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    Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) from Photoshop: The Complete Guide

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    Pau Monfort
    @paumonfort

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    On several occasions we have defended the use of RAW formats, explaining the significant differences between RAW and JPG that justify the greater consumption of space on our memory card. In this article you will discover all the adjustment options that Adobe Camera RAW, also known as ACR, offers us. Do not miss it!


    What is Adobe Camera Raw?

    Probably most photographers who shoot in RAW are missing most of the options offered by Adobe Camera RAW, unaware that many of the adjustments we will make later with Photoshop or other compressed format photo programs could be saved with proper image processing. original image, with the consequent improvement of the quality of the final result



    You may have used Lightroom many times to develop your RAWs. Adobe Camera RAW it's like a kind of Lightroom built into Photoshop. So why use Adobe Camera RAW and not Lightroom? 

    • Adobe Camera RAW download

    In reality they both work in a very similar way, and the only advantage Camera RAW will give us over Lightroom is that if later the photograph needs some more specific adjustments that you can only do with Photoshop, you will not lose quality because you can reveal and edit it directly in Photoshop.


    For many versions, Camera RAW is not only capable of developing RAW, but any other already compressed image format, such as JPG, PNG, TIFF, among others. If you open a RAW format image in Photoshop, the Adobe Camera RAW window will automatically open to show it. 

    However, if another type of format, you have to go to the filter / menu Filter Adobe Camera RAW, or press the keyboard shortcut control (or command) + Shift + A.



    The version I will be using for this article is Photoshop CC 2015.5, which contains Camera Raw version 9.7. However, all versions are very similar, so if you have an older version you will find all or most of the tools and options the same.


    The main interface of ACR

    The main interface of Camera RAW shows us our photography in style, and on the right the different menus that we will see later. In the top bar we already find several interesting tools, which we will analyze little by little at this point.

    1. Spring bymagnification: the magnifying glass, like the magnifying glass tool in Photoshop, will help us enlarge or reduce the image. If we have selected it and press the right mouse button on any area of ​​the image, a menu will appear in which we can choose the percentage of enlargement and also an option to fit it exactly to our screen.
    2. Hand: the hand will allow us to move through the photograph when we have enlarged it.
    3. White balance: this tool is used to adjust the white balance of our photograph. Just click with it on an area of ​​the photo that should have a neutral white or gray tone and the program will adjust the whole photo based on that.
    4. Color sample: if we click anywhere in the photo with this tool, it will tell us exactly what color it is, showing us its RGB specifications
    5. Destination setting:  this tool allows us to adjust different parameters of our photo, choosing exactly the tone we want to change. If we keep the icon pressed, a small menu will appear where we can decide which tool alters  the parametric curve, hue, saturation, luminance, or grayscale blend  of the photography area we choose. Next, we will simply have to position the cursor on an area of ​​the photograph that contains the hue we want to modify and drag the mouse up-down or right-left so that the tool acts on it.
    6. Crop: this tool will allow us to cut the canvas of the photograph, to reformulate it if we wish. Just create a square by clicking and dragging the mouse that contains the renovation you want to make. You can then adjust it by stretching the edges if it wasn't the way you wanted. If we leave the tool pressed, a small menu will appear in which we will find different trim presets.
    7. Straighten: this tool will allow us to rotate the image canvas to straighten it if, for example, it is slightly distorted. You simply have to draw a straight line by pressing and dragging the mouse, so that the program straightens the photo based on that straight line.
    8. Transform: this tool will allow you to change the perspective of the photo. It allows you to draw up to 4 straight lines to mark the perspective of the photo, and based on them will allow you to deform it with various adjustments that will appear on the right side. In other versions of Photoshop, instead of finding this tool here you will find it in the Lens Correction tab, which we will look at later.
    9. Flat ink removal: this tool allows us to correct small points that we want to eliminate, such as dirt spots on the sensor. Just adjust the brush with the options that will appear on the right, paint on the stain and the program will correct it automatically, indicating with another circle where it is taking the sample from to correct it. Normally this works fine, but if you are not correct, you can drag the sample circle so that it takes it from the chosen area and then fine-tune the correction.
    10. Red eye removal: this tool is used to eliminate the annoying reddish glow that camera flash often creates in our portraits. To correct them, simply click and drag the mouse to insert the red eye inside the square, and the program will automatically fix it. Keep in mind that you only have to put one eye inside the square if you want it to work properly.
    11. Adjustment brush: this tool allows us to paint a mask in a specific area of ​​the photograph so that the adjustments we apply only affect that area. On the right side we will see all the color correction settings that we can use with this brush and the brush settings themselves.
    12. Filter graduated: like the brush, the graduated filter allows us to draw a mask to apply various color correction adjustments only to the area we choose. You just have to click and drag the mouse over the area you want to adjust and a degraded mask will be applied, so that the cut between the correct area and the area that is not is not noticeable.
    13. Radial filter: this setting works the same way as the Graduated Filter, but instead of creating a linear gradient, it will create a gradient circle to apply the color correction settings to the area we choose. Furthermore, it will allow us to choose whether we want the affected area to be the inside or outside of the circle we draw.
    14. Preferences: this tool will open a window where we can adjust all the photo import and export preferences.
    15. Wheel: these two tools allow us to rotate 90º to the right or left, to position the photograph in the position we want.
    16. Full screen: on the right of the toolbar we will find this button, which will help us to switch from window mode to full screen mode of Adobe Camera RAW.

    In at the bottom of the photo instead we find the comparison options , which will allow us to view the original image in different ways than the retouched image.



    On the other hand, in the upper right corner we will find the histogram and Exif data of photography. Finally, in the line below we will find the buttons to choose what to do with the photograph once the development is finished:


    1. Save Image: a window will appear to save it in the format we want
    2. Open Image: will open the image already developed in Photoshop, in case we need to retouch something else that Camera RAW does not allow us to do.
    3. Cancel: we will close the Camera RAW window without altering the original file.
    4. Done: will close the Camera RAW window but will save the adjustments made in the original file. If we decide to reopen this RAW file, it will keep the settings we made to it.
    5. Workflow Options: Right in the center of these buttons appear the workflow options for photography. If we click on this information, a window will appear where we can modify all the image export parameters. Furthermore, we can use the default settings or save our settings to quickly apply them whenever we want. Among the parameters offered by this window we find:Color space:  the most used are Adobe RGB (1998) and sRGB.
      • Image size: By default, the pixel size of the original photograph will appear, you can increase or decrease this size.
      • Bit depth:  we can select 8 o 16 bit, and this will be essential when making subsequent adjustments to the image that we generate. This is one of the keys to working in RAW, and it is the ability to work in 16-bit. The big difference with the compressed formats of our camera is that they work with 8 bits, and having much less information levels, the adjustments we can make on the image subsequently "degrade" the photograph in a much more evident way than if we worked in 16. bit.
      • Resolution . If we want to generate images to be presented on the web, 72 dpi will suffice. If we want our work to end up being printed on paper, we can use a value of 300 dpi.
      • Focusing the output: it will allow us to adjust the focus depending on whether we save it only in digital format or if we are preparing the photograph for printing.
      • Open in Photoshop as Smart Object: this option will open the photo in a Photoshop smart layer, which will allow us to apply other adjustments and filters in a non-destructive way.

    Adobe Camera RAW settings

    Below the histogram is the whole essence of Adobe Camera RAW. And it is that in this small window are, distributed in 10 tabs, all the controls that will allow us to make adjustments to our photograph. We will analyze the contents of each tab below.



