The Adobe Camera Raw Advantage

The process of converting a digital image from its latent state, as it exists after exposure on your camera's storage media, to the edited version in Photoshop is extremely complex and a detailed discussion of this process is beyond the range of this book.

(See Appendix S for reference to a book that will fully explain the details of working with images in Adobe Camera Raw.)

But it's important to have at least a general idea of what happens at this stage so you can make informed decisions about how to proceed.

The first thing to understand is that all digital images start out as grayscale data after the light from the lens passes through an array of tiny colored filters positioned in front of the camera's CMOS, CCD photosensitive detectors. (Foveon sensors work differently in this regard.) This means that the grayscale image data has to be converted into color information before it can be displayed.

Next, digital sensors measure light in very different ways than either film or our eyes do. Human vision responds to light in a distinctly non-linear way, whereas digital sensors simply measure amounts of photons in a strictly linear manner. The bottom line is that digital images need to go through a process called Tone Mapping before they will look the natural to our eyes (see Appendix D: Exposure and the Digital Linear Effect for a more complete description of this issue).

The important implication of all of this is that any image corrections you make at this stage of the process are fundamental and generally much less damaging to the quality of your image than editing done in Photoshop. There are also ways that you can color-correct and otherwise manipulate images during the conversion process that simply can't be duplicated in Photoshop. This is the reason for the next cardinal rule for digital photographers:

Do as much image correction as possible during the raw conversion stage before editing your image in Photoshop.

Note: Scanners can't currently produce raw-formatted files that can be opened and edited using the Adobe Camera Raw utility. This is because scanners are creating digital images from sources that have already been through the conversion process; either as the negative or slide you are scanning, or the print made from that film. This means that the .nef files produced by Nikon film scanners aren't the same as the raw files captured by Nikon digital cameras.

Appreciating the importance of the raw conversion process leads directly to the question of what software you should use to do this. There are two general choices.

Every manufacturer of digital cameras offers proprietary software specifically designed to convert their raw files. Nikon Capture NX and the Canon RAW Image converter are examples of this kind of software.

But here we come up against what I have discovered to be a very reliable fact: Camera manufacturers aren't as proficient or creative at designing digital editing software as is a company that makes this its primary business.

Added to this is the fact that all digital images eventually end up being edited in Adobe Photoshop in any case, so you are better off using software that is specifically designed to be compatible with this environment.

Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information presented in this book isĀ  accurate. However, the reader should understand that the information provided does not constitute legal, medical or professional advice of any kind.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment