Using the Camera Raw Converter in Photoshop Elements - dummies

Using the Camera Raw Converter in Photoshop Elements

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

Camera Raw images enable you to post-process your pictures in Photoshop Elements. When you take a digital picture in Camera Raw format, the camera’s sensor records as much information as it can. When you open a Camera Raw file in Elements, you decide what part of that data is opened as a new image.

If you acquire images that are saved in JPEG format, you need to do a lot of color correction after the image opens in Elements. If you shoot the image in Camera Raw format, you just process the image with a warmer temperature (consistent with conditions when the shot was taken), and your color correction in Elements is a fraction of what it is to fix a JPEG image.

You can also open JPEG images in Camera Raw by choosing File→Open in Camera Raw.

Post-processing Camera Raw images requires a plug-in that’s installed with Photoshop Elements. When you open a Camera Raw image, the Camera Raw plug-in takes over and provides you with a huge set of options for post-processing the image before you open it in one of the Elements editors. You make adjustments and when finished, you click the Open Image button to open the photo in the Photoshop Elements Photo Editor.

Working in Camera Raw requires some understanding of the options you have in the Camera Raw converter.

Using the histogram

One of the most important tools you have in the Camera Raw converter is the histogram appearing in the top-right corner of the window. The histogram displays a curve showing you where the data fall along the curve. The most ideal curve is a bell-shaped curve where you see data appearing on the extreme left and right of the image and rising up in the midtone (center of the histogram) areas.

At the top of the histogram, you see two arrowheads pointing upward. When you click these arrowheads, the photo is shown with clipping information represented by a red (or blue) overlay. Your efforts should be to reduce clipping as much as possible. When an image is clipped, no data appear in the highlights, or a solid blob of black appears in the shadows. You want detail in both shadows and highlights.


As a matter of practice, click the arrows to display clipping areas in the photo. As you move sliders, you want to minimize the amount of clipping (displayed by the red overlay) in the image preview.

As you make the rest of the adjustments using the sliders, you may need to return to a given adjustment to fine-tune the brightness and contrast. Begin by making an adjustment with the Exposure slider and work down in the panel moving sliders as needed. Return to previous adjustments as needed.

Using white balance

By default, you see As Shot appearing in the White Balance drop-down menu. A good many photos work well when you leave this drop-down menu set to the default As Shot choice. However, sometimes a photo with a color cast, an image taken with fluorescent lighting, or a fade photo requires some adjustment to the White Balance.


To edit the White Balance, move the Temperature slider and the Tint slider to make adjustments for the White Balance. When you move one of these sliders, the Custom option appears as the choice in the drop-down menu


Adjusting exposure

As you begin to use the Camera Raw converter, you work from the top of the adjustments panel downward. Therefore after turning on clipping information and making an adjustment to white balance, if needed, your first adjustment is the Exposure setting.

Exposure relates to the central area of the histogram (or the midtone ranges). Move the Exposure slider left or right while observing the histogram. You want to look for histogram information appearing at the left and right sides as much as possible.


Adjusting contrast, highlights, and shadows

The Contrast slider adjusts overall contrast in the image. Move the slider left or right to decrease/increase contrast.

The Highlights adjustment moves data on the far right of the histogram. If you find an area with no data on this side of the histogram, move the slider to fill the empty area with data as much as you can. Be certain to look at the image for clipping when moving the slider. If you see clipping, move the slider back until you reduce the amount of clipping as much as possible.


The Shadows slider controls data on the far left of the histogram. Move the slider to fill as much area as you can to the far left.


Adjusting whites and blacks

The Whites slider controls data approximately 25 percent in from the left side of the histogram. The Whites and Blacks slider as similar to the adjustments you make with the Enhance→Adjust Lighting→Shadow/Highlights adjustment. Move the slider to polish up the highlights.


The Blacks slider controls data approximately 25 percent in from the far left of the histogram. Like the Whites slider, this adjustment is similar to using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment. Move the slider to add or lessen the amount of black in the photo.


Adjusting clarity, vibrance, and saturation

The last three sliders include adjustments for the following:

  • Clarity: This adjustment boosts contrast in the midtones and increases their depth.

  • Vibrance: Vibrance boosts saturation in low saturated images.

  • Saturation: Increases or decreases color intensity across all channels.


The photo on the left is before adjustments; the photo on the right shows the results of making adjustments in the Camera Raw Converter. You can make additional adjustments by using commands in the Enhance menu in the Elements Photo Editor.