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Book Review: Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4 By Bruce Frasier and Jeff Schewe

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To be a serious digital photographer you need to learn some serious techniques and Real World Camera Raw is one of those books that help you get there. Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), the Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom plug-in, will give you the greatest possible control over your image. You gain precise control over qualities like white balance, tones, color space, contrast, and saturation.

Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4 is the latest version of the book that was started by Photoshop expert Bruce Frasier and is now carried on by his close friend and business partner Jeff Schewe. It is contained in 448 pages (more than 80 additional pages over the prior version) and it is divided into nine chapters.

Chapter 1, "Digital Camera Raw," focuses on the raw capture. You will examine the fundamental nature of the raw file as well as its advantages, and limitations. You will begin by learning what Raw Capture, why you should use it, and just what is a digital negative. Chapter 2, "How Camera Raw Works," examines what "lies under the hood" of the Camera Raw plug-in. To use Camera Raw effectively, you must first understand what makes raw files different from other file types, what it offers, where its limitations are, as well as how you can overcome them.

Chapter 3, "Raw System Overview," provides the 30,000 foot view of the whole digital raw system. Here the individual components are discussed in much more detail; not as much as in future chapters, but for now this provides an overview of the workflow in general. The components are Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop CS4, and Digital Negatives. Chapter 4, "Camera Raw Controls," examines the Camera Raw controls in very fine detail; even more than the prior version as this chapter adds 36 more pages than before. As with its film counterpart, the negative, a raw file is the starting point for your work, and while the number of options may seem overwhelming, when taken in a logical order, these skills can be mastered.

Chapter 5, "Hands-on Camera Raw," shows that knowing what each control does is only half the battle, the other half is knowing how the tools interact, and when, and in which order to use them. Here you will learn about Camera Raw by getting in and working with it. Chapter 6, "Adobe Bridge" explores briefly the history of file browser and its development into Bridge and how Bridge under CS4 has become rather complex. Here Bridge is talked about in relation to the features that apply to digital photography and the raw workflow. Topics include working with Bridge, Metadata, Keywords, as well as working with other tools such as Batch Rename, Cache, Collections, and Slideshow.

Chapter 7, "It's All About the Workflow," describes, now that you understand many of the tools, you now need to learn how to perform the actual work of Raw processing. This can be described into five basic stages; image ingestion, image verification, preproduction, production, and post production. While you may go back and revisit some of these stages throughout the process, everything you do falls into one of these categories.

Chapter 8, "Mastering Metadata," examines the "data about data"; that is the information contained within the raw file. This EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) standard is the information that is provided by the camera manufacturers when you take a picture. Also examined is XMP which is Adobe's initiative to promote a standard for Metadata. It, like DNG, is an open standard to try to make digital become manufacture independent.

Chapter 9, "Exploiting Automation," shows that although, up until now, everything has been done on a one off basis, to be truly effective, you need to be able to automate as many of these processes as possible. Now you will learn how to transpose these techniques and process a batch of images with the minimum amount of effort.

If you are serious about digital imaging, you work with raw files from your camera. This is usually a DSLR, but many higher end point and shoot cameras are offering raw file abilities as well. If you want to learn how to work effectively with Raw files then you will need to study Real World Camera Raw: with Adobe Photoshop CS4. It is the standard on the topic.

In the second version under Jeff Schewe Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4 has become more refined, more detailed, and hence, better. If you are serious about digital imaging then you really need to work with raw files. If you want to learn to work with raw file effectively then Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS4 is an absolutely, positively, must own.

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About T. Michael Testi

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