Photoshop Elements Workflow – Using Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)

Editing Photos using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

 “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.” – Ansel Adams

You should get used to using the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) program inside Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements for doing your initial editing. It is very powerful and easy to use. You can use this for RAW files, DNG (Digital Negative Files) and JPGs. For some photographs you may not even use the main editing space in Photoshop CC or Photoshop Elements.

You may think of your RAW files as digital negatives. They are not compressed and have more dynamic range (range between black and white) than JPGs. You will get more color information as well. This information will allow you more control over color, white balance, tonal range, contrast, sharpening, etc. in your images.

To Begin in Adobe Bridge
Select the image  or images you would like to work on by single-clicking them. Double-clicking will automatically launch Adobe Camera Raw within Photoshop CC.

To Begin in Photoshop Elements
Launch Photoshop Elements and choose Editor. From the editor, choose File > Open and double-click on the RAW file you want to work with. You can open multiple images at once to streamline your workflow.

Along the top you will see the Zoom, Hand, White Balance, Crop and Straighten Tools, etc. You can begin the editing process by applying these as needed.

To the right of your image you will see the Camera RAW Adjustment Tools. This is where most of the magic happens. Notice there are three tabs with different controls within each. You will do most of your editing in the Basic tab (see below).

Typical workflow in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)

There are many different ways of working in Adobe Camera RAW. Here is a suggested workflow for Photoshop Elements 10. Here is to use Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop Elements 11: ACR in Photoshop Elements 11.

  1. Open Adobe Bridge Photoshop Elements, choose Edit to launch the editor.
  2. Choose File > Open and select a RAW file to work on. If you want to use ACR to work on a JPG make sure “Camera Raw” is selected in the Format selector on the bottom left of the dialog box.
  3. Click on the Basic tab and adjust the Color Balance/Tint if necessary.
  4. Adjust the Exposure Slider to set the White Point. Watch for clipping in the right side of the Histogram. If there is already clipping in the bright areas you can also use the Recovery Slider to bring back highlights.
  5. Use the Blacks to set the Black Point for the image. Watch for clipping in the dark areas on the left of the Histogram.
  6. Adjust the mid-tones or overall brightness of the image using the Brightness Slider.
  7. If necessary, use the Fill Light Slider to open up or brighten the shadows.
  8. You can use the Contrast Slider to adjust the overall contrast of the image if necessary. You will get more control with the Exposure, Black & Brightness Sliders.
  9. Use the Clarity setting (about 15 to 30 points) to bring out contrast in the mid-tones and the Vibrance setting to increase color in the areas of your image with less color. The Saturation Slider will add overall color.
  10. Finally, click the Details tab, zoom in to 100%, and adjust the Sharpening settings.

* In Photoshop CC or Photoshop Elements 11 and higher the Highlights, Shadows, and Whites sliders replace the Recovery, Fill light, and Brightness sliders.

Clicking Done will apply your changes and close the image.

Clicking Cancel will ignore your changes and close the image.

Clicking Open Image will save your changes and open the image in the main editor of Photoshop Elements for additional editing and retouching.

As you work your way through the process you will notice some settings will interact with previous adjustments and you will need to go back and tweak them for optimal results. It’s important to keep an eye on the image and the histogram to avoid clipping and bring the most out of your RAW file. Keep in mind that images vary, so will your settings.