How to Edit a Raw Photo with Adobe Camera Raw

Ranch, Ovando, Montana

In my previous post I explained how to get your raw images from the camera to the computer using Adobe's Photo Downloader and Bridge. Today I'm going to provide the basic steps to follow in Adobe Camera Raw to make your raw photo look its best.

Begin by starting Bridge and opening the folder of pictures that you want to edit. Select your favorite and from the File menu choose Open in Camera Raw or press Ctrl+R (Windows) or Cmd+R (Mac). The Camera Raw window opens with your photo displayed large and the controls along the right side.

Adobe Camera Raw window version 14

There are slightly different ways to work through the sliders in the Basic Edit panel shown above. Adobe suggests starting at the top of the panel and working down. Below I suggest a modified version of the steps.

1. Start first with the Crop panel to straighten and crop the picture. Click on the Crop icon, second from the top in the column of tools on the right. Adjust the sides to the crop you want. Click back on the Edit icon at the top when you are finished. 

2.  In the Basic Edit panel drag the Exposure slider left or right to adjust the overall brightness.

3.  Drag the Whites slider right to set the white point. Check the histogram at the top to be sure you don't clip the brightest pixels.

4. Drag the Blacks slider left to set the black point. Check the histogram to be sure there is minimal clipping of the darkest pixels.

5.  Adjust the Highlights slider left or right to see detail in the highlights.

6.  Move the Shadows slider left or right to reveal some detail in the shadows.

7.  Drag the Contrast slider right to increase the midtone contrast.

8.  Adjust the Clarity slider to the right to add local contrast.

9. Optionally, adjust the Texture slider slightly to the right to enhance the appearance of fine texture.

10.  Optionally, adjust the Dehaze slider slightly to the right to decrease the appearance of atmospheric haze in a landscape image.

11.  Select a White Balance choice from the list. Choose one that is closest to the color balance you want. If necessary, move the Temperature and Tint sliders to fine-tune the color balance.

12.  Adjust the Vibrance slider to change the intensity of the least vivid colors. This increases saturation without affecting skin tones and more subtle colors.

13.  Adjust the Saturation slider to change the intensity of all the colors equally.

To see a before and after view, press the backslash key (\) to turn your edits off and back on. Note this does not show before and after cropping.

When you are happy with your changes, click the Done button in the lower right. This saves your edits, closes the Camera Raw window and returns you to Bridge. Your edited image appears in the thumbnails.

Learn more tips about raw photos in my upcoming online class Shoot, Organize & Edit Raw Photos with Photoshop, beginning March 1, 2022. Click this link for details and registration.