A camera raw file contains unprocessed, uncompressed grayscale picture data from a digital camera’s image sensor, along with information about how the image was captured (metadata). Photoshop® Camera Raw software interprets the camera raw file, using information about the camera and the image’s metadata to construct and process a color image.
Think of a camera raw file as your photo negative. You can reprocess the file at any time, achieving the results that you want by making adjustments for white balance, tonal range, contrast, color saturation, and sharpening. When you adjust a camera raw image, the original camera raw data is preserved. Adjustments are stored as metadata in an accompanying sidecar file, in a database, or in the file itself (in the case of DNG format).
When you shoot JPEG files with your camera, the camera automatically processes the JPEG file to enhance and compress the image. You generally have little control over how this processing occurs. Shooting camera raw images with your camera gives you greater control than shooting JPEG images, because camera raw does not lock you into processing done by your camera. You can still edit JPEG and TIFF images in Camera Raw, but you will be editing pixels that were already processed by the camera. Camera raw files always contain the original, unprocessed pixels from the camera.
To shoot camera raw images, you must set your camera to save files in its own camera raw file format.
The Photoshop Raw format (.raw) is a file format for transferring images between applications and computer platforms. Don’t confuse Photoshop raw with camera raw file formats. File extensions for camera raw files vary depending on the camera manufacturer.
Digital cameras capture and store camera raw data with a linear tone response curve (gamma 1.0). Both film and the human eye have a nonlinear, logarithmic response to light (gamma greater than 2). An unprocessed camera raw image viewed as a grayscale image would seem very dark, because what appears twice as bright to the photosensor and computer seems less than twice as bright to the human eye.
For a list of supported cameras and for more information about Camera Raw, see Digital camera raw file support.
To see a list of cameras and which version of Camera Raw each camera requires, see Cameras supported by Camera Raw.
Camera Raw software is included as a plug-in with Adobe After Effects® and Adobe Photoshop, and also adds functionality to Adobe Bridge. Camera Raw gives each of these applications the ability to import and work with camera raw files. You can also use Camera Raw to work with JPEG and TIFF files.
Camera Raw supports images up to 65,000 pixels long or wide and up to 512 megapixels. Camera Raw converts CMYK images to RGB upon opening. For a list of supported cameras, see Digital camera raw file support.
You must have Photoshop or After Effects installed to open files in the Camera Raw dialog box from Adobe Bridge. However, if Photoshop or After Effects is not installed, you can still preview the images and see their metadata in Adobe Bridge. If another application is associated with the image file type, it’s possible to open the file in that application from Adobe Bridge.
Using Adobe Bridge, you can apply, copy, and clear image settings, and you can see previews and metadata for camera raw files without opening them in the Camera Raw dialog box. The preview in Adobe Bridge is a JPEG image generated using the current image settings; the preview is not the raw camera data itself, which would appear as a very dark grayscale image.
Note: A caution icon appears in the thumbnails and preview image in the Camera Raw dialog box while the preview is generated from the camera raw image.
You can modify the default settings that Camera Raw uses for a particular model of camera. For each camera model, you can also modify the defaults for a particular ISO setting or a particular camera (by serial number). You can modify and save image settings as presets for use with other images.
When you use Camera Raw to make adjustments (including straightening and cropping) to a camera raw image, the image’s original camera raw data is preserved. The adjustments are stored in either the Camera Raw database, as metadata embedded in the image file, or in a sidecar XMP file (a metadata file that accompanies a camera raw file). For more information, see Specify where Camera Raw settings are stored.
After you process and edit a camera raw file using the Camera Raw plug-in, an icon appears in the image thumbnail in Adobe Bridge.
If you open a camera raw file in Photoshop, you can save the image in other image formats, such as PSD, JPEG, Large Document Format (PSB), TIFF, Cineon, Photoshop Raw, PNG, or PBM. From the Camera Raw dialog box in Photoshop, you can save the processed files in Digital Negative (DNG), JPEG, TIFF, or Photoshop (PSD) formats. Although Photoshop Camera Raw software can open and edit a camera raw image file, it cannot save an image in a camera raw format.
