Getting Started With Camera Raw
Posted: 9-Apr-2006

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: Peachpit Press


Reviewer: Dick Baker $24.99

Getting Started With Camera Raw
by Ben Long
Peachpit Press, 2006
ISBN 0-321-38400-8
Price: $24.99

What the Book is About
Getting Started With Camera Raw is an excellent book that covers its subject extremely well. The book briefly describes the general theory of raw files as used in today's digital cameras, quickly covers why starting with raw files provides more editing latitude to optimize digital images, and goes into depth on how to achieve the desired results using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. The book does not go into normal Photoshop image editing except in a very introductory way, and often as a discussion of editing steps that may be affected by choices made earlier during the ACR conversion process.

Target Audience
This book is intended for those who have a digital camera that can save files in a raw format and who also want to learn how to use the ACR converter on those files. The lessons cover ACR in Photoshop CS (Photoshop 8), CS2 (Photoshop 9), Photoshop Elements 3 or Photoshop Elements 4. Apparently, if someone has the Adobe Camera Raw plugin for Photoshop 7, or can find it somewhere (since it is no longer available from Adobe), the lessons in this book can apply to that version also. The book assumes the reader has some basic Photoshop familiarity and/or that the reader will use one of the other available books to learn the fine points of general image editing.

What to Expect
Getting Started With Camera Raw is divided into several sections:
  1. Defining a raw image and how it differs from a JPEG image.
  2. Introduction of some basic Photoshop image editing techniques.
  3. Initial look at the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) utility.
  4. Review of possible raw workflow sequences.
  5. Detailed discussion of the ACR controls: What they do and how to use them.
  6. Exploring in-camera exposure and shooting concepts that will help to produce raw images with maximum editing latitude.

The progression of the book from one topic to another is logical and well thought out. The reader is introduced to new material in a way that makes it relatively easy to understand and follow.

A very experienced Photoshop user who just wants to learn how to use ACR should read Chapter 1; a section called "Where to Begin" will help guide the experienced user to the chapters that will help them the most. For the rest of us, read each chapter and work with the techniques on an image of your own. Each one builds upon the previous, and each will contribute to the overall level of knowledge and understanding.

I found only one noticeable error in the book that may confuse novice photographers. On page 194, in a section titled "Measuring in Stops", a discussion of exposure, f-stops and shutter speeds had several numerical errors. The author and publisher have agreed to make the errata known on the Peachpit website and to correct the error in any future printings.

The most significant highlight is that the author covers his subject with enough detail to provide a good understanding of the raw conversion principles and techniques without creating a cookbook approach that would show readers only how to apply the author's own preferences and style. By following the examples and lessons in the book, the reader is given the tools and understanding necessary to make their own knowledgeable choices in converting raw files.

In my opinion, the book is so well balanced that there are really no sections that stand out significantly from the others. Everything fits together so well, and builds logically from basic principles to more advanced, that there were no big "WOWs" for me, but lots of "Oh - interesting, now I understand." Getting Started With Camera Raw does an excellent job of introducing ACR and providing the understanding necessary to make use of this capable tool.

Mac Guild Grade
A (Outstanding)

Final Words
I would have given the book an A+ if it had more consistently covered the differences in how ACR is implemented in Photoshop CS, Photoshop CS2 and Photoshop Elements.

If you want to learn about using the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) utility available in recent versions of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, then Getting Started With Camera Raw is a great book. It covers the subject extremely well. The author's writing style is clear and easily understood and the examples in the book are well illustrated, even though sometimes the differences between "before" and "after" can be subtle. By reading and following along, you will learn the tools and techniques to use ACR to achieve images optimized to your particular tastes.