, Image ransformation, etc. You can also add numerous effects and filters on your photos using these. In case you want to add text or objects to your Raw photos, you can do that as well using these free Raw image editors for Windows.

These Raw Photo Editors let you edit almost all Raw formats of different camera brands, such as: SRW, TIF, STI, ARW, MOS, NEF, ORF, PEF, PDC, MEF, SR2, NRW, DC2, BMQ, PW2, KC2, MRW, BAY, SRF, KDC, MDC, DNG, CR2, CS1, etc.

Go through the list to find out more about the image editing capabilities of these Raw Image editors. You will also find out how to edit RAW photos using these software.

My Favorite Raw Image Editor:

I like RawTherapee and UFRaw the most, as these are professional Raw photo editors and provide a wide array of photo editing tools. These also support almost all known Raw image formats. Go ahead and give them a try.


How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Photivo is an open source Raw image editor for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It provides a very unique interface and a wide set of tools to carry out image editing for both Raw and Bitmap photos. The tools available here let you carry out very basic to advanced Raw image editing.

Talking about the tools that it provides, you can make Geometrical adjustments, color adjustments, lighting correction, Noise correction, Enhance photos, and do much more. Under each module mentioned above, you will find various options that a professional or learner may require to enhance photos. Let me mention some of the tools available: Channel mixer, Color Enhancer, Lens distortion tool, Defish tool, Spot tuning, Low/mid/highlight recovery, Levels adjustment, Noise reduction, Defringe, Tone adjustment, etc.

One of the highlights of Photivo is that it provides GIMP integration. Using this feature, you can directly transfer raw photo to and fro GIMP. For this, you will have to install GIMP along with a plugin, which is available on Photivo’s website.

The website of Photivo states that its designed to work on powerful computers and not aimed at beginners.

Photivo supports a wide number of Raw image formats, and NEF, CR2, BAY, ARW, BMQ, CS1, DC2, DNG, KC2, KDC, MDC, MEF, MOS, MRW, NRW, ORF, PEF, PDC, PW2, SR2, SRF, SRW, STI, TIF, and X3F are the Raw image formats that it supports. You can also open and edit JPEG, PNG, BMP, and other bitmap image files here.

How to Use Your Digital Camera and Edit Photos in Photoshop

With Lee Morris

This photography tutorial teaches you how to take control of all the manual settings in your digital camera and improve your images. In addition, lessons are included which will walk you through the fundamentals of understanding photo shop from the ground up.

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In order to create beautiful photos, you have to start with the fundamentals. Whether you want to take better pictures of your family or friends, pursue a new hobby, or are starting a new career as a photographer, mastering the basics of photography is essential to shooting quality photos. This 7 1/2 hour Fstoppers produced tutorial has been designed to teach you everything you need to know about using your digital camera and improving your images in Photoshop.

Fundamentals of Photography

When you pick up a digital camera, it’s tempting to keep everything in an automatic setting and hope your pictures turn out. If you stick with this plan, you will constantly struggle with poorly shot images. Photography 101 teaches you how to take control of all the manual settings of your digital camera and make the decisions for the pictures you want to create. By understanding how to control your camera, you’ll be equipped to take a properly exposed photo every time.

Although all cameras work in the same way, sometimes the various button layouts, names, and settings of different camera brands make the learning process confusing. In order to help, we teach Photography 101 with three different kinds of cameras, a Canon DSLR, a Nikon DSLR, and a Sony point and shoot. We walk you through the different kinds of gear you can buy and explain why some cameras and lenses are more expensive than others. We also show you when accessories, like tripods and camera filters, might be helpful.

Beautiful lighting is essential to creating an incredible photograph. Once we teach how to properly control your camera, we’ll guide you through a foundational understanding of light, it’s color, direction, and how soft or hard it is. There is beautiful light everywhere, and it’s up to you as the photographer to recognize it and use it to your advantage. After we cover natural light, we’ll add in the basics of using artificial light, or flash. It’s important to understand when flash can be useful and how to use it properly to improve the look of your images.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

In our final lesson using a camera, we revisit and put into practice every concept we’ve taught by taking you into the field with a professional model. We’ll problem solve in each location and improve our picture by making correct choices with our camera settings, choosing our lighting, and positioning our subject.

Understanding Photoshop

Post processing is an incredible way to take your normal looking images and turn them into something incredible. Unfortunately, Photoshop can be a daunting program when you don’t understand it. In the second section of this tutorial, we give you a ground up approach to learning Photoshop with Pratik Naik, one of the world’s top retouchers. Pratik begins with the absolute basics of opening the program and arranging it’s layout. By the end you’ll have seen all the major tools available to edit your images.

