Using JPGs in Camera RAW Filter (in Photoshop)

In my Basic Photoshop Workshop I first gloss over the differences between JPG and RAW files. I explain (or try to, at least) why I prefer to take photos in the RAW format. I like to show how much more control one can have over photographs when using RAW and the RAW Camera Filter in Photoshop. But what happens when you are just working only with JPGs? Well, you can still use the Camera RAW Filter to make some adjustments to your photograph, only not to the full extent that you’d be able to with a RAW file. Let me show you how.

[As always, we will start with the assumption that you have already launched Photoshop, and that you know your way around Photoshop on a basic level.]

The first thing we need to do is open the photo you want to change. (File>Open, or Ctrl+O in Windows or Cmd+O for Mac).

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter One

I chose this old rodeo photo I took some time ago in California (do you know they call it ro-DAY-o in California, as opposed to our version of RO-de-o. It always hurt my ear hearing that.) Anyway, I was never pleased with it. This was taken before I really started dealing exclusively with camera RAW when taking photos, so correcting it in Photoshop could prove to be difficult.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Two

The first thing I want to do is crop it some, to just showcase the cowboy on the bull.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Three

Now that I have framed like I want it, I can start the real work. First I need to right-mouse click on the layer in the Layers Panel in the bottom right portion of the Photoshop workspace, and select Convert to Smart Object.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Four

You should notice that the little layer icon looks a little different now, like it has an odd little frame around it. That’s a good thing!

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Five

Next, go up to Filter and choose Camera RAW Filter (or use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + A on Windows, or Cmd + Shift + A on a Mac, if you want to get all fancy).

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Six

The Camera RAW Filter will now pop up. You may notice that using a JPG with the Camera RAW Filter doesn’t allow you as many options. Five less, to be exact. You will not have the following tools when using a JPG: Crop, Straighten, Preferences, Rotate 90 degrees counter-clockwise, and Rotate 90 degrees clockwise. No worries, we can work without those tools.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Seven

In the next screen shot you will notice that I have made my adjustments, trying to get the photo as close to possible (with the limitations given to me by a JPG photo) to what I think it should look like. Did you notice that I used the Graduated Filter Tool to darken the sky a little? You can tell it’s there by the little green and red dots, as well as the dashed line.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Eight

Once you are happy with your adjustments, select OK. Your photo will be placed back in the Photoshop workspace. From there you can play around with the photo a little more, or leave it alone. Don’t forget to save your work!

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Nine

To give you an idea of the differences between when we started with the photo and when we finished with it, here’s a side-by-side comparison.

JPG Using Camera RAW Filter Final Comparison

So while your first option might be to shoot photographs using Camera RAW, you can still manipulate the JPG photo using the Camera RAW Filter to make it a little more appealing. Give a try and have some fun!


Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
Ext. 3425


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