Photoshop Elements can open just as many different RAW file formats as Photoshop itself, since it too comes with the Adobe Camera Raw converter. The version you get with Elements doesn’t have all tools you get in the Photoshop version, but Elements RAW conversions do let you optimise your images very effectively before you open them in Elements.
So here are a few tips on settings to check when you’re converting RAW files. My start shot is a picture of my pet dog Matilda in my front garden. The default RAW conversion is a little flat and colourless, but that’s because I’m using the standard Adobe defaults…
01 Check your Camera Calibration
Adobe Camera Raw uses its own generic profiles for RAW conversions, which is why you’ll often see a considerable difference between your RAW files and the JPEGs captured by the camera.
But Adobe does provide calibrated conversions for most cameras, and you can check by swapping to the Camera Calibration tab (circled). Here, there’s a drop-down menu displaying the same list of picture styles as the camera (again, though, this does depend on the camera model and the degree of support).
So here, if I select the Landscape option, I’ll get the stronger contrast and richer greens I get from the Landscape mode on the camera. This photo is looking better already.
02 Check the white balance
The white balance setting is displayed in the Basics tab. By default, the menu displays ‘As Shot’, which means Adobe Camera Raw uses the white balance setting selected on the camera. You can change this to one of the other presets in the drop-down menu. I’ve chosen ‘Shade’ to reflect the conditions the picture was shot in, and this has removed some of the cold tone of the original picture to produce a more natural colour rendition.
Be careful here, though, because Adobe’s white balance presets aren’t always so natural-looking. Depending on the camera and the conditions, they can look very warm indeed. In which case, you may be better off adjusting the Temperature and Tint value manually, or using the white balance eyedropper.
03 Check the histogram
The histogram is displayed at the top of the tools panel, and you need to make sure that neither the shadows nor the highlights are clipped. You can recover clipped shadow and highlight detail at the RAW stage, but not once the file has been converted or opened in Elements.
This picture doesn’t need much correction, but I could see in the previous step that it was a little light, and that the histogram was close to clipping at the highlight (right-hand end) of the scale, so I’ve reduced the Exposure slightly in this step to fix both issues at the same time.