If you prefer the Adobe Camera Raw interface but want to use Affinity Photo or another imaging tool, then here’s how you can get the best of both worlds for your photographs.
How to Export Photos From Adobe Camera Raw
RAW Editing Versus Raster Editing, and Why You Need To Export
When you edit your raw-file photographs, you’re re-interpreting the original recording and getting the most out of the information you’ve recorded. To share, print or edit the photo in a raster-editor like Photoshop or Affinity Photo it first needs to be made into a raster, or pixel-based format like JPEG or TIFF. While these formats are useful, you can’t get as much out of your editing process with them, so it’s important to do everything you wanted to do while in the RAW format before you rasterize your photo.
Using ACR With Photoshop Alternatives
It’s possible to use both Adobe Camera Raw and other image editing programs together, with ACR for your raw-file changes and the alternative raster editor in place of Photoshop for any final, pixel-based edits and exports. We're demonstrating with Affinity Photo, but you could use Photopea, Krita, or whatever your favourite imaging suite is.
But why would you want to do this? Personally, I think the editor of ACR offers a lot more than Affinity Photo, plus I prefer the interface and I find it easier to use. There’s also the fact ACR saves changes as sidecar data, so it’s not only more flexible but it avoids the potential of corruption that can (though rarely) happen with directly applied changes. There are also presets or plugins that might only be available for AP or other programmes that you’d like to use on your image.
ACR Vs Affinity Photo's Raw Processor
Both Adobe Camera Raw and Affinity Photo have proprietary file types associated with their RAW editing, but only ACR offers the option to store your changes in an open format.
In ACR there are two ways to associate RAW changes you make to your photograph. One way is as a "sidecar" file, a small .xmp document, where the changes are separate to the RAW photo, but associated with it. In essence, an .xmp is an extra file that accompanies and describes your original, a text instruction detailing all of your changes.
The second way is to embed the changes into the photograph as a DNG (Digital Negative). Neither of these options touch your original image and in the case of a DNG, Camera Raw will make a copy. DNG’s are proprietary in that they’re only designed to work in Adobe software, though just to confuse matters a little, a few camera brands have also adopted it.
In Affinity you’ll work with the Develop Persona to create your RAW changes. Unlike ACR, which will save those as an .xmp file (sidecar) if you choose, with Affinity you embed or flatten those adjustments in. If you were to save the changes before exporting as a raster file format then it would save as an .afphoto file.
How to Export Photos From Adobe Camera Raw to Affinity Photo for Final Processing
Let’s assume you’ve done your RAW editing in ACR and you’re all ready to export to make some final raster changes or tuning up.
Rather than hitting Open, which would take your image into your preferred Adobe software, click Convert and Save Image in the top right.
The default will likely be DNG, which we know isn’t any good for our purposes as it’s proprietary, so click the Format dropdown and instead choose TIFF.
You can choose to bring Metadata across here, with a number of options, so select the ones that are right for you. Make sure under Compression it says None. When you’re done, hit Save.
Open in Affinity Photo
You’ll now have a good quality TIFF copy of your photograph that you can open in Affinity Photo.
Now you’re editing as you would in Photoshop once you’d exported your image from Camera Raw. Work on Adjustment Layers in the same way, so that you aren’t editing directly on your image.
Let’s assume you’re making a social media post so you want to resize, add a border and sharpen.
Add a Border
You can add a border at the end if you like, but I prefer to add the border first, save a large copy of that and then resize.
Go to Document > Resize Canvas.
Make sure your anchor point on the grid is in the centre. You can choose the units you’d like to increase the canvas size in, depending on your preferences.
You’ll need to put in the new dimensions of the canvas. It’s slightly annoying that unlike Photoshop, where you can put in the additional size you’d like adding (5cm for example), in Affinity you have to add the extra to the existing dimensions.
Remember that you’re working on one ‘side’ of the image, so you’ll need to put in double the amount for the border you want. For example if you wanted an additional 50px all the way around, you’d need to put 100px extra onto the dimensions.
My personal preference for easy social media posting – Facebook and Twitter – is to resize to 1700px wide. It’s a size I’ve found that for the moment is small enough not to get compressed too much when it gets uploaded, but still looks good as a thumbnail and when opened to full size.
Document > Resize Document
Choose 1700px for the width and—if the padlock is locked in the centre—the height will adjust automatically.
Though you might have done a little sharpening or at the very start and end of your process in ACR, you can do some output sharpening now, tailored to the final size of your image. Make sure you zoom in to 100% while you’re sharpening and then come back out to check the overall effect.
Sharpen isn’t in Adjustments like you might expect, instead you’ll need to navigate to the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Live Filters. There are three options to do sharpening: Clarity, Unsharp Mask and High Pass.
I’m using Unsharp Mask, so here’s a quick rundown of what the options on this filter are:
- Radius: how far the sharpening goes beyond the edge of an object. If you bump this up too high (Affinity says this is anything beyond 100px) you might start to get halos around edges.
- Factor: adds contrast.
- Threshold: controls the contrast between colours, Affinity recommends using higher values here for grainy images or skin tones.
Finish Up and Save
Once you've finished, you can choose to add a watermark using an image or custom brush. Then go to File > Export and choose your desired settings.
While it can be a bit of a faff to work between two pieces of software, you can find you get the best of both worlds, and once you've done it a few times you'll soon start to speed up your workflow.
More Affinity Photo Resources
Thanks for reading this tutorial, here are a few more Adobe Camera Raw learning resources to help you enjoy post-processing and get the most from your photography.
- A to Z of Affinity Photo: Tips, Tricks, and Hacks!Abbey Esparza20 May 2021
- How to Use LUTs to Quickly Colour Correct Pictures in Affinity PhotoMarie Gardiner29 Jun 2021
- How to Use LUTs to Colour Grade Pictures in Affinity PhotoMarie Gardiner10 Jun 2022
- Transitioning From Adobe Photoshop to Affinity PhotoAbbey Esparza14 Jun 2019