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Adobe Camera Raw for YOUR camera

Adobe Camera Raw is designed to work with dozens, if not hundreds of different models of cameras. The default settings that come with it are always less than perfect for YOUR camera. This has led many to be disappointed in both their thumbnail images (as displayed in Bridge) as well as their starting point when converting to tiff. Here are a few simple reminders and suggestions.

1- ACR basically only sets the exposure and color temperature (White Balance) for your camera. This setting is called As Shot.  In truth, it is not even close to "as shot" from YOUR camera. The rest of the settings are wild guesses!

2- With this in mind, let's see how we can change this - keeping it simple. Sure, there are more sophisticated ways, but this will work well - and it's easy.

3- Go to Bridge and click on your raw file. Mine would be .NEF as I use Nikons.

4- Using PS CS3 and Bridge 2.1 I see the following settings.

5- Temperature is what the sensor saw as color balance. Lower numbers (Kelvin temperature) mean warmer light (towards yellow) and higher numbers mean cooler light (towards blue). High noon at sea level will hover around 4,800 to 5,200. Early morning might be 3,000. At 10,000' elevation you might well see 6,000-7,000. Open shade, because it gets so much illumination from blue skies, might well be 8,000 or even higher. This information was provided by Nikon to Adobe (in my case). This is what the sensor sees. It is a measurement of the actual light conditions when the photo was TAKEN. This can be confusing when looking at the graph as it appears to be the opposite. In any case, feel free to adjust to taste.

6- Tint simply means the image has some green or red light. A green grass lawn might well reflect some green onto your close-up of your best friend! This too, is provided by the manufacturer of your camera.

7- Notice, we are using As Shot as our default. There are other choices - another lesson for another day.

8- Now for our part. There are 9 sliders you can adjust. As you look at your raw image, experiment with the sliders. Notice what happens in your histogram - upper right hand corner.

9- Adjust these for your best image. Write the settings down. Go on to a second image, and a third, and maybe 20 more. Are you happy with these settings? Do they seem to work for MOST of your raw images? If so, the next step is very important.

10- In the line named Basic there is a small symbol at the very right hand edge. Click on this. This will pull down another window - as shown. Highlight Save New Camera Raw Defaults. Now, whenever you go to open a raw file this new default will take precedence. Even as important, all your thumbnails will now take on a new look so you get a MUCH better idea as to what they will look like when converted.

Some of the more observant followers of this lesson will note that the Histogram shows some clipping of some red channel highlights and blue shadow area. Sometimes these are choices we choose to make. In this image, the poppies are clipping a little. This, of course can be corrected with some simple masking or a different conversion. As you can see by the VERY narrow spike, this does not involve a lot of the image information. The same with the very narrow blue channel spike - which is probably deep in the tree trunk base.


There you go. Done.

Currently, with my Nikon D300 I use the very settings as illustrated above in the 1st screen capture.