Lesson 11 – Advanced Techniques: Camera Raw

CIOS F255 - University of Alaska Fairbanks


This week we will be looking at a part of Photoshop that is less obvious but, if you are a serious photographer, you will want to know about, Camera Raw. It is a completely distinct, yet integrated interface that is part of the workflow for Raw format images but it can also be used as a filter from within Photoshop for working JPEG and TIFF files or you can open files from within the Bridge browser as Camera Raw.

You may find that Camera Raw is a more intuitive way to do basic corrections on images than the other techniques we tried in earlier lessons.


Read/watch about working in Camera Raw


Raw Files

Many cameras can capture photos in the Raw  format. What does this mean exactly? A Raw  image contains all the information captured by the camera’s image sensor without being processed by the camera’s computer. Raw images are not ready to be printed, posted online, or edited with a bitmap image editor like Photoshop.  These files must first  go through a conversion process that will turn them into JPG, TIFF, or other format recognizable by an image editor, printer, web browser.     In this way, raw files are akin to the old-school photo negatives, which have to be processed and printed onto paper to properly view the image.

DNG Files

Raw files come in many different formats that are often specific to the camera model or brand and not all software can open them.   Digital Negative Graphics is a file format that Adobe established that is meant to be a universal format for raw photos that you can convert your raw proprietary files to. DNG files take up less space than raw in general and have some other benefits.  

Workflow for working with Camera Raw filter on JPEG or TIFF files

In order to edit a JPG or TIFF image in Camera Raw nondestructively, you must first convert the layer into a Smart Object. It’s a good idea to duplicate the original layer in case you forget to do this. Here is the workflow I recommend when using the Camera Raw Filter.  

First – duplicate original layer, convert the layer to a smart object (right-click or layer panel dropdown menu):

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 1.02.45 PM

Then open up the smart object in the Cameral Raw Filter interface (Top Menu -> Filters -> Camera Raw Filter). Images must be in RGB mode. Make your edits, click OK. Your layers should look something like this:Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 1.02.20 PM

Note: if you double click on the top layer, the original image will open up in a new tab. This is because it’s a Smart Object. The Camera Raw Filter edits you made are still there in your edited file but the original pre-camera raw image will open up in a new tab for you to edit and the tab will be named something like ‘Layer 0.psb’ – make your changes here and save and then go back to the original image you’re editing and you will see your changes. You can turn the visibility of the Camera Raw Filter on and off with the eye icon on the Smart Filters layer.


Using Camera Raw as a Filter  

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 1.21.53 PM

New Features & Tips in Camera Raw

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 1.25.27 PM

Working on Multiple Raw Format Files (not applicable if you are using as a filter)

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 1.38.43 PM



Find 2 images that you would like to improve and use Camera Raw filter to fix them.  I’d like for you to at least try every tool along the top and surf through and try as many things on the tool options on the side as you can. This exercise is meant for you to fully explore Camera Raw so you know what it can do and see how it is different from making adjustments in Photoshop proper.

If you shoot in Raw format, try using one of your own images or you can use your own JPG or TIF and use the Camera Raw filter.  If you can’t find any of your own, you can download and try these.


  1. Create a new post and upload your images (both before and after).
  2. Tell us what you did with the photos in Camera Raw:
    1. What Camera Raw tools did you use?
    2. What parts of Camera Raw, if any, do you like better than Photoshop?
    3. What parts do you not like?
    4. Do you think you’ll use it?
    5. Was there anything in particular that was harder/easier to use or understand?
  3. Title your post ‘Assignment 11a – yourname’.


This is another research assignment for  what we will be doing next week – an introduction to the 3D interface. Please make a post titled ‘Assignment 11b – yourname’. In the post, link to  a tutorial you find on the web for a 3D construction using Photoshop that you find interesting. It should be a video that uses the actual 3D interface – not just for creating a 3D effect. It can be in video format or otherwise but, if you are just linking to a page,  please post an image of the end product of the tutorial along with your link so we can quickly see from this site.

Note: Next week, you will have the choice to do any of the 3D tutorials you’ve found for homework or you can follow the tutorial that I will give you so keep that in mind as you’re looking around!


No quiz this week. 🙂