    1. Basic

    In this tab, as the name suggests, we will find the basic color correction settings:

    • We can vary the white balance of the photograph with the sliders Color temperature Red.
    • We can adjust theexposure and contrast of photography.
    • We can raise or lower the light of the most illuminated areas ( Illuminations ) and darker ( Umber ) of the photo at will.
    • We can darken or brighten both i Bianchi that neri .
    • We can increase or decrease the clarity , to create a more dramatic photo, with sharper edges, or a more dreamlike one, with more diffuse edges.
    • We can vary the color intensity of the photo with the sliders Intensity e Saturation .

    2. Tone curve

    In this tab we will find the typical Curves tool that we find in Image / Adjustments in Photoshop. You can vary with the parametric cursors or simply by clicking on the points of creation of the line. With this tool you will be able to adjust the light and contrast independently in the shadow area (lower left area), in the midtones (central diagonal area) and in the highlights (upper right area).

    3. Detail

    In this tab we can increase the Focus of photography e Reduce Noise. Normally touching the first slider of each one will have enough to adjust it correctly, it is not recommended to excessively touch the rest of the sliders, as they are more advanced.

    As always, I advise you to be moderate with this type of tool: added in the right amount can greatly improve the photo, but if we go too far we can completely ruin it.

    4. HSL / Grayscale

    In this tab we will find 4 options available to retouch all the colors of the photograph to our liking:

    • Tone: In this menu we can slightly vary the tone of each of the colors that appear, simply by moving the slider to the right or left. So, for example, we can make oranges redder or more yellow, or blue ones tend to be more aquamarine or purple.
    • Saturation: in this menu we can increase or decrease the saturation of each tone separately. It can be interesting to increase the saturation of specific colors, such as blue in a sky or sea, or red and orange in a sunset. In addition, it can also be useful for selective desaturation, leaving the entire photo in black and white except for a specific hue.
    • Luminance: in this menu we can lighten and darken each of the colors we have available, separately. So we can adapt each to our liking.
    • Convert to Grayscale: this option is not one of the menus, but appears above them. If we mark it, we will automatically convert our photo to black and white (grayscale) and we can vary the shade of gray of each original color of the photo, to adjust it as we want.

    5. Split tones

    This tool is very powerful, especially for giving our photo a very personal look. It is about giving a finish by making it become slightly colored.

    Specifically, we can choose the hue to which we want to turn the highlights and give them more or less intensity with the saturation slider, and then we will do the same with the shadows section. Finally, with the Balance slider we will finish giving it our personal touch, making the tones predominate more in the shadow area or in the highlight area.

    6. Lens corrections

    In this tab we can correct all the deformations and problems that the camera lens can cause us. We will find two menus (Profile and Manual) if we have opened a RAW file, or only the Manual menu if our photograph is in another format.

    • Profile: this menu will appear only if our file is RAW, as it will contain the necessary information about the make, model and lens of our camera, to automatically correct the distortion and vignetting that occurs.
      • If you select Enable profile corrections , the program will access this data and will normally automatically correct these parameters for you.
      • On other occasions, however, if your camera or lens is not present in the Camera Raw database, you will have to select the closest one from the options, or go directly to the Manual menu, which I will explain below.
      • Whether it automatically recognizes your profile or you need to search for it in the options, you can tap the sliders Distortion e Vignette to finish adjusting the photo to your liking.
      • On the other hand, if you select the option Remove chromatic aberration will automatically correct the magenta and green halos that sometimes occur at the edges of the photograph.
    • Manual: in this menu we can do the same thing as Camera RAW in the previous menu, but manually.
      • First of all it warns us that in previous versions we can find it here Upright tool , to transform the perspective of the photo, but in this version it has already been transferred to the Transform tool , which we explained earlier.
      • Next we find a slider Distortion to correct the deformation that the lens makes both in the center of the photo and at the edges.
      • Then we find the cursors Eliminate halos , to remove chromatic aberrations that may have appeared in our photograph. Normally it will be enough to tap the sliders Amount of greenery e Amount of purple until we see them disappear. If, no matter how high these sliders are raised, the halos do not disappear, you need to tap i Tone sliders , to exactly adjust the pitch of the aberration you want to eliminate. Be careful not to raise the quantity sliders too high, as if you exaggerate it is possible that the colors of the photo itself will be altered at the edges.
      • Finally we find the sliders  Vignette , to correct vignetting in photos. The cursor Quantity will allow us to lighten or darken the edges of the photo and the slider Middle point it will make those edges more or less large. Although this tool is designed to eliminate the vignetting produced by the lens, sometimes we may want to create it, not eliminate it, as it can be very aesthetic and beautiful. In that case, with this tool we will also be able to make it, both in black and white. However, in the next tab we will find a specific tool to create them, much more customizable than this option.