As new versions of Camera Raw become available, you can update this software by installing a new version of the plug-in. You can check for updates to Adobe software by choosing Help > Updates.
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.
If you have trouble opening Camera Raw files, see Why doesn't my version of Photoshop or Lightroom support my camera?
The Digital Negative (DNG) format is a non-proprietary, publicly documented, and widely supported format for storing raw camera data. Hardware and software developers use DNG because it results in a flexible workflow for processing and archiving camera raw data. You may also use DNG as an intermediate format for storing images that were originally captured using a proprietary camera raw format.
Because DNG metadata is publicly documented, software readers such as Camera Raw do not need camera-specific knowledge to decode and process files created by a camera that supports DNG. If support for a proprietary format is discontinued, users may not be able to access images stored in that format, and the images may be lost forever. Because DNG is publicly documented, it is far more likely that raw images stored as DNG files will be readable by software in the distant future, making DNG a safer choice for archival storage.
Metadata for adjustments made to images stored as DNG files can be embedded in the DNG file itself instead of in a sidecar XMP file or in the Camera Raw database.
You can convert camera raw files to the DNG format by using the Adobe DNG Converter or the Camera Raw dialog box. For more information on the DNG format and DNG Converter, see the Digital Negative (DNG) product page. To download the latest DNG Converter, go to the Adobe downloads page.
Before you do any work on the images that your camera raw files represent, transfer them from the camera’s memory card, organize them, give them useful names, and otherwise prepare them for use. Use the Get Photos From Camera command in Adobe Bridge to accomplish these tasks automatically.
You can open camera raw files in Camera Raw from Adobe Bridge, After Effects, or Photoshop. You can also open JPEG and TIFF files in Camera Raw from Adobe Bridge.
Color adjustments include white balance, tone, and saturation. You can make most adjustments on the Basic tab, and then use controls on the other tabs to fine-tune the results. If you want Camera Raw to analyze your image and apply approximate tonal adjustments, click Auto on the Basic tab.
To apply the settings used for the previous image, or to apply the default settings for the camera model, camera, or ISO settings, choose the appropriate command from the Camera Raw Settings menu . (See Apply saved Camera Raw settings.)
For a video tutorial on making nondestructive color (and other) adjustments to photos in Camera Raw, watch How to make non-destructive edits in Camera Raw.
Use other tools and controls in the Camera Raw dialog box to perform such tasks as sharpening the image, reducing noise, correcting for lens defects, and retouching.
To apply the same adjustments to other images later, save the settings as a preset. To save the adjustments as the defaults to be applied to all images from a specific camera model, a specific camera, or a specific ISO setting, save the image settings as the new Camera Raw defaults. (See Save, reset, and load Camera Raw settings.)
Set options to specify how images are saved from Camera Raw and how Photoshop should open them. You can access the Workflow Options settings by clicking the link beneath the image preview in the Camera Raw dialog box.
When you finish adjusting the image in Camera Raw, you can apply the adjustments to the camera raw file, open the adjusted image in Photoshop or After Effects, save the adjusted image to another format, or cancel and discard adjustments. If you open the Camera Raw dialog box from After Effects, the Save Image and Done buttons are unavailable.
- Save Image Applies the Camera Raw settings to the images and saves copies of them in JPEG, PSD, TIFF, or DNG format. Press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) to suppress the Camera Raw Save Options dialog box and save the files using the last set of save options. (See Save a camera raw image in another format.)
- Open Image or OK Opens copies of the camera raw image files (with the Camera Raw settings applied) in Photoshop or After Effects. The original camera raw image file remains unaltered. Press Shift while clicking Open Image to open the raw file in Photoshop as a Smart Object. At any time, you can double-click the Smart Object layer that contains the raw file to adjust the Camera Raw settings.
- Done Closes the Camera Raw dialog box and stores file settings either in the camera raw database file, in the sidecar XMP file, or in the DNG file.
- Cancel Cancels the adjustments specified in the Camera Raw dialog box.
- Some controls such as the Workflow Options link, that are available when you open the Camera Raw dialog box from Adobe Bridge or Photoshop are not available when you open the Camera Raw dialog box from After Effects.
