Tuesday, January 23, 2007
How To Process A RAW File
A step-by-step approach to getting the most from a RAW image file
There's no need to overanalyze every photograph you take before opening your image in the RAW converter, as that would be counterproductive. You do need to respect your photograph, however. Using your computer should be about getting the most from your image, not getting the most from the software. The photograph and the photographer should come first.
When Camera Raw is first opened in Adobe Photoshop CS2, all of the auto settings are turned on by default. The auto settings work, but with varied amounts of success on different photos. You always can adjust any individual auto setting to see if it helps (and sometimes it will).
It seems odd to me, though, to use auto settings for Camera Raw, since this is the epitome of control. Auto settings relinquish your control and allow mathematical formulas to decide what your photo should look like. I highly recommend you unclick all of them, then choose Save New Camera Raw Defaults in the drop-down menu at the right side of the Settings box.
Once the image is opened, I start at the bottom left of the Camera Raw interface and begin my adjustments from there. Make sure Show Workflow Options is checked.
1. Space. In the drop-down menu of color spaces, I recommend using Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB (you're always safe with Adobe RGB). Adobe RGB gives the wider color gamut, which can be effective with many photos. You can click back and forth between these two color spaces for comparison.
2. Depth. You have a choice of 8 or 16 bits per channel. This output choice won't affect what you're doing in Camera Raw as the processing is done at the 16-bit level. For most images, outputting at 8-bit is plenty (16-bit largely increases file size).
3. Size. Start with the native file size that your camera produces by selecting the numbers without a plus or minus sign (plus means the file will be increased; minus will decrease the original). If you know you need a large file from your photo, this is a good place to upsize your image.
4. Resolution. This has no effect on image quality, but is here purely for workflow reasons. Output resolution only changes how close or far apart the computer places pixels and doesn't affect their quality. This can be changed later without any harm to the photo.
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