How to use Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop

The last versions of Photoshop offer a massive amount of special filters for various particular purposes. One member of the filter family is a bit different. It is Camera Raw filter, and it comes from initially used Camera Raw piece of software from Adobe.

Camera Raw is automatically launched after you open the raw image in Photoshop. And the main part of this software has been adopted as a filter usable in Photoshop itself.

How to find and apply Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop

First of all, we have to realize the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop is usable only on a pixel layer.

It won’t work on an adjustment layer, for example. So the best way before use this filter is to merge edited layers into one pixel layer.

I use a shortcut that generates a merged layer on the top of all layers, and it is Ctrl-Shift-Alt-E on Windows or Cmd-Shift-Opt-E.

The second important step is to set this new layer as a smart object to keep the flexibility to get back at any stage. Just go to the Layer setting menu on the top right corner (three small lines icon).

Choose Convert To Smart Object. And you are ready to go and use Camera Raw filter in Photoshop. So then go to the main Photoshop Menu and choose Filter->Camera Raw Filter.

Camera Raw filter start

The main menu of Camera Raw filter

After you activated the filter, you’ll see the main menu at the left top corner of the camera raw filter window.

MAin menu Camera raw filter

The Zoom Tool and Hand Tool are quite distinct. You can zoom in and zoom out the opened image, and by the Hand tool, you move the image.

To set the right white balance, there is a White Balance tool and the Color Sampler tool. To set the optimal white balance to try to find most white points on the image or a neutral grey colored part of the picture.

After you click on such an image part, the white balance automatically changes to the new value. Similarly, the color picker tool sets the right color setting for the image.

Here you can set more color points to set the correct color balance on the image.

Targeted Adjustment Tool allows you to set the HSL setting of the image directly on the particular image part. If you would like, for example, to change the skin color saturation, select the Saturation, click to any part of the skin and drag the mouse up or down to increase or decrease the Saturation.

You can set quite a complex transformation of the image by the Transform Tool. Y

ou can select at least two lines (vertical or horizontal), and the image geometry will change appropriately to these line levels. For this purpose, you can even activate the Grid on the right bottom corner of the Camera Raw Filter window.

It will help you determine the straightness of the lines.

Spot Removal Tool

Spot Removal Tool is very similar to Spot Healing Brush. You set the size and the hardness of the tool and brush out any unwanted spot on the image.

Adjustment Brush is a sophisticated tool for enhancing any area of the image by individual settings.

Let’s assume you want to brighten any part of the picture. Just select the Adjustment brush and set the proper brightness levels by Exposure, Highlights, or Shadows setting on the right side of the Filter window.

Then paint the area and brighten it. An advantage is that while you have the edited area selected, you can even fine-tune the particular parameters.

The graduated filter is useful when you want to smoothly darken the sky, for example. Select the color, exposure, or any other available parameters.

Then click and drag with the Graduated filter selected. The tool is similar to the gradient tool in Photoshop.

On the other hand, the Radial filter allows you to apply radial gradient changes to any part of the image. IT can also be used to create creative lighting effects.

The histogram and shooting parameters

The histogram window, including the shooting camera parameters, is the same as in the Camera Raw or Lightroom.

CRF Histogram

The histogram is divided into five areas: Blacks, Shadows, Exposure, Whites, and Highlights. A great feature is that you can click and drag any of these histogram parts and pull it left or right.

The image will change the appropriate part like Shadows, for example. Useful features are Shadows or Highlight Clipping Warning buttons in the top corners of the histogram.

Basic adjustments in Camera Raw Filter

This part of Camera Raw Filter is pretty similar to Lightroom’s basic settings. You can set the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, etc. Camera raw basic

In the second part, you’ll find the Texture, Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation settings. A unique tool is a Dehaze tool that is useful when editing dull images taken during the bright day with the haze.

This tool allows you to remove the haze and increase the overall contrast.

This set of effects is similar to many other Adobe editing software but also in other’s manufacturer’s editing software.

Tone Curve

If you prefer to edit the exposure data via a curve setting, you might choose the Tone Curve. Here you can set the shadows, highlights by dragging the particular sliders.

The other option is to switch to the second submenu and edit the curve itself. It’s the same process as in the curve adjustment layer, for example. You can add as many points as you want and deform the curve as needed.

Detail settings in Camera Raw filter

In the Detail setting, you can set the sharpness options as well as set the noise reduction parameters.

However, I prefer to do the sharpening the other way. I preferably sharpen the final image after cropping it to the final size and resolution and then apply the proper sharpening tools and methods.

My favorite method is to use the unsharp mask or High Pass Filter.

In spite of that, you can use this sharpening tool within the Camera Raw Filter.

In the second part of the setting dialogue, you can set the noise reduction parameters. There are two types of noise to be solved — luminance and color noise.

HSL Settings

HSL settings are one of the most powerful settings in the Camera Raw Filter. Here you can achieve dramatic changes by just subtle changes of these three parameters Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. 

Hue is best to use in changing the color tone, for example, to make the grass greener or get a little bit different color tone.

Filter HSL

Saturation is to be changed very carefully. Overdoing it causes even color clipping or unnatural look.

To get more realistic results, it is better to use the Vibrancy setting instead. It is located in the Basic settings section, as we already mentioned.

Luminance is a great tool when you need naturally darken the sky. Particularly in the landscape shots. Just choose the right color tone slider (usually blue) and decrease the luminance of this particular color.

Split Toning

To get more dramatic results, you can utilize the Split toning tool. Just select the color by the Hue slider that should be more defined in the lights, choose its saturation.

Then the same for the shadows. And afterward, set the balance between the highlights and shadows tones of the image.

Lens Corrections

Depending on what kind of lens you used, you might need to make corrections. The first part solves the distortion.  In some cases, so-called fringing appears, especially when you have a high contrast image containing very bright elements next to dark ones.

On the edges between these different parts, you can very often find color ghosts mainly with purple or green color tones.

The defining tool allows you to get rid of this color fringing. You can even define a color interval that has to be solved for both purple and green color fringes.

The last part is the Vignetting correction, where you can fix the lens vignetting.

This slider can be also used more creatively and create deliberate vignetting to increase the contrast and lead the viewer’s attention to the center of the image.


Effects submenu contain Grain and Post Crop Vignetting options. Grain function adds the grain of various intensity and size so you can create the effect of an old film image.


I use more often the Post crop vignetting, which allows you to lead the viewer’s attention to the center. It is similar to the lens correction vignetting, but here you have more options and setting possibilities.


As you can see, the Camera Raw filter is a mighty filter that allows you y using only one filter to set a lot of parameters. It is an easy way to apply many useful effects concentrated into one single filter.

On the other hand, there are some cons, and it is mainly the fact that it is applicable only on the pixel layer, so it is a destructive filter.

But it can be solved by converting the layer into the smart object so you can revert any setting during the editing process.

An excellent feature is to use the Lightroom presets to set your favorite settings quickly in one click.

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