Photo Editing Posts

Camera Raw as a Photoshop Filter:
The video and by the book


Camera Raw adjustments can now be applied as a filter, within Photoshop. This means it is now possible to access the power of Camera Raw while working on an image open in Photoshop. This movie shows how using Camera Raw as a filter helped create the cover image used for the book.  Click below to watch video.

Click here to watch all of the latest Photoshop CC video tutorials by Martin Evening!


Camera Raw as a Photoshop filter

You can now apply Camera Raw adjustments as a filter layer. To do this you ideally want to convert the image first to a Smart Object (Smart Filter) layer. Having done that you can apply Camera Raw as a Photoshop filter, and because you are working on a smart object you can re-edit the Camera Raw settings just as you would when editing a raw image. Some might argue that Camera Raw editing is already available for non-raw images, but it‘s important to point out that this was previously limited to flattened files saved in the TIFF or JPEG format. The Photoshop Camera Raw filter now allows this. However, in the case of layered images you must distinguish whether you intend to filter a specific layer or all current visible layers. So, before creating a smart object do make sure you have the layer or layers you wish to process correctly selected.

Using Camera Raw as a Photoshop filter now gives you the opportunity to make full use of Camera Raw edits when working on any RGB or grayscale image and have these be non-destructive. This may well benefit certain workflows. For example, when working with scanned images you can use Camera Raw to apply the capture sharpening. Or, maybe you’ll feel more comfortable using the Basic panel tone controls instead of Levels or Curves to tone edit an image? There’s also the benefit of being able to apply other Camera-Raw specific adjustments such as Clarity to adjust the midtone contrast, or Camera-Raw style black and white conversions.

Of course, there are limitations. You can’t expect to achieve the same range of adjustment control on a non-raw image when adjusting say the Highlights slider to rescue extreme highlight detail. Not all Camera Raw tools are made available. It doesn’t make sense to save snapshots, because there is nowhere to save them when used as a filter in this way. The lens profile correction options are not available because you already have access to the Lens Corrections filter in Photoshop. There is also the overhead that comes from having to create a smart object, which inevitably leads to bigger saved file sizes. Above all, if you care about optimum image quality, you shouldn’t skip carrying out the Camera Raw processing at the raw image stage. Camera Raw is most effective when it’s used to edit raw images. The Camera Raw filter is simply a convenience when working in Photoshop as it can save you having to export an image or layer to apply the Camera Raw processing separately.

1)      Here is a photograph that had been edited in Photoshop. In this first step the background layer only was selected. I then went to the Filter menu and chose ‘Convert for Smart Filters’. This converted the Background layer to a smart object.

2)      I went to the Filter menu and chose the Camera Raw Filter. As you can see, the filter was applied to the Background layer contents only as that was what had been selected in step 1. Note that the Camera Raw as a filter dialog does not have workflow options at the bottom.

Camera Raw filter tips

When using the Camera Raw filter you are limited to working with files no bigger than 65,000 pixels ib either dimension. If the image you are editing happens to exceed this you will see a warning message. You can also apply the Camera Raw filter to targeted channels (as opposed to the entire composite channel). This means you can apply Camera Raw filtering to individual channels, such as the luminosity channel while working in Lab mode. However, when used this way certain features such as per-channel curves and split tone controls will be disabled.

3)      I clicked the Cancel button to return to the original, layered image in Photoshop. This time I ensured all the visible layers were selected and chose ‘Convert for Smart Filters’ again. This created a smart object that contained all the layers.

4)      I renamed the smart object layer ‘Merged composite’ and chose the Camera Raw Filter, which would now be applied to a composite of all the layers contained within the smart object. In the Effects panel I added a post-crop vignette adjustment to darken the corners and in the Basic panel I adjusted the Highlights and Shadows.

5)      I clicked OK to apply the Camera Raw filter and here you see the finished result. The Layers panel shows the smart object layer with the Camera Raw filter applied. If I were to double-click the smart object thumbnail in the Layers panel this would open the expanded layers view, just like the one seen at step 1. As with all smart object editing, you can open a smart object to reveal the contents and continue editing the document. In this instance, if I were to change the Gradient Fill overlay layer and resave, this would update the smart object and the Camera Raw filter adjustments would also update accordingly.

Excerpt from Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers by Martin Evening © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

Save 20% when ordering from Use discount code FOC20 at check out.

Also available on and

Tell us what you think!

Latest Tweets

Stay Informed

Click here to register with Focal Press to receive updates.

about MasteringPhoto

MasteringPhoto, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for hobbyist photographers through pro image makers. No matter what your passion is—from people and landscapes to postproduction and business practices—MasteringPhoto offers advice and images that will inform and inspire you. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of photography, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.