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Book Review: Photoshop CS3 RAW – Get the Most Out of the Raw Format with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Bridge by Mikkel Aaland

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In the old days, say 5-10 years ago, to do quality photographic imaging, one would have to go into the chemical darkroom, spend hours in isolation from others, while working in the dark. The advent of digital processing has brought the photographer back into the light, and has changed the way that we look at, and work with images.

The tools and the media may have changed, but the search for the quality image has not. With the onset of digital capture came a new concept, that of the digital negative, or the RAW file. While JPEG's are convenient and easy to use, by their inherent nature they throw away a lot of the data that the camera has captured, and that loss of data is permanent. The RAW file retains that information, and that gives the photographer the power and control over their image much in the same way the film photographer had in days gone by.

Photoshop CS3 RAW: Get the Most Out of the Raw Format with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Bridge is all about how to process that RAW file. Like the film negative, you can take the RAW file and just process it using common methods, and what you will get is a common image. But, as in the days of old when you would go into the darkroom, you can now work with a RAW processor application such as Adobe Camera Raw, and with some tender loving care, you can get the same spectacular image that you could with a negative. Photoshop CS3 RAW's goal is to show you how to get that spectacular image. The book is 251 pages in length and is divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Shooting RAW," begins by looking at the critical things you need to know before you start shooting RAW. These include the basic questions of why shoot RAW in the first place, when to shoot RAW, and the difference between RAW and JPEG. Chapter 2, "Using Adobe's Photo Downloader," describes Adobe Bridge which is a standalone application that comes with Photoshop CS3. By using its downloader application you can extract the images from your camera.

Chapter 3, "Photo Editing RAW in Bridge," continues with the Bridge application although now, however, it focuses on the Bridge application itself. By using Bridge, you can preview your images, work with Metadata, create a custom workspace, rename files, and edit a photo session. Chapter 4, "Getting Started with Camera Raw," gets into the meat of RAW processing by giving you an overview of the basic controls and features of Camera Raw. These include workflow, the Camera Raw tools, and analysis in Camera Raw.

Chapter 5, "Photo Editing with Camera Raw," takes you beyond the editing seen in Chapter 3 to the editing power in Camera Raw. Here you will work with analytical tools like the histogram, magnification levels, the ability to open and work with multiple images, as well as synchronizing to apply your corrections in a batch mode. Chapter 6, "Using Camera Raw Basic Tab Controls," shows that while Camera Raw can do much of the computational work in the background, there are a lot of tools available that will help you get the image the way you want it. Here you will learn how to get more advanced control over the color and tone of your images.

Chapter 7, "Advanced Tonal Control," will show you how to work with the more advanced controls of Tone Curve and HSL/Grayscale tabs. You will also learn about the Camera Calibration tab that will allow you to create a custom look based on your camera.

Chapter 8, "Sharpening RAW," explains how almost every RAW file needs some sharpening to counter the effect of blurring that occurs at some stage of your capture and/or image processing. Here you will learn about both the new Camera Raw tools as well as Photoshop's Smart Sharpen filter.

Chapter 9, "Reducing Noise, Correcting Chromatic Aberrations, and Controlling Vignetting" explains that even though all cameras can produce some form of electronic defects, using Camera Raw you can reduce the effects of these defects. Chapter 10, "Converting RAW to Black and White, Toning, and Special Effects," will cover what is needed to use Camera Raw to convert your images to Black-and-White.

Chapter 11, "Archiving and Working with DNG," explores what a digital negative is and how it will affect your processing of your images, as well as how it can possibly save your images in the future. Chapter 12, "Converting and Delivering RAW," shows that even though you may not share your negatives, you may need to convert them for delivery in some format.

Mikkel Aaland's experience in the digital realm shows through in Photoshop CS3 RAW. He's been considered a pioneer in digital since his interview with Ansel Adams in 1980 when Adams told him that if he were just starting out that he would be looking into the world of creative video and electronic imaging. Since then Aaland has been following this advice while working in the industry.

In Photoshop CS3 RAW, the author covers all of the controls that come with Adobe Camera Raw and does so in a clear and easily understandable method. From beginning to end he goes through every aspect of RAW processing using step-by-step examples that will have total beginners working like pros in no time.

The only complaint that I have with Photoshop CS3 RAW is that the reproductions of the menu steps are sometimes too small to actually read, though this is not too much of a problem as the selected step is many times circled in red. As long as the panels are the same there is not a problem following the screens – if in an update they change them, it might pose a problem.

If you want to learn how to shoot in Raw and need help to understand what you are doing, then Photoshop CS3 RAW is a great place to start. There are sample files that are available for download that will make sure that you get the same results that are found in the book. Photoshop CS3 RAW is highly recommended.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.