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articles

Camera Raw and Color Management
Thursday May 29, 2003

Section 1: Camera Raw replacing profiles?

by Bruce Fraser


When it comes to color management, Adobe's Camera Raw takes a different approach from any other capture software. The downside is that it makes it impossible to use custom camera profiles. For many people, however, this is also the upside!


Studio shooters working in controlled environments may get better results from a custom profile than they will from Camera RAW, but selecting, lighting and shooting profiling targets is still something of a black art. With Camera RAW, Thomas Knoll has already done this work for you.


For each supported camera, Camera RAW uses not one, but two built-in profiles, one created under D65 lighting, the under 3200K tungsten. The Color Temperature slider interpolates between these two profiles - a real boon for event shooters who don't have time to set a custom white balance for each shot. (This is the feature that makes it impossible to use custom profiles with Camera RAW).
Camera RAW writes out processed images to any of four Photoshop working spaces - Adobe RGB, Colormatch RGB, ProPhoto RGB, or sRGB. If you prefer working in a different space, you can make CameraRAW write out a 16-bit-per-channel ProPhotoRGB file, then convert it into your preferred working space without worrying about clipping or major data loss through conversions - ProPhotoRGB is very large indeed.


Of course, one issue that Camera RAW cannot address is that of unit-to-unit variations between cameras. If the camera that Thomas Knoll profiled behaves very differently from the one you shoot, Camera RAW won't work all that well. To the extent that you can address the discrepancy using Camera RAW's built-in controls, you may be able to set a new camera default that produces great results. Failing that, you may be better off with a custom profile and a different capture utility. But Camera RAW is a noteworthy development, both as an interesting and potentially useful approach to the problem of profiling digital captures, and as a harbinger of Adobe's future intentions.

See Camera Raw tutorial by Jeff Schewe

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