Elements Raw Files

The elements raw feature in Photoshop Elements allows you to easily process pictures that were shot in raw format.

For the most part, raw files come from DSLR cameras however there are a few high end point and shoot cameras that will create raw files.

A raw file can be thought of as a digital negative, that is, no in-camera processing has been performed on the file - it's the raw information that you saw when you looked through the viewfinder.  When a picture is shot as a jpeg file then some in-camera processing occurs.

Things such as sharpness, white balance, contrast, saturation and some level of compression are typically applied to jpeg files in-camera which means you've lost control at this point.  You can still mess with some of the adjustments but not all of them can be modified back to the original information.

With a raw file none of these adjustments are applied - what you see is what you get.  As a result the raw files are huge because of the enormous amount of information they contain.

In truth, a smaller jpeg file is typically fine for most situations but if you've got a camera that shoots raw and you have to ability to work with the elements raw feature then give it a go - you may well love the results.

Elements Raw Files
Main Screen

When you double click on an Elements Raw file in Adobe Bridge this is the screen that loads.

elements raw main screen

It's a substantial screen so let's take a look at it in more detail.

Across the top at the left are the tools including ...
  • Magnifying Glass.
  • Hand Tool.
  • Eye Dropper.
  • Crop Tool.
  • Straighten Tool.
  • Red Eye Brush.
  • Preferences Button.
  • Rotate Image buttons (left and right).
These are pretty much the standard tools you use in Elements.

Also at the top of the screen above the image preview are the Preview Check box and the Minimize button.

Along the bottom of the preview window are ...
  • Zoom level.
  • File Name (n the middle).
  • Help Button.
  • Save Image Button.
  • Bit Depth Selector.
As well as the standard image buttons that can be modified with the Alt Key ...
  • Done.
  • Cancel (becomes the Reset Button when the Alt key is pressed).
  • Open Image (becomes Open Copy when the Alt key is pressed).

Elements Raw Screen


This is where the magic happens with your Elements Raw files.

At the very top of the screen is the image Histogram with two little up-facing arrows.  When the elements raw histogram clipping buttonslittle up-facing arrows are each clicked then the clipped areas of the image will be highlighted.

Clipping occurs when either the shadows or highlights are either too dark (shadows) or too bright (highlights) to contain any information. 

The left one will show the shadows that have been clipped and the right one will show the highlight areas that have been clipped.  You know when they are active because there is a little box around each of the up-facing arrows.

The clipping will show on the image ...
  • Clipped Shadows will be blue.
  • Clipped highlights will be red.
Here's the image once again with clipping easy to see ...

elements raw clipping

More on this later when we discuss how to fix clipping.

Adjustment Sliders

There are three tabs across the top of the Adjustment Slider ares - Basic, Detail and Camera Calibration.

Elements Raw Screen
Basic Tab

Basic ScreenElements Raw adjustment screen

This one contains most of the adjustment sliders.  The top ones have to do with White Balance.  If all is well then just leave these ones alone.

If not then drop down the list or move the slider to correct White Balance.


This slider adjusts the brightness of the image.  When the slider is move to +1.50 it is similar to increasing the size of your camera f-stop by 1.5 stops.

If you hold the ALT key down while adjusting the slider then areas that are clipped will show up as colors that conform to the color channels.


When the little highlight triangle in the histogram is clicked then any clipped highlights will show up as red in the preview.

The Recovery slider will attempt to recover some details from the highlights.

Fill Light

Likewise, with the shadow triangle in the histogram clicked, then any clipped areas in the shadows will show up as blue in the preview window.

Moving the slider to the right will lighten the shadows (similar to adjusting the shadow slider in Shadows/Highlights in the Elements editor).  Another analogy is the results are similar to using a fill flash when the picture is taken.


This slider specifies which input levels are mapped to black.  Confusing?

Try it - that's all you need to do.


This is similar to using the Exposure slider.  Instead of clipping the image, this slider compresses the highlights and expands the shadows as the slider is move to the right.

