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What Is Adobe Camera Raw And Why Should I Use It?

Adobe Camera Raw is a plug-in piece of software in Adobe Photoshop. It is sometimes ignored (or feared) by new Photoshop learners because at first glance it looks a little confusing. The nice thing about it is, though, it’s actually pretty simple to use once you figure out which bits do what.

If you want to learn how to successfully and efficiently edit photographs, you need to know how to use it. And I’m here to help you with that 🙂

Why Should I Use Camera Raw To Edit Photos?

Camera Raw allows us to edit and enhance raw files from our digital cameras. We can also edit JPEG and TIFF files in Adobe Camera Raw.

Let’s quickly clarify what raw and Adobe Camera Raw actually are.

  • A raw file contains unprocessed picture data from your digital camera’s image sensor.
  • Adobe Camera Raw is the plugin we use to edit Raw files. We can use it to apply sharpening, set white balance, adjust contrast, colour and tonal range, and much much more.

Adobe Camera Raw Interface

One of the main advantages of editing photos in Camera Raw as opposed to editing in Photoshop, is that Camera Raw does not change or damage your original photograph. This is known as non-destructive editing. Camera Raw also includes some editing features that aren’t in Photoshop.

As we edit our photos in Camera Raw, the changes we make are a set of instructions that are applied to our photo and we see a live preview as we work. We can also go back and make changes as often as we want, or we can completely reset our changes without ever harming a single pixel. It is wonderful! 🙂

The other good news is, although Adobe Camera Raw was originally created to process photos taken in your camera’s raw format, you can also use it to process your JPEG and TIFF photos too.

If you’ve used Adobe Lightroom before, Camera Raw will look very familiar because they are essentially the same thing. They share the same image-processing technology.

File Formats and Camera Raw

Although Photoshop Camera Raw software can open and edit a raw image file, it cannot save an image in a camera raw format. You can save the image in other image formats, such as Digital Negative (DNG), JPEG, TIFF, or Photoshop (PSD) formats.

Adobe update Camera Raw fairly frequently. If you’re using Creative Cloud, make sure to keep your versions up to date.

Different camera models save camera raw images in many different formats, and the data must be interpreted differently for these formats. Camera Raw includes support for many camera models, and it can interpret many camera raw formats.

Raw File Extensions

When you download your pictures from your camera for the first time, you might notice some strange file extension that you haven’t seen before. Here are the raw file extensions from some of the biggest camera manufacturers)

  • .NEF – Nikon
  • .CRW – Canon
  • .ARW .SRF  .SR2 – Sony
  • .PEF – Pentax
  • .ORF – Olympus
  • .3FR – Hasslebad
  • .RW2 – Panasonic

There are, of course, many more camera makers and Adobe regularly put out updates to Camera Raw to support new cameras that have come on the market.

Now that you know what Camera Raw is, the next step is to actually get your photographs into it. Click here to read how to open images in Camera Raw.

If you found this helpful, please share it 🙂 Thank You!

What Is Adobe Camera Raw


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Jennifer Farley is an illustrator, designer, author and design teacher based in Ireland. She has been teaching design for over 14 years and helps people learn Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator and graphic design skills to improve their job prospects and their business.