Today’s Question: Is there any advantage to using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop to process JPEG images? I just learned that this is possible with JPEG and TIFF images, but I’m not sure if this is something I should add to my workflow.
Tim’s Quick Answer: There is no advantage in terms of general image quality related to using Adobe Camera Raw versus other adjustment options (such as within Photoshop). However, there are some features of Adobe Camera Raw that provide better results than other tools, and some photographers simply find Adobe Camera Raw easier to use.
More Detail: As the name suggests, Adobe Camera Raw is primarily focused on processing RAW captures. This relates to the fact that most RAW captures don’t contain full pixel values, since the individual pixels on an imaging sensor don’t capture all of the information required for the final photo. RAW processing software calculates the full pixel values based on the data actually captured by the image sensor in the camera.
While performing this task, of course, it makes sense to apply adjustments to optimize the overall appearance of the photo. In some cases the application of those adjustments during the RAW processing step of the workflow can improve overall image quality. Other adjustments in RAW processing software are applied after the RAW capture has been converted to actual pixel values, and thus don’t provide a benefit in the context of RAW processing versus general image adjustments.
However, Adobe Camera Raw does provide excellent results for some of the adjustments, and in some cases a workflow advantage as well. For example, I have found that the noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw (and by extension the Lightroom Develop module) is excellent, and so I prefer to employ this software for reducing noise in my photos.
Other adjustments, such as the “Guided” Upright feature in the Transform tool, provide a workflow advantage, making it easier to apply certain adjustments. With this type of example you aren’t necessarily getting an image quality advantage, but the workflow advantage can be significant in some cases.
In addition to the ability to process JPEG and TIFF images (in addition to RAW captures) with Adobe Camera Raw directly, you can also apply Adobe Camera Raw as a filter to any image using the Filter > Camera Raw Filter option from the menu in Photoshop.
And to learn more about optimizing your RAW captures using Adobe Camera Raw, check out my new video course, “Optimizing with Adobe Camera Raw”, available here: