Home / Photo Editing / 44 Adobe Camera Raw tips, tricks, shortcuts and time-savers

44 Adobe Camera Raw tips, tricks, shortcuts and time-savers

We delve deeper into Adobe Camera Raw than ever before to find the hidden delights, handy tips, tricks and little-known features that will help to give your raw images the edge.

01 Before and After views
The buttons in the bottom right corner of the image display give you a set of useful preview options for comparing the before and after of your edits.

The left icon that looks like a Y gives you different split-screen before/after views, such as horizontal or vertical comparisons and splits (hold your mouse button down on the icon to choose from the list, or click to toggle between each). The second and third icons enable you to toggle between before and after settings.

SEE MORE: Adobe Camera Raw – the secret to using it for just about anything

Camera Raw tips: 02 Scrubby zooming

02 Scrubby zooming
The latest CC versions of Camera Raw feature ‘scrubby zooming’, which means, as long as your graphics card can handle it, you can drag right or left with the zoom tool to fly in and out of your image.

To make sure the feature is enabled, click the Preferences button in the toolbar at the top and check Use Graphics Processor in the Performance tab.

When using another tool, such as the Spot Removal tool, you can hold Cmd/Ctrl to temporarily switch to the Zoom tool, so it’s easier and quicker than ever to retouch an image by jumping in close to different areas.

SEE MORE: 55 photo editing tips and tricks to live by

Camera Raw tips: 03 Cache size

03 Cache size
If you’re in the habit of bringing lots of images into Camera Raw at once, you might notice that the images take a second or two to display, in which case increase the cache size in the Preferences menu. The larger the size, the greater the number of image previews Adobe Camera Raw can hold.

SEE MORE: 10 Photoshop mistakes photographers make (and how to avoid them)

Camera raw tips: Camera Raw tips: 04 Sync settings


04 Sync settings
When several images are opened together in Camera Raw, you can edit them all at once in two different ways. Either select several in the filmstrip by Cmd/Ctrl-clicking them, and then begin your edits.

Alternatively, edit a single image first, then select several and use the Sync settings option in the top-left drop-down menu.

This second option has the added benefit that you can choose exactly which edits are synced – useful if, for example, you need to batch-fix a recurring sensor mark, but leave the other settings untouched.

SEE MORE: Batch processing – how to edit multiple photos in ACR

05 You don’t even need to open Photoshop!
Bridge can ‘host’ Camera Raw, so there’s no need to have Photoshop open. Simply open Bridge, then right click an image and choose Open in Camera Raw.

06 Reset sliders
Double click any slider to reset it.

07 Snapshots and Presets
Use the Snapshot panel to save noteworthy points in your workflow, and the Presets panel to save settings for use on other images.

08 Camera Raw defaults
Sometimes you just want to get rid of everything you’ve done to an image and start afresh. Click the flyout menu next to the panels and choose Camera Raw defaults.

SEE MORE: How to cut out people like a professional using the Refine Edge tool

Camera raw tips: 09 Must-know navigation shortcuts

09 Must-know navigation shortcuts
Use Cmd/Ctrl + or – to zoom in or out, and hold down the space bar to drag around the image when zoomed in.

SEE MORE: What to edit (and when) in ACR

Camera Raw tips: 10 Speedy Spot colour

10 Speedy Spot colour
The Targeted Adjustment tool can give you a rough-and-ready spot-colour effect in seconds. Right click with the tool, choose Saturation, then drag down over the colours you want to remove.

SEE MORE: How to remove bad colour casts in ACR

Camera Raw tips: 11 Fix the White Balance

11 Fix the White Balance
One of the great advantages of shooting in raw mode is that the files hold more colour information than JPEGs, which means you can use the raw colour data to adjust the white balance after taking the shot to correct colour shifts and inconsistencies. To do this, simply grab the White Balance tool, then look for a colour in the scene that should be either white or grey, such as the rocks in this picture.

SEE MORE: 5 creative editing tricks to use in ACR

Camera Raw tips: 12 Check for marks

12 Check for marks
The Visualise spots check box in the Spot Removal tool settings is ideal for those with dirty sensors. Check it for a clear black-and-white view of the marks.

13 Jump to 100% view
Double click the Zoom tool to jump to a 100% view – useful for judging sharpening and noise reduction – then double click the Hand tool to jump back out and fit the whole image on the screen.

