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Chapter 4. Camera Raw Controls: Digital ... > Camera Raw Static Controls

Camera Raw Static Controls

The static controls, which appear all the time in Camera Raw, fall into several groups: the Tool palette; the rotate buttons; the Preview controls; the main control buttons; the histogram; the RGB readout; the Settings menu; and the Camera Raw menu. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

The Tool Palette

Camera Raw’s Tool palette contains six tools, three from the previous version, plus three new ones. See Figure 4-7.

Figure 4-7. Camera Raw Tool palette

Zoom and pan

The zoom (magnifying glass) and pan (grabber hand) tools work just like their Photoshop counterparts.


Use Keyboard Shortcuts for Fast Navigation. Choose the zoom and pan tools from the Tool palette if you get paid by the hour! If you want to work quickly, there are much faster ways to navigate. First, you can always get the zoom tool by holding down the Command key (Mac) or Ctrl key (Windows). To zoom out, add Option/Alt. For the pan tool, hold down the spacebar. Or, press Z for the zoom tool and H for the hand tool.

But all the other zoom shortcuts for Photoshop also work in Camera Raw. Command -+ zooms in, Command -- (minus) zooms out. Command-0 (zero) fits the entire image in the preview, as does double-clicking the hand tool, and Command-Option-0 (zero) or double-clicking the zoom tool zooms to Actual Pixels view, where one image pixel equals one screen pixel. So use them!

White balance

The white balance tool (press I), however, works differently from the white eyedroppers that appear elsewhere in Photoshop.The white balance tool lets you set the white balance by clicking on the image. Unlike the white eyedropper in Levels or Curves, it doesn’t allow you to choose a source color, and it doesn’t affect the luminance of the image. Instead, it lets you set the white balance—the color temperature and tint—for the capture by clicking on pixels you think should be neutral.

Don’t confuse the white balance tool with the gray eyedropper tool offered by Photoshop’s Levels command, which is designed to balance a midtone gray. Camera Raw’s white balance tool works best on light grays close to diffuse highlight values.


Click-Balance on Diffuse Highlights. The white balance tool is best used on a diffuse highlight white that still contains detail, rather than on a specular highlight that’s pure white—the second-to-lightest gray patch on the old 24-patch Macbeth ColorChecker works well, as do bright (but not blown-out) clouds.

Click-balancing with the white balance tool provides a very quick way to set color temperature and tint simultaneously. You can always fine-tune the results using the individual Temperature and Tint controls in the Adjust tab, which we’ll cover in due course.

Color samplers

The new color sampler tool (press S) lets you place up to nine individual color samplers, each of which gets its own readout, in the image. See Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8. The color sampler tool

Combined with the static RGB readout, the color sampler tool lets you monitor the values of up to 10 different locations in the image, which should be enough for any reasonable use!


The new crop tool (press C) lets you drag a freeform crop, choose one of several common predefined aspect ratios, or define your own custom aspect ratio from the tool’s pull-down menu. The same menu allows you to clear the crop. SeeFigure 4-9.

Figure 4-9. The crop tool and menu

The Camera Raw preview always shows the crop in the context of the whole image, but the crop is applied to filmstrip previews, to Bridge previews and thumbnails, and of course to the image itself when you open it in Photoshop.


The new straighten tool (press A) is an enormous time-saver for those of us who occasionally fail to keep their horizons horizontal. The reason that it’s an enormous time-saver is that it should really be called the straighten and crop tool—it not only straightens the image, it also automatically applies the crop that maintains the maximum rectangular image when the crop tool is set to Normal, or a straightened crop of the specified aspect ratio when the crop tool is set to something else. If there’s an existing crop, it’s preserved and rotated. Clearing the crop using the crop tool’s menu also clears the rotation.

If you’ve ever futzed with the tedious process of straightening and cropping an image in Photoshop using the measure tool, Arbitrary Rotate, and the crop tool, you’ll be delighted by the speed and simplicity of the straighten tool. Camera Raw’s preview always shows the crop rectangle on the uncropped, unstraightened image, but the thumbnails and previews in Bridge show the straightened cropped version you get when you open the image in Photoshop. Straighten and crop the raw image once, and the image is straightened and cropped each time it’s opened. See Figure 4-10.

Figure 4-10. Straighten and crop

Drag the straighten tool to define a horizontal or vertical.

A rotated crop appears in Camera Raw. The cropping and rotation are applied to the Bridge thumbnail and preview (below) and to the image when it’s opened in Photoshop.

Rotate buttons

The Rotate 90 Degrees Left and Right buttons (press L and R, respectively) aren’t strictly speaking tools, in that you don’t have to do anything inside the image preview, but since they’re placed in such close proximity to the tool palette, we may as well deal with them here.Clicking on them, or pressing their keyboard shortcut, immediately applies a rotation to Camera Raw’s preview. When you finish editing the image in Camera Raw, the rotation is applied to Bridge’s thumbnails and previews, and is honored whenever you open the raw image in Photoshop.

The Preview Controls

Two sets of controls affect the preview image. The Zoom buttons and the Zoom level menu control the size of the preview image, while the Preview, Shadows, and Highlights checkboxes affect its content.

Zoom Level menu

The Zoom Level menu lets you choose a zoom level for the image preview—zoom in to check fine details, zoom out to see the global effects of your adjustments on the image (but go back and reread the earlier tip, “Use Keyboard Shortcuts for Fast Navigation”—they really are much faster). See Figure 4-11.

