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Real World Camera Raw
With Photoshop CS3

A Review

Disclaimer

Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS3 is based on an earlier edition of the book written by Bruce Fraser. This new edition has been revised and greatly expanded to cover CS3 and Camera Raw 4 by Jeff Schewe, a friend and business partner of Bruce's. Bruce passed away last year and Jeff, who is a leading photographer, alpha tester, and feature consultant to Adobe, picked up the mantle and the writing task to produce this considerably revised and updated edition.

The disclaimer is that Jeff is a friend of mine, and we have worked together on a number of projects including Lightroom and Printing tutorials on video. Jeff has also been a guest instructor on several of my expedition workshops.

So, am I biased toward Jeff and this book? Yup, you bet. If this doesn't disturb you (and it shouldn't, because the book is truly excellent) then read on.

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Climbing The Learning Curve

Like any other skill learning how to processes your images has a learning curve. Of course you can shoot in-camera JPGs and have Walmart make your prints. But if your hobby or profession requires that you produce high quality images then you're likely going to want to shoot in raw mode and process the image files yourself. This can be either a torture or a pleasure depending on your mental attitude and the tools that you choose to use.

Raw processing programs come in three basic flavours; the free one that comes with your camera; the moderately priced and usually moderately featured products for between $50 and $100, and one of the industrial strength programs such as Photoshop and Camera Raw.

Save the debate. Yes, there are camera maker's raw programs that do a good job. Regrettably most of them also are slow and clunky and don't offer much beyond basic raw conversion. There are also good low priced programs. Some of them very good. But again, few offer more than basic raw image processing.

At the top of the heap is Adobe's Photoshop, along with Bridge and Camera Raw. (Adobe Lightroom is another alternative, and you should be aware that it uses the exact same image processing pipeline as does Camera Raw). Whether you work with Bridge and Camera Raw or with Lightroom is a matter of personal preference, and indeed for many Lightroom users this new book will also serve as a very valuable tutorial.

There are now more than 150 different raw formats available from the major camera manufacturers. This Tower of Babel is supported by Camera Raw, and new updates of the program are available about every four months, which includes support for new cameras that have come out during that period. In fact, as this is being written several new cameras, including the Canon 1Ds MKIII, Nikon D3, and D300 are not yet shipping, but are already supported in a just-released CR update. Owners of these new cameras will be able to dive right in with Camera Raw the moment that their new camera arrives.

But – back to the question of climbing the learning curve.

Just as in the days of the chemical darkroom one isn't able to take a negative or transparency, pop it into the enlarger, and make an excellent print. Even with all of the right tools in hand, it takes knowledge, practice and skill to produce quality work. Other than taking a course (typically only offered on major cities, and usually expensive), how then does one learn these skills?

The answer is from a book (or training video). These are relatively inexpensive and you can learn at your own pace. But the issue comes down to two things, the knowledability of the author and the clarity of his or her writing. Each is important, and unless both are present the book will soon be gathering dust on the shelf.

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In The Real World

The authors of Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS3 are Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe. Though no longer with us, Bruce had a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry on the subjects of digital imaging, raw workflow, and image sharpening. He literally wrote the book on several of these subjects, and acted as a consultant to many of the leading companies in the field.

Jeff Schewe, who is very much still with us, has been one of America's leading commercial photographers, and is a pioneer in digital imaging processing. He has been a consultant to Adobe for many years, is a Canon Explorer of Light, and an Epson Stylist Pro. Jeff is one of the preeminent teachers of Photoshop and digital printing working in the US today.

So the bona fides are there, how about the teaching and writing style? This is a subjective opinion, of course, but I'll simply say that this is one of the most comprehensible technical instruction books that I've ever read. And I mean read. I sat down with the book to start skimming through it, and found myself some four hours later having actually read the entire thing.

Now, I'm fairly knowledgeable on the subject, and there was a good chance that I would find much of it to be things that I already knew. So skimming was what I anticipated. Instead, I found the writing style and the manner of presentation so compelling that I read every page. That's saying something.

I think the reason that I found RWCR so involving is that it not only tells you how, but why. Learning styles differ among individuals. I'm one of those that find it isn't enough to be told how something works – press this, twist that. If it isn't something that I do every day I quickly forget how to do it. But if I can learn why something is done the way it is, and what is happening behind the scenes, then how to accomplish it become trivial and often obvious.

That's the case here. Bruce and Jeff have done an exceptional job of not only covering a very broad and deep topic (Camera Raw, Bridge and how they work with Photoshop), but infusing it with information and a style of presentation that leads to understanding as well as familiarity.

I could go on with fulsome praise, but instead, simply suggest that if you would like to start climbing the learning curve to better images through raw processing, and want to do so using an excellent learning tool, then Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS3 offers the most up-to-date means of doing so.

This latest edition of RWCR was published in November, 2007 and is just becoming available at book sellers everywhere. For your convenience the links provided here are to Amazon, but all of the major online sellers should now have it in stock.

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Postscript

The printing and reproduction quality in RWCR is very high. If you're interested in a story and photo essay on a press check visit by Jeff to the printing plant on the day the book was run, Jeff has a fascinating article on his site, PhotoshopNews.com.

With Photoshop CS3November, 2007

 


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Concepts: Raw image format, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Systems, Bibble, Nikon, GIMP, Digital camera

Entities: Adobe, Walmart, Canon, Amazon, Nikon, America, US, Photoshop CS3, Photoshop, image processing, RWCR, Michael Reichmann, Jeff, Jeff Schewe, Bruce, Bruce Fraser, Lightroom, alpha tester, D3, Photoshop

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