14 Toggle crops
When using the Crop tool, press X to toggle between a vertical or horizontal orientation.

15 Custom Cropping
When using the Crop tool, right click the image to choose a proportion such as 2:3 or 1:1. Tap A to switch to the Level tool, then drag along the horizon.

SEE MORE: 8 tools that will save your raw files in ACR

Camera Raw tips: 16 Remove wires

16 Remove wires
When using the Spot Removal tool to get rid of wires in a landscape, click one end, then hold Shift and click the other end to draw a straight line and fix the whole thing in one go.

SEE MORE: How to retouch photos like a professional – 9 ways to polish off your photos

Camera Raw tips: 17 Monochrome in a split second

17 Monochrome in a split second
Grab the Targeted Adjustment tool from the Tools panel, right click and choose Grayscale Mix for a speedy mono conversion, then fine-tune the image by dragging up or down over points in the image to lighten or darken them.

Camera Raw tips: 18 Save adjustments

18 Save adjustments
If you find that you make a similar adjustment lots of times, then save time by storing the adjustment as a New Local Adjustment Setting in the flyout menu at the top right of the Adjustment Brush settings. When you want to make the same edit, choose the adjustment from the menu to quickly load up the brush with the right settings.

SEE MORE: Adjustment brushes – how to make quick, localised tweaks in ACR

Camera Raw tips: 19 Double dose of clarity

19 Double dose of clarity
If you’re a fan of crisp details, sometimes setting +100 Clarity in the Basic panel just isn’t enough. In which case, grab the Graduated Filter tool, load it with extra Clarity, then click the space outside the image and drag away from it. This will double the amount of Clarity added.

SEE MORE: 7 things you didn’t know about RAW

Camera Raw tips: 20 Smooth skin

20 Smooth skin
For soft, silky skin in seconds, grab the Adjustment Brush, click the minus icon next to the Clarity slider on the right to dial in negative Clarity to about -50, then paint over the skin, being careful not to go over areas of detail like the eyes and lips.

SEE MORE: 5 ways to get natural skin tones in portraits

Camera raw tips: 21 Straight grads

21 Straight grads
Hold down Shift to snap graduated filter lines to horizontal, vertical or at 45 degrees – helpful when darkening a sky.


Camera Raw tips: Camera raw tips: 21 Straight grads

22 Copy a pin
Hold down Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt and drag an adjustment pin to make a copy – ideal for copying adjustments from one eye across to the other, for instance.

SEE MORE: 101 Photoshop tips you really have to try

Camera Raw tips: 23 Add a rough border with Grads

23 Add a rough border with Grads
For a rough-and- ready border effect that mimics the look of old film borders, load the Graduated Filter tool with -4.00 negative exposure, then drag a few short lines inwards at the edges of the frame to add dark, thick lines to the image.

24 Quick vignette
Cmd/Ctrl-double click with the Radial Filter tool to add a circular blend that extends to the edges of the image. This is perfect for quickly adding vignette effects to the corners of your pictures.

25 Reset your adjustments
When using the Adjustment Brush, the tool remembers the previous settings. To simultaneously load the tool with a new setting and also reset everything else, simply click the plus or minus icon next to any slider.

26 Feather shortcuts
When using the Adjustment Brush, press ] or [ to resize the brush tip, and Shift+] or [ to adjust the size of the feathering around the brush tip.

27 Shift a circle
While dragging a circle with the Radial Filter tool, holding down the space bar will allow you to shift its position while you drag.

28 Erase a mask
Hold Alt while painting with the Adjustment Brush to erase parts of a mask.

SEE MORE: 8 Lightroom mistakes every photographer makes (and how to fix them)

Camera Raw tips: 29 Auto-mask

29 Auto-mask
The Adjustment Brush Auto-Mask feature transforms the brush by making it seek out and snap on to colours that are similar to the first colour you click when using it, making it much easier to isolate objects and shapes for adjustment.


Camera Raw tips: 30 Use the old Fill Light slider

30 Use the old Fill Light slider
If you find the Basic panel’s Shadows slider just isn’t lifting your shadows as much as you’d like, then there’s a hidden cheat you can use.

