Fix the Tone in JPEGs with Adobe Camera Raw

Fix the Tone in JPEGs with Adobe Camera Raw

2 - Bridge to Camera Raw. In Bridge, locate and double-click the photo (JPEG or RAW) that you want to work on using Camera Raw. (If you didn’t set double-click behavior in Bridge in the previous step, you can right-click the image and select Open In Camera Raw.) You can work on the image any way you want, but it might help to think, “top to bottom, left to right.” In most every tab, start at the top and work your way down, then proceed to the next tab to the right.

 

At the top right is the histogram, which shows how much of the picture is dark and how much is light. On the left are shadows, in the middle are midtones, and on the right are highlights. The example image of the cat is pretty dark, so the histogram shows a high mountain on the left side (since the cat’s fur is mostly black). There’s also no white in the image, because the histogram doesn’t go all the way to the right. The histogram changes as you make changes to the image; watching what it does can give you an understanding of how various tools work.

 

Above the histogram are Shadow and Highlight Clipping Warning checkboxes. Clipping happens when you make a change that would discard information, because that information becomes lighter than the white, or darker than the black, in the intended color space. With the warnings on, Camera Raw will draw blue pixels for the shadows that clip and red pixels for the highlights that clip. Keep clipping to a minimum for most of your work.

 

Along the top are various tools that can adjust the image. New Camera Raw tools include the Retouch tool, which works as a Cloning Stamp or Healing Brush tool, and a Red-Eye Removal tool. On the bottom is some underlined information about your workflow: the color space, bit depth per color channel, and the dimensions and resolution of the resulting image. Click on this information to make changes in the Workflow Options dialog. If you’re editing a JPEG, you may want to switch to 16 bits per channel to give Photoshop more latitude for adjustments you may make outside of Camera Raw. Just remember that whatever you set here has no effect on what’s going on in Camera Raw.

 

The histogram in the top right of the window indicates that most of the image is dark. There’s also too much blue in this image, since the white point is way off.

 

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3 - The Basic Tab. First up in the Basic tab is White Balance. You can set this by dragging the Temperature and Tint sliders until you’re happy with the white point. Alternatively, you can use the White Balance tool to click somewhere that you think should be white or gray.

 

After that, you can tone the image. The Exposure slider adjusts brightness, with most of its effects seen on the brighter parts of the image. The numeric value of the exposure adjustment corresponds roughly to an f-stop on a camera, so increasing exposure to +1.00 is almost like letting about twice as much light into the camera. Usually, you’ll want to adjust exposure so that the histogram stretches to both the left and right sides, giving the image some white and some black. You can make sure you’re not discarding any information by watching for clipping warnings. Not every image should have white in it, so use your judgment with this slider.

 

The Recovery slider helps resurrect details from the highlights, or bright areas, of the image. Play with it a bit and watch what it does to the histogram. It keeps the highlights bright, but pushes the detail back from the darker highlights. Skip over Fill Light for a second. The Blacks slider pushes the darker parts of the image into black. Use this one carefully, too, because not every image needs black. The Fill Light slider gets some details back from the lighter shadows, without brightening the blacks.

 

The Brightness slider makes the image brighter or darker, but doesn’t usually cause the image to clip. Rather, it compresses one end and stretches the other end of the histogram, depending on which way you slide it. This behavior is why it’s located so far down in the Basic tab - it works best after you’ve already set exposure, recovery, and blacks. Contrast pushes dark midtones darker and light midtones lighter. It works best after you use the Brightness slider.

 

The last three controls affect color saturation. The Clarity slider is a bit like sharpening the image, but we don’t use it because we’ll sharpen with a different tool in the next step. The Vibrance slider adjusts saturation to reduce clipping, and can help with skin tones. Saturation affects each color’s saturation equally. Drag it to the left to get closer to monochrome, or to the right to add some saturation.

 

Now that the histogram goes further toward the right, the blues aren’t much brighter than the rest of the image like they used to be, and the Recovery slider brought back some of the highlights that would’ve been clipped.

 

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