    7. Effects

    In this tab we can find 3 different effects:

    • Clear haze: if we move the quantity slider to the right (positive), we will be able to remove the haze from the photographs. It will be great for reducing fog, haze and smoke. If instead we move the slider to the left (in negative), what we will do is create it, or intensify the one already present in the photo. This tool is relatively new, so if your version of Photoshop is a little old you may not find it.
    • Marbling: this tool will help us to add noise to our photo. While many people go crazy to be able to get rid of it, there are also many others who are looking for this vintage look that gives noise to our photos. We have 3 sliders to add this noise: the amount sliders will help us to add more or less noise, the size sliders to decide if the grain will be more or less coarse and the roughness sliders to change its appearance, making the grain is not so uniform.
    • Vignette after cutting: Finally, we find this tool for creating vignettes, which is what I mentioned in the previous point. We find various cursors:
      • Amount: it allows us to create larger or smaller vignettes, in white if we scroll to the right, or in black if we scroll to the left.
      • Middle point: makes the bullet take up more space or shrink more at the edge, widening or narrowing the bullet-free center circle.
      • Roundness: makes the free center point of the vignette rounder or more oval, becoming almost square at the border.
      • Smooth: makes the edge of the vignette more diffuse or harder.
      • Illuminations: this option will only be activated if the vignette is black. It will help us decide if we want that black to be more opaque or more transparent, so that it shows more or less the background.

    8. Camera calibration

    In this tab you will find several options to choose the color profile of your photograph. You can choose from different camera profiles, which will apply the presets. Also, with the rest of the sliders you can vary the RGB tones of your photograph and also the saturation of each.

    9. Preset

    In the next tab you will find the presets. If you've never saved or loaded any, you'll find this tab blank. To add settings like the ones I have here, you can do it in two different ways:

    • Save your adjustments: after developing a photo, you can save the adjustments you made by pressing the button that I have surrounded the image in red. There a menu will appear and you will have to press Save Settings… A window will open where you can select exactly which settings you want to save, in case you don't want to save specific settings (like a frame crop or a specific correction of that Photo). So you have to give it a name and you will have saved it in this list.
    • Download the settings from the Internet: you can also download the settings from the Internet by simply searching Google for “Download Presets for Camera Raw” or something similar. You can load them into your list by simply displaying the same menu we used to save yours, but giving the option to load the settings ...

    10. Snapshots

    This menu will only appear if the file we are developing is in RAW format. What we will get is save several development versions of the same photograph, which we can access with a single click. Also, these will be saved in the metadata of the RAW file, then they will be saved in it without taking up space on your hard drive as files later saved in another compressed format.

    To save a snapshot of your photograph with the current development, you just have to click on the icon that I have circled in red in the image and give it the name you prefer. You can save as many snapshots as you like and you can open them just by clicking on their name. Then you can re-develop them, save them, open them in Photoshop or whatever you want.

    Further Reading:

    • The best Adobe Photoshop applications for Android
    • The easiest way to get rid of red eyes
    • Photoshop vs Lightroom: Which Should You Use?
    • How to install Photoshop on Chromebook
    • How to Use Adobe Media Encoder: A Beginner's Guide
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