Go to the Camera Calibration panel and change the Process version to 2010, then go back to the Basic panel, and you’ll find the Fill Light slider. For some reason, the old Fill Light slider is more extreme than the Shadows slider that replaced it.

SEE MORE: 6 essential Lightroom edits you can apply to any image

Camera Raw tips: 31 Check for clipped pixels

31 Check for clipped pixels
Clipped pixels are either pure white or pure black, and are entirely lacking in detail, so it’s usually best not to have too many in your photos.

To check for clipped pixels in the highlights or shadows of an image, press either O (for over-exposed) or U (for under-exposed) to toggle the clipping warnings on and off.

Alternatively, Alt-drag any of the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites or Blacks sliders for a view of the image that displays the clipped pixels very clearly.

SEE MORE: How to recover clipped highlight detail in your over-exposed photos

Camera Raw tips: 32 Interactive Histogram

32 Interactive Histogram
The histogram is interactive, so you can drag different parts of the graph to adjust those areas of the tonal range, from the blacks on the left to the whites on the right – useful both for fine-tuning tones, and also for understanding how histograms work.


Camera Raw tips: 33 Mask your sharpening

33 Mask your sharpening
Often we don’t want to sharpen all of our images, just the areas of detail. After applying sharpening in the Detail panel, hold Alt and drag the Masking slider. The black areas that appear will be excluded from the sharpening effect.

SEE MORE: ACR sharpening tools – how to restore detail and keep noise at bay

Camera Raw tips: 34 Preview split-tone colours

34 Preview split-tone colours
When using the Hue sliders in the Split Tone panel to add tints, hold Alt while dragging to preview the colour at 100%. This makes it easier to judge the colour first.

35 Automatic sliders
Shift-double click any of the first eight Basic panel sliders to apply an auto correction to each individual setting.

36 Try Camera Profiles
The Camera Calibration panel can be a useful first stop in the editing process. Try different camera profiles to change the look of tones and colours.

SEE MORE: 7 best colour controls in Photoshop (and how to use them)

Camera Raw tips: 37 Desaturate portraits

37 Desaturate portraits
If you want to give your portraits a trendy desaturated look, try lowering Saturation, then increasing Vibrance in the Basic panel. Or vice versa if you prefer more vibrant colours.


Camera Raw tips: 38 Tweak monos with Temp and Tint

38 Tweak monos with Temp and Tint
After converting an image to monochrome with the HSL/Grayscale panel, you can go back to the Basic panel and experiment with Temp and Tint to fine-tune the look of the black-and-white effect.


Camera Raw tips: 39 Add haze to landscapes

39 Add haze to landscapes
Found in the FX panel, the new Dehaze command enables you to cut through atmospheric haze in your landscape scenes, but it also does a great job when used in reverse to add haziness to scenes. This is useful when you want to add a dreamy atmosphere to your landscapes.

SEE MORE: Photoshop Curves tool – 6 techniques every photographer should know

Camera Raw tips: 40 Soft proof for printing

40 Soft proof for printing
The workflow options (accessible via the blue link below the image) not only enable you to choose a colour space, but also to soft-proof your image by displaying different ICC print profiles in the Color Space options. You can also choose to simulate the paper and ink you’re using to get a more accurate idea of how your print will look.

SEE MORE: 11 photo printing mistakes photographers make (and how to avoid them)

Camera Raw tips: 41 Open as a Smart Object

41 Open as a Smart Object
To open an image in Photoshop from Camera Raw as a Smart Object, hold Shift and the Open Image button changes to Open Object. Once done, you can double click the Smart Object layer in the Layers panel to send the image back to Adobe Camera Raw.

42 16-bit Tiffs
If you’re planning on taking the photograph further with heavy editing in Photoshop, and you want the best possible image quality with the most colours, choose to output the file as a 16-bit Tiff in the workflow options.

43 Bypass Camera raw
If you’d rather bypass Adobe Camera Raw and open a raw file straight into Photoshop, hold down Shift and double click the file in Adobe Bridge. This will process the raw file with the default Adobe Camera Raw settings.

SEE MORE: Best photo editing tips for beginners: 18 quick fixes to common image problems

Camera Raw tips: 44 Crop and print

44 Crop and print
You can prepare images for printing directly from Camera Raw. Use the Crop tool to crop to specific dimensions, then go to the Image Sizing options, check Resize to Fit and choose the width, height and resolution.


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