In general, Adobe recommends adjusting the brightness after setting the white and black clipping points with the exposure slider.


This slider adjusts the midtone contrast in the image.  It is generally best to  adjust contrast after setting the previously mentioned sliders.

The last three sliders (Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation) are at the bottom of the basic screen.


This one sharpens the clarity of edges in the image and helps restore detail and sharpness that may have been lost in some of the previous adjustments.


This slider adjusts the saturation  to minimize clipping as the colors approach full saturation.  It changes the lower-saturated colors while minimizing the effect on higher saturated colors.

It also prevents skin tones from becoming over saturated.


This adjusts the image for -100 (monochrome) to full saturation +100.

Elements Raw Screen
  Detail Tab

The Detail Tab is used for Sharpening and Noise Reduction.


This section enhances the definition of the edges in an image.  The Zoom Level must be at 100% to see the effect of the sliders.

elemnts raw detail tabl

This adjusts edge definition - a value of 0 turns off sharpening.  Select a low value for clean images - or simply adjust until you like the look.


This slider adjust the size of the details to which sharpening is applied - kind of difficult to get your head around that one.

Use this one until you like the results as well.


These are getting more confusing as the list goes on - this slider adjusts how much high-frequency information is sharpened in the image and how much the process emphasizes the edges.


The slider controls an edge mask.  At 0 everything is sharpened by the same amount and at a setting of 10000 sharpening is mostly near the strongest edges.

Noise Reduction

Adjusts the color saturation from -100 (monochrome) to +100 (double saturation).


Adjusts greyscale noise.


Adjusts chroma noise.

Elements Raw Screen
  Camera ProfileTab

elements raw camera profileCamera Profile

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) uses profiles to process raw images.  This tab lets you select which profile to use and there are three choices

  • ACR 2.4
  • ACR 4.4 (newer and improved profiles_
  • Adobe Standard.
I just leave mine on Adobe Standard and changing the profile doesn't seem to do much of anything.

Elements Raw
  After Adjustments


Once you work through the Elements adjustments you have a number of different choices ...
  • Save the file as a modified Raw file (click the Done Button).
  • Save the file in another format (Save Image ...).
  • Open the image in Elements (Open Image).
  • Press and hold the ALT key to Reset the adjustments, or
  • Press and hold the ALT key to Open a Copy of the image..

When the file is saved in Adobe Bridge it will show the adjustments that were made in the Elements raw screen.  The great thing is that all of the adjustments that were made in Adobe Camera Raw can be removed and the file reverted to it's original state.

Here is an original file and a saved copy after doing the adjustments ...

elements raw as shot
Elements raw after adjustments
As Shot
After Adjustment

In the top right corner of the adjusted image is a little circle thing (outlined in red) - the little circle thing means that some adjustments have been applied to the raw file.

If you decided at some point that you are not happy with the adjustments then right click on the image with the little circle, scroll down to Develop Settings and then down to Clear Settings.

This will remove all of the adjustments you've done - one of the really cool advantages of using Raw files.

elements raw develop settings

Open In Elements

Once the elements raw editing is done you can open the file in the full version of Photoshop Elements by clicking Open Image and then you can use any of the adjustments.

If the Depth in the Elements raw editor was set to 8 bits then all of the adjustments are available right away.

If the Depth in the Elements raw editor was set to 16 bits then some of the adjustments will not be available until the bit depth is lowered to 8 bits (Image > Mode > 8 Bits/Channel).  This could drive you crazy until you figure it out - I know because it drove me crazy until I figured it out.

elements raw bit selector
You can also set the bit depth to 8 bits in the elements raw editor with the drop down selector before the image is loaded into Photoshop Elements.

And here's the picture after the adjustments done with the Adobe Raw Editor ...

elements raw end

Not too bad for an image that seemed lost, is it?

Page Links

Main Screen

Raw Adjustments

Basic Tab

Detail Tab

Camera Profile

After Adjustments

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