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Adobe Camera RAW for Beginners: Basic Adjustments

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This post is part of a series called Camera RAW for Beginners.
Adobe Camera RAW for Beginners: Histogram & White Balance
Adobe Camera RAW for Beginners: Clarity, Vibrance, & Saturation

Once a month we revisit some of our reader favorite posts from throughout the history of Phototuts+. This tutorial was first published in October of 2009.

Adobe Camera RAW’s basics adjustments can make up the backbone of your photography post production. Whether it’s tweaking the blacks or bumping up the brightness, almost every photograph can use a little basic adjustment.

In this screencast we look at some of the basic adjustments and how they work. Some adjustments work independently while others work best when used together.

View Tutorial

Basic Steps

Basic Adjustments

Exposure – This adjustment is pretty straight forward, adding or reducing your photo’s overall exposure. A little goes a long way with this slider.

Recovery – This slider will help you recover some of the detail you’ve lost in your highlights. You’ll be able to recover much more data if you shoot your photos in RAW rather than JPG format.

Fill Light – This slider bounces some more light into your picture and is a little more subtle than the exposure slider. Fill light will attempt to recover data from your darker areas without over brightening the blacks in the photo.

Blacks – Often when you use the Fill Light slider you’ll want to follow up with the Blacks slider. This slider will increase your contrast in the shadows while mostly leaving your midtones and highlights alone.

Brightness – Make your whites whiter with this slider. Brightness compresses the highlights and expands the shadows.

Contrast – Add more definition to your photo with this slider. Your darker midtones will become darker while your lighter midtones will become lighter. Again, a little adjustment goes a long way.

The Grayscale Image

Also, here is the grayscale image to use to test out all of these sliders and get a feel for what they are doing:

Greyscale