Figure 4-11. Zoom controls

Preview, Shadows, and Highlights checkboxes

The functionality of the Preview checkbox (press P) has changed in Camera Raw 3.0—it applies only to the current editing tab, toggling between its current settings and those that were in effect when you opened the image. It has no effect on changes you’ve made in other tabs. The old functionality is still available—to see the settings that applied before you opened the image, toggle between Image Settings and Custom on the Settings menu—see Figure 4-12.

Figure 4-12. Toggling previews

The Preview checkbox toggles the settings in the current editing tab, in this case, Curve.

For a before-and-after of all the edits you’ve made since opening the image in Camera Raw, choose Image Settings from the Settings menu to see the settings that were in effect when you opened the image, and Custom to see the current settings from all the editing tabs.

The Shadows and Highlights checkboxes (press U—for underexposed—and O—for overexposed, respectively) provide a quick way to check for shadow and highlight clipping. These are most useful for a quick check on the state of the image—see Figure 4-13. For a more nuanced clipping display that’s more useful when you’re actually making adjustments, you can hold down the Option/Alt key while dragging the Exposure or Shadows slider. See “The Adjust Tab,” later in this chapter for more detail on clipping and clipping displays.

Figure 4-13. Shadows and Highlights clipping display

The Shadows and Highlights checkboxes show highlight clipping in red, and shadow clipping in blue.


Use Keyboard Shortcut for Shadow Clipping. While the highlight clip is visually obvious, the dark blue overlay of the shadow clip is often less so. Pressing U to toggle the Shadows clipping on and off makes it much easier to see.

The Histogram and RGB Readout

The histogram and the RGB readout provide information about the current state of the image. The histogram displays the histograms of the red, green, and blue channels that will be created by the current conversion settings, not the histogram of the raw image (which would look strange since digital cameras capture at linear gamma—all the image data would be scrunched over to the left).

The histogram lets you check exposure—a white spike at both ends indicates clipping of shadows and highlights because the scene dynamic range was more than the camera could capture, space at both ends of the histogram indicates that you’ve captured the entire scene dynamic range, and a white spike at one end shows that you may need to adjust the Exposure or Shadows slider to avoid clipping. A colored spike at either end may indicate gamut clipping, or tonal clipping in one or two channels—see Figure 1-7 in Chapter 1, Digital Camera Raw. If the clipping disappears when you set the Space in the Workflow Settings to ProPhoto RGB, you can be certain that it’s showing gamut clipping from a smaller output space.

A red, green, or blue spike indicates color clipping in that channel. A cyan spike indicates clipping in both green and blue, a magenta spike indicates clipping in both red and blue, and a yellow spike indicates clipping in both red and green, so with a very little practice, the histogram can show you at a glance exactly what’s happening to your endpoints at the current image settings. See Figure 4-14.

Figure 4-14. The histogram and the RGB readout

The RGB readout shows the values of the pixels under the cursor. The histogram is a bar chart that displays the relative pixel count at different levels. It’s mostly useful for checking exposure and clipping.

Clipping isn’t always bad, and if the scene dynamic range exceeds that of the camera, it’s inevitable. If you see one- or two-channel clipping at the shadow end when the Space is set to ProPhoto RGB, you’re probably driving the color into science-fiction territory, so check the setting of the Saturation slider. If an image contains no white objects, though, you may see single-color clipping at the highlight end, even in ProPhoto RGB.

The RGB readout shows the RGB values that will result from the conversion at the current settings—it shows the RGB value for the pixel under the cursor. The RGB readout always reads 5-by-5 screen pixels at zoom levels of 100% or less, so it may give different values at different zoom levels. When you fit the entire image into Camera Raw’s preview, you’re sampling an average of a fairly large number of pixels—the exact number depends on both the camera’s native resolution and the size you’ve chosen from the Size menu in the workflow controls (see “Camera Raw Workflow Controls,” later in this chapter). At zoom levels greater than 100%, the sample size is always 5 x 5 actual image pixels.

The Settings Menu

The Settings menu lets you apply any saved Camera Raw settings (see Figure 4-15). The items that always appear are Image Settings, Camera Raw Default, Previous Conversion, and Custom.

Figure 4-15. The Settings menu

Image Settings

Image Settings indicates that you’ve previously applied edits to the image. If you’re working on an image, choosing Image Settings will show you the settings that were in effect before you started editing. If the image is brand-new and has never been edited, Image Settings is the same as the next item, Camera Raw Default.

Camera Raw Defaults

Camera Raw Defaults is what it says—it’s the default setting that applies to all images unless and until you override them. If you find that the shipping default settings aren’t to your liking, you can set your own Camera Raw Defaults for each supported camera model, or if you get yourself in a mess by doing so, you can return Camera Raw to the shipping default settings using the appropriate commands from the Camera Raw menu—see the next section, “The Camera Raw Menu.”

Previous Conversion

Choosing Previous Conversion applies the settings from the last image you opened in Camera Raw to the current image. This is somewhat useful for editing a series of similar images, but there are better ways to do so—see “Filmstrip Mode” in Chapter 5, Hands-On Camera Raw, and “Apply Camera Raw Settings” in Chapter 6, Adobe Bridge.


Custom denotes the current settings you’re applying in Camera Raw. As previously mentioned in “The Preview Controls,” earlier in this chapter, you can toggle between Image Settings and Custom to compare your current edits with the ones that were in effect when you opened the image in Camera Raw.

You can also save your own custom settings as presets, which then become available from this menu. It’s easy to overlook the mechanism for doing so, though, because it lives on the Camera Raw menu, which besides being one of the most important of the static controls, is also (for reasons unknown) unlabeled.

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