Learning is always easier when you can put what you hear into practice. In the final section of the tutorial, we invite you to open Photoshop and follow along with Lee as he edits five of the images taken on our final shoot. By the end of this lesson, you should be fully equipped to practice new editing techniques on your own images.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Growing Your Photography

The beautiful thing about mastering the basics of your camera and Photoshop is that it can be applied to every genre of photography. Once you understand and master the 17 lessons included in this tutorial, you’ll have the building blocks to succeed in any photography goal you create for yourself.

Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium’s OneZero. Read more.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

Here at How-To Geek we usually recommend you shoot RAW format images instead of JPEGs because you capture a lot more information about whatever scene you’re shooting. Let’s look at how to make the most of the RAW format.

Camera RAW is an uncompressed file format that is capable of storing a lot more image data than JPEGs or other compressed file formats. If your camera’s sensor can capture it, it will get stored in the RAW file. This means that RAW files can contain billions of colors—compared to JPEGs 16 million or so—plus the full dynamic of a scene. The biggest problem is that most cameras can capture—and RAW files can contain—a lot more information than any screen can currently display.

Now, let’s look at how to maximize the amount of data in your RAW files for better photos.

Take Manual Control of Your Camera

If you want to take good pictures—in any image format—you need to be in control of what your camera is doing. Putting it in Automatic and just banging the shutter button won’t get you very far. If you’re in control, you can get the exposure right, stop highlights being blown out or shadows crushed, and adapt to the situation in which you’re photographing.

This doesn’t mean you need to go full retro and use only manual features; instead, you should use your camera’s features and modes that let you control how the automatic features work. For example:

As you can see, the “automatic” features on modern cameras give you a large amount of control over what they’re doing. Once you understand what’s going on, you can use them properly to capture the images you picture in your mind.

Expose to the Right

Once you’re using your camera properly and taking the photos you want, it’s time to maximize the amount of data you capture in your RAW files. Due to the quirks of digital photography, data is not captured equally by the sensor. The brightest areas of an image take up the bulk of the data in a RAW file; this is why noise is so much more prevalent in the shadows of your photos than the highlights.

While it’s a bit annoying, you can make use of this by using a technique called “exposing to the right.” When you expose to the right, you deliberately overexpose your image so that more of the scene falls into the highlights area of the histogram. More of the image in the highlights means more good data to work with in post.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

When you expose to the right, you have to be very careful not to overexpose too much and blow out your highlights. If you do, you’ll end up with a worse image than if you’d just taken a normal exposure. Get it right, however, and you’ll be getting as much juicy photo data as possible from every byte of data.

Edit Your Photos

Digital cameras apply some simple edits to JPEG files to make them look better. Generally, they pump up the contrast and saturation, add some sharpness, and run a noise reduction algorithm. Since your camera won’t apply the same edits to RAW files, it can leave them looking a little flat which you will need to fix with some simple post-processing.

To upload or print a RAW file you need to “develop” it using Adobe Lightroom or some other RAW processing app anyway so, it’s a good idea, to take the opportunity to edit your images to match your vision better, even if you just tweak the white balance. I like to spend some time cleaning up any distractions, tweaking the exposure, adding a bit of contrast, and enhancing the colors—at the very least. I’ve written about my basic workflow in our article on improving almost any digital image.

How to use camera raw tools to develop digital photographs

The big advantage of RAW images is that they keep so much more data for you to work with later; skipping out on the editing step entirely misses the point of shooting with an uncompressed format. If you’re not going to use all the extra data you’ve captured, you might as well just shoot JPEG.

We recommend shooting RAW because, unlike JPEG, you are recording all the information your camera’s sensor can capture. Use it properly, and you’ll get great results.

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Save image states as snapshots

You can record the state of an image at any time by creating a snapshot. Snapshots are stored renditions of an image that contain the complete set of edits made up until the time the snapshot is created. By creating snapshots of an image at various times during the editing process, you can easily compare the effects of the adjustments you make. You can also return to an earlier state if you want to use it at another time. Another benefit of snapshots is that you can work from multiple versions of an image without having to duplicate the original.

Create and manage snapshots using the Snapshots tab of the Camera Raw dialog box.

The snapshot appears in the Snapshots tab list.

When working with snapshots, you can do any of the following:

To rename a snapshot, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) it and choose Rename.

Click a snapshot to change the current image settings to those of the selected snapshot. The image preview updates accordingly.

To update, or overwrite, an existing snapshot with the current image settings, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) the snapshot and choose Update With Current Settings .

