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Chapter 4. The File Browser > Applying Camera Raw Settings

Applying Camera Raw Settings

The slowest possible way to process raw images in Photoshop CS is to open them one by one, make adjustments in Camera Raw, click OK to open the image in Photoshop, and then save it. Unless you're working for an hourly rate, I don't recommend this as a workflow.

Instead, I usually apply Camera Raw settings to each image as metadata using the Apply Camera Raw Settings command from the Edit menu—see Figure 4-20. Then I either open all the images at once or run a batch process so that I don't have to wait for Camera Raw to process each image individually. Much of the time, the goal is simply to deal with a lot of images and try to make them all good. When I've whittled the workload down to the few that I'll try to make perfect, I may revisit each one in Camera Raw and apply carefully customized settings to make them perfect, but even then I'll almost certainly run a batch process to convert them and prepare them for final editing in Photoshop.

Figure 4-20. Apply Camera Raw Settings

The outlined images all need similar edits.

I select all the images that need the same edit, and choose Apply Camera Raw Settings from the File Browser's Edit menu. Then I simply choose First Selected Image from the Settings menu, and click Update.

The edits I made to the first image are applied to all the other images in the selection. Later, I may return to each image and fine-tune the individual settings, but this is a very quick way to apply ballpark edits to lots of images.

Applying one image's settings to others

The simplest way to process a bunch of similar images is to edit one in Camera Raw and then apply those edits to the others. With a contiguous series of images, I edit the first one, then select both the edited image and the other similar candidates—I just go to the last image in the series and Shift-click. Then I choose ApplyCamera Raw Settings from the File Browser's Edit menu and choose First Selected Image from Camera Raw's Settings menu.

With noncontiguous images, I again edit the first one in Camera Raw. Then I select the other images by Command-clicking, choose Apply Camera Raw Settings from the File Browser's Edit menu, and choose Previous Conversion from Camera Raw's Settings menu.

Working with saved settings subsets

Often, I need to apply more individualized settings to each image, so one of the first things I did when I first started working with Camera Raw was to save subsets of settings that I could apply to images. In addition to creating Calibrate settings, I've created saved settings for exposure adjustments in 0.25-stop increments, and Brightness and Contrast adjustments in increments of 10 units—see Figure 4-21. I've played with saving White Balance adjustments, but thus far I've found them less useful because I usually need to adjust the Temperature and Tint controls interactively. But I almost invariably shoot with available light. If you shoot in the studio under controlled lighting, you may find it worthwhile to save White Balance settings too. See “Saving Settings” in Chapter 3, Using Camera Raw.

Figure 4-21. Working with saved settings

These settings are all saved as presets in Camera Raw's Presets folder. Each one updates a single parameter, Exposure, Brightness, or Contrast.

Obviously there's a trade-off between the number of settings you save and the ease with which you can find and apply them. If you create hundreds of subsets, your Camera Raw Settings menu will become very long and unmanageable. After you've spent some time applying settings from the File Browser, it should be apparent which settings are really useful to you and exactly what trade-off you need to make between the number of saved settings and the usability of the Camera Raw Settings menu.

The key to being productive when applying subsets is to apply them to all the images that need them simultaneously, which boils down to selectingimages that all need the same (or very similar) treatment. For example, I may look for all the images that need a +0.25-stop exposure boost, then for the ones that need a half-stop, and so on. The image thumbnails and previews update to reflect the new settings, so checking the preview at a reasonably large size gives me a good idea of their effect.

Opening images

Once you've applied settings to an image or images, you can open them and bypass the Camera Raw dialog box by Shift-double-clicking. (If you're opening multiple images, Shift-double-click on the last one; otherwise you'll just change the selection.) Add Option if you also want to close the File Browser.

Camera Raw then processes the images using their assigned settings and opens the converted images in Photoshop. However, if I'm dealing with more than a handful of images, I almost invariably run a batch process instead, by choosing Batch from the File Browser's Automate menu—see Figure 4-22.

Figure 4-22. Batch dialog box

This batch process converts the selected images using each image's individual settings. It then calls an action that sharpens, adds an adjustment layer, and saves the layered file as a TIFF, adding a four-digit serial number to the original document name.

Using Batch

The Batch feature lets you process images with Camera Raw and, optionally, rename and save them to a different location, while also applying an action. Including an action in the batch allows for tremendous flexibility in automating different tasks. For example, I use one action to batch the creation of 1,024-pixel JPEGs and another to save 16-bit/channel TIFFs with adjustment layers included ready for editing, using Zip compression to save storage space. Actions like these save me hours of repetitive grunt work, which is after all what computers are supposed to do.

There are, however, a few stumbling blocks that can trip you up when you first try to implement this kind of automation.

  • If you want the batch process to save the images in a specific format, you need to record the saving steps as part of the action you'll call for the batch.

  • If you want to bypass the Camera Raw interface when you run the batch, you must check Suppress File Open Options Dialogs in the Batch dialog box (see Figure 4-22). It's probably a good idea to check Suppress Color Profile Warnings too, just in case your working space isn't set the way you thought it was. (It's always frustrating to start a batch process, go for lunch, then come back to find that the Profile Mismatch warning for the first image is sitting on the screen waiting for input.)

  • If your action included a save, you must check Override Action “Save As” Commands. Otherwise the batch will try to save each file under the name you used for the save when you recorded the action, and it will stop on the second image when Photoshop asks you if you want to replace the previous image of the same name.

Figure 4-23 shows the two aforementioned actions, one for creating JPEGs that are converted to sRGB after the sharpening and resizing have been carried out on the 16-bit/channel ProPhoto RGB file, and another that prepares images for final editing in Photoshop by adding adjustment layers set to Multiply, Screen, and Overlay, and named Darken, Lighten, and Contrast, respectively. The action turns off the layers' visibility so that when I open the image, I see it with no adjustments—that way it's easy for me to decide what it needs, turn on the appropriate layers, and tweak their opacities to get the desired effect. I'll look at actions, batch processing, and other automation features in much more detail in Chapter 7, Exploiting Automation.

Figure 4-23. Useful actions

This action, when included in a batch, opens the raw image and converts it to a 16-bit/channel RGB image using the assigned Camera Raw settings. It then applies Pixel Genius's PhotoKit Capture Sharpener, downsizes the image to sRGB, downsamples to 8 bits/channel, and saves the result as a JPEG with a quality of 10

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