Learning objectives: 1.3

I know, I know… loads of photographers use Adobe Lightroom for editing. Thing is, Camera Raw offers very similar editing tools yet is easily accessed from Adobe Bridge and has a similar interface (along with commands, tools etc) to Photoshop. Think of it as Photoshop-lite. Hell, Baby-Photoshop, even.

So, Camera Raw it is for now – on the basis that, if I ever get as far as Photoshop, it should be a wee bit easier to get the hang of.  At least that’s what our tutor, Zig, says. Did I mention Zig hates Lightroom? Well, he does.

So, here are some of the Camera Raw tools and edit functions I’ve been exploring:

Use to make targetted adjustments – exposure, contrast, clarity, say – to selected areas of a photo.

  • Set colour to white.
  • Choose brush size: the smaller the brush size, the stronger the level of adjustment will appear. For softer adjustments, use a larger brush size. Click on panel to change brush size or use the square brackets as a shortcut.
    [ = smaller/harder edge;
    ]= larger/softer edge
  • Click on the area to adjust and then click and drag the brush to mask over the area you want the adjustments to affect. A red pin will appear = the reference point for the active/current adjustment area.
  • If you want to see that mask overlay for the active red pin, just click the mask button to on (on the bottom of the editing panel).
  • Make the tweaks you want for that active red pin’s masked area by moving the sliders in the edit panel.
  • Want to adjust another area? Click on new on the edit panel, then click back on the image where you want the next pin to be and repeat the above process. You can do this as many times as you want.
  • The pins are just reference points for each individual adjustment area: red pin = current area being worked on; white pin = inactive area.
  • Want to go back and add something to a previous area? Just click on a white pin and it will turn red again and you can tweak it’s corresponding masking area a bit more.
  • To see the brush area(s) you’ve selected previously just hover over the white pin and you will see a white mask showing the masking area for that pine.
  • Erase a pin by selecting Erase (yes, really) in the edit panel, then click on the pin you want to wipe out. Or just make a pin active (red) and then hit the back button.
  • All the editing options in the main edit panel can be used selectively, using the adjustment brush.
  • Don’t forget to click done once you’re done.
  • Use snapshots if you want to keep varying edits and/or the original in an easily accessible way.

The 3 images below show just how useful TA can be. The original image (top left) has the tree trunk totally underexposed because the camera could not cope with shooting into both deep shade and a very strong, sharp sunrise. I didn’t have a tripod. I didn’t have an ND filter with me. I could only go with what I had. I tried using fill-in flash but that didn’t give me the effect I was after. Back home, there was no way to successfully edit the image as a whole. But by using TAs I was able to edit several individual areas and end up with a reasonably exposed shot that showed the detail of the old tree but still kept the strength of the early-morning sunrise. (I kinda like the original, too, though.)



Use to overlay the colour of your choice to all or selected areas of an image. Can look a bit shit if you do an entire image, but can be a bit of fun if used wisely. Works well to pick out one specific area on an otherwise black and white shot.

Targetted adjustment brush’s straight-edged best-mate, graduated filter allows you create vertical or horizontal area “blocks” to edit, using any or all of the same tools in the main edit panel. Drag the green (start) and red (stop) lines to where you want the area of graduation to begin and end. There is no feather effect though, so for a very soft effect, zoom right out from an image and start the filter lines from the top or bottom of the entire screen (or far left or far rightif you want a vertical block). You can apply as many filters as you want. The smaller the filter, the sharper the graduated effect will be. The wide the filter, the softer it will be. Use the brush to ringfence anything you don’t want to have included in a filter.

As a quick visual guide, in the images below I’ve boosted the sky colour from the misty morning original by using the graduated filter with the colour overlay. In the 1st image where the filter lines are close together, the colour is much more pronounced and, frankly, looks super-fake. But by starting the filter range outside of the actual image, as in the final image, I’ve softened it (possibly too much) so that it’s more convincing.



Similar to graduated filter, except you set a curvy, circular/elliptical area of your choosing. Whether the edits happen in or outside of that area depends on whether you select the inside or outside box (nifty, eh?) found just below the feather tab, towards the bottom of the edit panel. (If the area is edged in green, the edit will happen outside. Red, and the edit will happen within it.) Good for adding areas of light and/or focus.

Best for very localised use on skies, horizon lines.

Sometimes lens/sensor issues can cause purple & green colour aberrations on backlit edges. Most of the time you won’t notice them but if you’re going to blow the images up and print at A4 or above, you will do. Use the defringe tool along with the targetted adjustment brush to get rid of specific ones or use the lens correction tab to do the same thing across an entire image.

If the white balance looks out on a shot, use the WB tool to sort it. Click on a neutral (white/grey/black) area and the shot should level out correctly.

Saturation will boost/reduce everything in the shot to the same level. Vibrance is a bit more sophisticated and a little less in-yer-face punchy. Use Vibrance.

Not for actually air-brushing out zits.  Use to remove visible spots caused by dust on the sensor.

Does what it says – but enlarge the image so you can see what you are doing and then make the target brush bigger than the area you are attempting to sort out. That way the computer has space to recognise the colour red and correct it.

Next to the snapshot button (top right of edit pane) is the presets button. Use it to name and save any super-fabulous presets that you create so that you don’t have to spend hours recreating them.

Covered in detail last term. Just drag and click wherever you want lines to straighten, basically. Not enough info? Go have a nose here. Great for architectural photos. (Remember, when shooting buildings etc, best to be straight on to subject and shoot to protect, so that you have enough space to crop in the edit.

Cycle through it to compare an edited image with its original.

RAW doesn’t store a history of edits in an easily accessible way (unlike lightroom). Instead edits are stored in code in an XMP file, that can be opened and viewed using notebook.

Control Alt Z

If you’re saving an image for internet use, you can choose to save in medium quality versus high. That way the pics will look fine on the screen but won’t be good enough quality for others to download and nick.

Also, if you need to do a large batch resize for printing, internet etc, you can save hours by using irfanview.com


Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: