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Camera Raw Tricks and Underused Features

From the moment it was first released as an add-on to Photoshop 7 back in 2003, Adobe Camera Raw has been a popular choice for converting raw images. With each new version since, Adobe has expanded the list of supported cameras added new features. Lately, I've noticed that all these features mean that some get missed. As such, here is a selection of tips and tricks for ACR. Hopefully you'll be able to pick up something new to you.

Shadow and Highlight Clipping Warnings
In the upper left and right of the histogram display is a small, light gray triangle. Click on the one on the left and the shadow areas that will clipped based on current settings will be highlighted in the main image window. Click on the triangle in the upper right and the same will happen for highlight clipping. This can be a great tool to make sure you are getting the most from the image you are working on. As you adjust the various sliders you can easily tell if you have fixed the clipping based on a quick glance at the image. You can have both on at the same time, but in general you'll want to focus on one at a time.

You can also see clipping a different way if you hold down the Alt key (Option key on Mac) while using the sliders in much the same way you can while adjusting Levels in Photoshop. Alt plus the Exposure or Recovery slider shows highlight clipping while Alt plus the Blacks slider shows shadow clipping. Try both ways to see which you prefer.

Undoing Graduated and Other Adjustments
Camera Raw now includes a Graduated filter adjustments tool, a Straighten tool and many others to control things previously possible only after raw conversion. But it can be somewhat difficult to figure out how to undo these changes if you don't like what you've done. For most of these new tools, you can use Control-Z to undo your most recent change, or press the Delete key with that tool active to remove the adjustment completely.

Hide the Overlay Graphic for Adjustments
Many new tools now show you what area you will be affecting by drawing dotted lines on top of your image. Most of the time these overlay graphics can be helpful, but if you find them distracting press the "V" key to turn the off. Press "V" again to turn the dotted line overlay back on. This works with the start and endpoint lines in the Graduated Adjustment tool, the red and green circles in the Spot Removal tool and others.

Delete Images From Within ACR
If you open multiple images in Camera Raw and decide that one of them really wasn't worth keeping, press the Delete key with that image active in ACR. A big red "X" will appear over that image in the ACR sidebar and that image will be deleted with you exit Camera Raw. If you change your mind before closing ACR, simply press Delete again. The "X" will be cleared and the image will be safe.

The Quirks of Preview
The Preview checkbox in the upper right toggles whether your edits are rendered in main image window or not. On most tabs though it only turns on or off the changes made on that tab. If you make adjustments on the Basic tab and then go over to the Lens Correction tab, the Preview checkbox will only control rendering of the Lens Correction changes. In order to toggle Preview for all adjustments regardless of tab, use the Preview checkbox while on the Preset tab.

Grayscale Sharpening Preview
When your image is zoomed to 100% or more, holding down the Alt key (Option key on the Mac) while adjusting any of the Sharpening sliders changes the image preview to grayscale. This can make it less distracting when judging whether you like your current settings. Keep in mind that a setting in the Camera Raw Preferences dialog controls whether that sharpening actually affects the image or just the ACR preview.

Cancel Becomes Reset
If you end up making a mess of an image in Camera Raw and want to start over, hold down the Alt key (Option key on the Mac) and the normal Cancel button will become a Reset button. Clicking on it returns everything to how it was when you opened ACR.

Editing JPEG Images in Camera Raw
If you find you prefer editing images in Camera Raw over Photoshop, you can now edit JPEG images directly in ACR almost as if they were raw images. This works with TIFF images too.

Bypass ACR and Go Straight to Photoshop
After pointing out all these great things you may have missed in Camera Raw, sometimes you may still want to skip ACR completely and open a raw image directly into Photoshop. Technically, that's not really possible since Photoshop can't directly read raw files but you can come close by holding down the Shift key while double-clicking on the image in Bridge. This will convert the image using the current default settings in ACR and open the result as a PSD file in Photoshop.

Date posted: January 24, 2010


Copyright © 2010 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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