Raw Filter versus Conversion


Today’s Question: What is the difference in effect on my image between making an adjustment in Camera Raw while in Bridge versus making the same adjustment with the Camera Raw filter after the image file is in Photoshop?  Is the adjustment better done in Bridge?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic effect applied to the images is the same whether you’re using Adobe Camera Raw to process an image or the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop. The key difference is that when processing a RAW capture in Adobe Camera Raw, you are taking advantage of the benefits of some of the adjustments being applied as part of the RAW conversion process. In other words, in both cases you are applying the same adjustments, but you are applying them to different data.

More Detail: As you may be aware, when you capture a RAW image the source file only contains one value for each pixel. In other words, for each pixel in the capture, only a red, green, or blue value is recorded (with some exceptions). The process of “filling in the gaps” is referred to as demosaicing, and there are benefits to including adjustments as part of this process in terms of retaining detail and improving quality.

Therefore, I highly recommend applying at least basic tonal and color adjustments during the conversion of the RAW capture, to ensure the best starting point for your image. In many respects I think it is reasonable to compare the RAW conversion process to the original capture. Just as you want to ensure the best initial capture, being careful to produce a good result from a RAW conversion can have a big impact on the final image.

The Camera Raw filter in Photoshop simply provides the same basic adjustments found in Adobe Camera Raw for images that have already been processed from a RAW capture to actual pixel values. You can therefore use the Camera Raw filter at any time while working on your photo to apply adjustments if you are more comfortable with the options available in Camera Raw compared to the other adjustment options found in Photoshop.