Shooting RAW provides many advantages over JPEG, but the primary reason cited by most photographers is post-production and editing capabilities. But there is a way to edit JPEGs using the same Adobe Camera Raw plugin filters that are generally used to process RAW images.
Editing JPEGs with Camera Raw
This isn’t a new feature for Photoshop, but it’s one that doesn’t get enough attention. For a variety of reasons, you may not have access to RAW files or never shot them to begin with, but Adobe’s Camera Raw plugin has a lot of great tools that can also benefit JPEG images.
The good news is that accessing the Camera Raw plugin while editing a JPEG in Photoshop couldn’t be easier: simply go to the Filter menu drop-down and click on “Camera Raw Filter”. Or, as an alternative, you can open any JPEG and then use the keyboard combo of Shift+CTRL+A on Windows or Shift+CMD+A on OS X. This is for Photoshop CC; other versions may have a different keyboard shortcut.
This will pull up the familiar Camera Raw window with all of the panels and tools usually associated with RAW editing (don’t make fun of my horrible histogram; it was a really hard shot to get!).
What Do You Gain By Editing JPEGs with Camera Raw?
The biggest gain, in my opinion, is that your workflow for RAW and JPEG images will now be streamlined. All of the “develop” functions, such as exposure, white balance, lens aberration correction, etc, will be handled in Camera Raw, while actual photo editing tasks will be done in Photoshop. The editing work would be things like spot remove, hair touch-ups, adjustment layers for color grading, patch tool work, image masking, adding text elements, and that sort of thing.
What Won’t Change By Using Camera Raw for JPEGs
While the tools will be the same, using Camera Raw for editing JPEGs won’t magically make your JPEG images have the amazing dynamic range that RAW files have. All the limitations of the JPEG file format are still there.
You might find some workflow efficiencies by editing JPEGs with Camera Raw, and it’s simple to try out. So give it a shot and see what you think.