Simple Workflow for Camera RAW - Steps in Editing RAW Files

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RAW Workflow

Shooting and editing in RAW format is the choice for professional photographers. The image is captured with all the data in the highlights and shadows. Photographers now have control over the dynamic range of an image. Using the RAW editing workflow allows photographers to gain detail in the highlights and reduce the range in high contrast images. Photographers do not have to settle for blown highlights in their prints. Studio and product photographers get more control over the final image by shooting directly into the computer using RAW format. More control over preview shots allows more creativity by the photographer.

The RAW editing workflow breaks down into five sections:

  1. Capture
  2. Importing
  3. Browsing
  4. Editing
  5. Saving


RAW data can be captured by shooting directly into the computer or using the RAW setting on the camera and recording the data onto a Compact Flash (CF) card.

Shooting Tethered - Portrait, product, scientific and studio photographers can maximize the RAW format by shooting directly into the computer and controlling aperture, color density, shutter speed and ISO from the computer. Having a large preview on a computer monitor can show where the highlights and shadows really fall off. The view screen on the back of the camera is just too small to get an accurate reading and histograms can be misleading. Special remote software is used to control the camera. There are many different brands of software that are available. CNET has a free download on remote software for Canon EOS using a PC, Canon or Nikon software is available from DSLR Remote (check supported models), Canon ships tethered shooting software with their camera and Nikon charges for their software.

Shooting into a computer in RAW mode and using remote software to bracket shots will create High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. These are used in landscape photography as well as for creative imagery. This is the best way to handle images that are high contrast and have blown out highlights. Many software applications can be used to create HDR images Photoshop CS2 and later versions, Photomatix and Pangea Bracketeer are just a few of the ones available.

To learn more about shooting tethered, please read Shooting Tethered with a Digital Camera.

Camera RAW Mode-To shoot in RAW mode on the camera, just scroll down to the RAW setting in the Menus Panel and set to RAW. This will set all size parameters. When shooting images with a high contrast (as in shooting the setting sun or an indoor setting with bright lights and dark shadows), set the camera to Bracket Mode or manually take three exposures from too light to too dark. To edit for HDR images three different exposures are needed. To learn more about HDR photography, check out Bright Hub’s article called HDR Photography - How to Take the Best HDR Photos.


Import the RAW images to the computer using a RAW converter software application. This would include software from the camera maker, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or one of the many non-proprietary software or freeware applications available.


This process is often overlooked in workflow discussions, browsing for efficient processing of RAW images streamlines the editing procedure. Opening each image would take a long time. Browsing allows the photographer to choose the images for production. HDR images can be set up using browsing.


Editing is the nuts and bolts of RAW workflow. Once opened, the RAW file is analyzed for needed edits. Make sure the color space is set to Adobe RGB and the bit depth is 16 Bits. Make corrections to the image for one or more of the following:

  • Exposure
  • Color Adjustment
  • Black and White points adjusted
  • Hue
  • Saturation
  • Contrast
  • Interpolation and sharpening


The DNG (Digital Negative) format was developed, According to Adobe, “... to address the lack of an open standard for the proprietary and unique raw files created by each digital camera.” Saving RAW files in the DNG format allows for easy access in the future. Adobe offers a free download of their DNG Converter, a utility that converts over 275 cameras to DNG. A list of supported cameras can be found on the Adobe Web Site. RAW files can be saved as TIFFs, JPEGs or other file formats depending on where the image will be used. DNG is recommended for archival storage.

Adobe DNG Converter Download

Adobe DNG Profiles Editor