I have never used lightroom, but let me explain how photoshop 5.5 works and maybe you will see similarities in the workflow.
To begin with, PS 5.5 harbours three programs within itself, namely, Bridge, ACR, and Photoshop itself. These are distinct programs.
Bridge is a kind of index or filing program which allows you to move from folder to folder within and then displays thumbnails in the workspace, in a grid, so you can see the images and select the one you want to work with. It can show thumbnails of RAW files, jpegs, and PSD (photoshop work in progress) files, all in the same way, in the same grid.
When you click on one image, the exif data appears on a list to the left, giving the exposure details, shutter speed, aperture, which lens was used, which camera body, and serial number, plus a plethora of other information.
But... when you RIGHT click on one of the images, a fly out menu appears. One of the options there is 'Open in Adobe Camera Raw'.
When you do this, photoshop starts up, and moments later, ACR opens on top of it, with the image loaded into it.
We have arrived at the point I was trying to explain in my previous posting... what you see in the ACR window now, is the true RAW image (NEF as Nikon call it). The image is NOT the jpeg thumbnail that you see on the camera LCD, as that is produced by the camera as a guide, and for reviewing when using the camera playback mode. It is produced ONLY for use by the camera, and is NOT a 'file' which can be loaded off the card and onto the computer.
Once the file is opened in ACR, you have a range of different processing windows accessed with tabs across the very top right. The default window that you start with has sliders for exposure, white balance, fill light, blacks, brightness, contrast, clarity, vibrance and saturation. There are also tools there for straightening, cropping and spot removal - don't laugh!
The other tabs provide histogram adjustment with curves, one for sharpening and noise control, one for detailed saturation (or de-saturation) and a nice one which provides tools for lens correction, adjusting for barrel or pincushion distortion, AND chromatic abberation (those little blue and/or yellow lines you see around the fringes of objects, often when the sky is the background).
When you are done in ACR you go back to the original ACR tab, and you have two main options. Click DONE and the adjustments are saved to a new file which is placed on the same folder. It is invisible unless you look for it with windows explorer or my computer. From now on, when you open the RAW file, these adjustments that you made will be applied. ACR refers to the second file to get the adjustments, as you open the file again. If you made a mistake, you can delete that file (it is not a RAW or NEF file, it is designated .XMP with the image number before it, so you have two files now, say, for example, the image was DSC08.NEF, a second file called DSC08.XMP will be there too.
The second option, which is the one I use, is to hold down the ALT key when clicking on DONE in ACR. This cancels the adjustments made in ACR and returns the NEF file to the folder untouched - BUT - ACR passes the ADJUSTED version of the file into Photoshop, which now opens, with the image displayed, and all the adustments you made are retained. You can now save the adjusted image with a new name, and go back to the untouched NEF image to try again if needed. While in Photoshop you can apply further adjustments, or filters, etc before saving the new file.
That is pretty much the workflow, so all NEF images (RAW images) straight from the camera are always unadjusted, and therefore not very sharp, vibrant, or otherwise perked up, as the camera has not done anything to them.
Of course, this all refers to shooting in RAW only. If you set a camera to shoot JPEG you will get an image that the camera has adjusted. you can still work with it in ACR but the options are more limited.
Whew! hope that explains it all.
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