To undo changes made to a snapshot, click Cancel.

Note: Use caution when clicking Cancel to undo snapshot changes. All image adjustments made during the current editing session are also lost.

To delete a snapshot, select it and click the Trash button at the bottom of the tab. Or, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) the snapshot and choose Delete.

If you apply snapshots in Lightroom Classic, you can edit them in the Camera Raw dialog box (and vice versa).

Save, reset, and load Camera Raw settings

You can reuse the adjustments you’ve made to an image. You can save all the current Camera Raw image settings, or any subset of them, as a preset or as a new set of defaults. The default settings apply to a specific camera model, a specific camera serial number, or a specific ISO setting, depending on the settings in the Default Image Settings section of the Camera Raw preferences.

Presets appear by name in the Presets tab, in the Edit > Develop Settings menu in Adobe Bridge, in the context menu for camera raw images in Adobe Bridge, and in the Apply Presets submenu of the Camera Raw Settings menu in the Camera Raw dialog box. Presets are not listed in these locations if you don’t save them to the Camera Raw settings folder. However, you can use the Load Settings command to browse for and apply settings saved elsewhere.

You can save and delete presets using the buttons at the bottom of the Presets tab.

Saves the current settings as a preset. Choose which settings to save in the preset, and then name and save the preset.

Save New Camera Raw Defaults

Saves the current settings as the new default settings for other images taken with the same camera, with the same camera model, or with the same ISO setting. Select the appropriate options in the Default Image Settings section of the Camera Raw preferences to specify whether to associate the defaults with a specific camera’s serial number or with an ISO setting.

Reset Camera Raw Defaults

Restores the original default settings for the current camera, camera model, or ISO setting.

Opens the Load Raw Conversion Settings dialog box, in which you browse to the settings file, select it, and then click Load.

Specify where Camera Raw settings are stored

Choose a preference to specify where the settings are stored. The XMP files are useful if you plan to move or store the image files and want to retain the camera raw settings. You can use the Export Settings command to copy the settings in the Camera Raw database to sidecar XMP files or embed the settings in Digital Negative (DNG) files.

When a camera raw image file is processed with Camera Raw, the image settings are stored in one of two places: the Camera Raw database file or a sidecar XMP file. When a DNG file is processed in Camera Raw, the settings are stored in the DNG file itself, but they can be stored in a sidecar XMP file instead. Settings for TIFF and JPEG files are always stored in the file itself.

When you import a sequence of camera raw files in After Effects , the settings for the first file are applied to all files in the sequence that do not have their own XMP sidecar files. After Effects does not check the Camera Raw database.

You can set a preference to determine where settings are stored. When you reopen a camera raw image, all settings default to the values used when the file was last opened. Image attributes (target color space profile, bit depth, pixel size, and resolution) are not stored with the settings.

In Photoshop:
Choose Edit > Preferences > Camera Raw (Windows) or Photoshop > Preferences > Camera Raw (macOS).

In Adobe Bridge:
Choose Edit > Camera Raw Preferences (Windows) or Bridge > Camera Raw Preferences (macOS).

In the Camera Raw dialog box:
Click the Open Preferences Dialog button .

Camera Raw Database

Stores the settings in a Camera Raw database file in the folder Document and Settings/[user name]/Application Data/Adobe/CameraRaw (Windows) or Users/[user name]/Library/Preferences (macOS). This database is indexed by file content, so the image retains camera raw settings even if the camera raw image file is moved or renamed.

Sidecar “.XMP” Files

Stores the settings in a separate file, in the same folder as the camera raw file, with the same base name and an .xmp extension. This option is useful for long-term archiving of raw files with their associated settings, and for the exchange of camera raw files with associated settings in multiuser workflows. These same sidecar XMP files can store IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) data or other metadata associated with a camera raw image file. If you open files from a read-only volume such as a CD or DVD, be sure to copy the files to your hard disk before opening them. The Camera Raw plug-in cannot write an XMP file to a read-only volume and writes the settings to the Camera Raw database file instead. You can view XMP files in Adobe Bridge by choosing View > Show Hidden Files .

If you are using a revision control system to manage your files and are storing settings in sidecar XMP files, keep in mind that you must check your sidecar files in and out to change camera raw images; similarly, you must manage (e.g., rename, move, delete) XMP sidecar files together with their camera raw files. Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, After Effects , and Camera Raw take care of this file synchronization when you work with files locally.

If you store the camera raw settings in the Camera Raw database and plan to move the files to a different location (CD, DVD, another computer, and so forth), you can use the Export Settings To XMP command to export the settings to sidecar XMP files.