- You can invoke the Auto Temperature and Auto Tint functionality by Shift-double-clicking within the image preview.
Access the edit panels in the right side of the dialog box. Several of the commands in this menu are also available from the Edit > Develop Settings menu in Adobe Bridge.
The Camera Raw zoom controls are:
- Zoom tool
Sets the preview zoom to the next higher preset value when you click the preview image. Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) to use the next lower zoom value. Drag the Zoom tool in the preview image to zoom in on a selected area. To return to 100%, double-click the Zoom tool.
- Hand tool
Moves the image in the preview window if the preview image is set at a zoom level higher than 100%. Hold down the spacebar to temporarily activate the Hand tool while using another tool. Double-click the Hand tool to fit the preview image to the window.
- Select Zoom Level
Choose a magnification setting from the menu or click the Select Zoom Level buttons.
Displays a preview of the image adjustments made in the current tab, combined with the settings in the other tabs. Deselect to show the image with the original settings of the current tab combined with the settings in the other tabs.
Beginning with version 8.4 for Photoshop CC, Camera Raw provides advanced Preview controls that let you quickly compare the Before/After states of an image:
- Save the current settings as the Before state of the image
Swap the current settings and the saved Before state settings. The current settings are saved as the Before state, and the settings previously saved as the Before state are applied to the image
Select a mode for displaying the preview
- See only the After settings applied to the image
- Before/After settings applied to the left and right halves of the image
- Before/After settings applied to the whole image and displayed side-by-side
- Before/After settings applied to the top and bottom halves of the image
- Before/After settings applied to the whole image and displayed vertically for quick comparison
Shows the red, green, and blue values of the pixel under the pointer in the preview image.
Shadows and Highlights
Displays shadow and highlight clipping using the buttons at the top of the Histogram. Clipped shadows appear in blue, and clipped highlights appear in red. Highlight clipping is shown if any one of the three RGB channels is clipped (fully saturated with no detail). Shadow clipping is shown if all three RGB channels are clipped (black with no detail).
The Camera Raw image adjustment tabs are:
Adjust white balance, color saturation, and tonality.
Fine-tune tonality using a Parametric curve and a Point curve.
Sharpen images or reduce noise.
HSL / Grayscale
Fine-tune colors using Hue, Saturation, and Luminance adjustments.
Color monochrome images or create special effects with color images.
Compensate for chromatic aberration, geometric distortions, and vignetting caused by the camera lens.
Simulate film grain or apply a postcrop vignette.
Apply camera profiles to raw images to correct color casts and adjust non-neutral colors to compensate for the behavior of a camera’s image sensor.
Save and apply sets of image adjustments as presets.
Create versions of a photo that record its state at any point during the editing process.
Video tutorial: Compare Camera Raw adjustments before and after
When you view camera raw files in Adobe Bridge, the thumbnails and previews use either the default settings or your adjusted settings. The Adobe Bridge cache stores data for the file thumbnails, metadata, and file information. Caching this data shortens the loading time when you return to a previously viewed folder in Adobe Bridge. The Camera Raw cache speeds the opening of images in Camera Raw and rebuilds of previews in Adobe Bridge when image settings change in Camera Raw.
Because caches can become very large, you may want to purge the Camera Raw cache or limit its size. You can also purge and regenerate the cache if you suspect that it is corrupted or old.
The Camera Raw cache holds data for about 200 images for each gigabyte of disk storage allocated to it. By default, the Camera Raw cache is set to a maximum size of 1 GB. You can increase its limit in the Camera Raw preferences.
Camera Raw and Lightroom share the same image-processing technology to ensure consistent and compatible results across applications. For Camera Raw to view image adjustments made in the Develop module of Lightroom, metadata changes must be saved to XMP in Lightroom.
Adjustments made in Camera Raw are also displayed in the Adobe Bridge Content and Preview panels.
To view Lightroom changes in Camera Raw, and to ensure that Camera Raw adjustments can be viewed in Lightroom and Adobe Bridge, do the following:
Camera Raw reads only the current settings for the primary image in the Lightroom catalog. Adjustments made to virtual copies are not displayed or available in Camera Raw.