How to Use the Camera Raw Format in Photoshop CS6 - dummies

How to Use the Camera Raw Format in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6 also supports the Camera Raw format. The Camera Raw file format is used by many digital cameras to capture and save image data and the image’s metadata. This format captures everything about an image and is the closest possible thing to a digital negative.

Each camera has its own proprietary raw image format. Fortunately, Photoshop can support most camera models, especially higher-end cameras. If your new camera isn’t supported, check periodically for updates.


Camera Raw files utilize a lossless scheme to capture and save image data, similar to TIFFs. This approach is advantageous because no data is lost through compression as with the JPEG format.

Camera Raw files also have the advantage of being smaller than uncompressed TIFFs. Of all the digital camera file formats, only Camera Raw images contain the actual, unadulterated data captured by the digital camera’s sensor without any camera adjustments, filters, and other processing.

Die-hard photographers consider this file format to be the pure digital “negative,” so to speak. They prefer to analyze, manipulate, and adjust the image data themselves, instead of leaving those decisions to the mercy of the camera.

This file format also prevents the loss of any image data that can sometimes occur when a file is converted from its native format to a more commonly used format, such as TIFF or PSD. But Camera Raw can save your files as DNG (Digital Negative), TIFF, PSD, or JPEG formats, if you desire.

Version CS6 introduces Camera Raw 7.0, bringing better controls for white balance and noise reduction and new settings for Highlights and Shadows and Whites, to go along with the Blacks option from the last version. Here’s just a brief sampling of some of the capabilities of Camera Raw:

  • Select multiple Camera Raw files, as well as JPEGs and TIFFs, in Adobe Bridge and then edit the settings in one fell swoop.

  • Make adjustments in white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, whites and blacks, saturation, clarity, and so on. Your settings are applied to all selected files.

  • Save your files in Adobe Bridge or import them into Photoshop for further enhancements.

  • Rate your files inside Camera Raw.

  • Crop, rotate, straighten, and sharpen your images.

  • Correct lens distortion, reduce noise, color fringe, spots, red-eye, and other flaws.

  • Camera Raw files are processed in their own thread, which means you can do double duty — editing some files while saving others simultaneously.

  • Camera Raw also offers localized corrections — using an Adjustment Brush, you can “paint” areas by using varying brush sizes to correct specific portions of your image. Similarly, you can use the Graduated Filter to apply adjustments to your image gradually. This is Camera Raw’s digital answer to using a Neutral Density analog filter when capturing a shot. The Graduated Filter can be handy, especially when adjusting landscape shots.

Adobe has added additional camera support in version CS6 — but if the Camera Raw feature still doesn’t support your particular camera model, contact Adobe to see whether it will be supporting your model in the near future.

If your camera doesn’t capture images in the Camera Raw format at all, don’t worry. You’re fine with TIFF or JPEG, especially because you can edit these two formats in the Camera Raw dialog box. However, if your camera is capable of saving images in Camera Raw format, check out detailed information showing all you need to know about working with Camera Raw.