Editing JPEGs and TIFFs in Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw

This really surprises a lot of people, but you can shoot in JPEG or TIFF modes on your camera and still use Camera Raw just like you would with any RAW photo. So I thought I'd show you how to do just that, because it's not really obvious, and there are a couple of different ways to do it (and I think learning Camera Raw is the easiest and certainly fastest way to make your photos look the way you want them to look). We'll then take a look at some of the minor differences between editing a JPEG or TIFF file versus a RAW file.


If you want to open a single JPEG or TIFF image that's on your computer, go under the File menu in Photoshop, choose Open, then find the JPEG or TIFF image on your computer that you want to open. Click on it, then from the Format pop-up menu at the bottom of the Open dialog, choose Camera Raw, and click Open.

jpeg and tiff in camerraw

Photoshop opens your image in Camera Raw (take a look at the top of the window where it shows the file name—you can see that even though the image is open in Camera Raw, it's a JPEG image).

jpeg and tiff in camerraw


If you decide you always want JPEGs and TIFFs to open in Camera Raw (I sure do), you need to set that as a preference. Go to Photoshop (PC: Edit)>Preferences>Camera Raw. At the bottom of the Preferences dialog, where it says JPEG and TIFF Handling, choose Automatically Open All Supported JPEGs and Automatically Open all Supported TIFFs.

jpeg and tiff in camerraw


If you change your settings in Photoshop to automatically open JPEGs and TIFFs in Camera Raw, when you go to open an individual JPEG or TIFF from the File menu, the Format pop-up menu in the Open dialog automatically changes to Camera Raw when you click on a JPEG or TIFF file. This saves you from having to manually choose Camera Raw from the pop-up menu.

The Differences between Editing RAW and JPEG Images

I'm sure you've heard that there are advantages to shooting and editing RAW images, and one of the biggest advantages is that RAW files open as 16-bit images rather than the regular 8-bit images we work with most of the time in Photoshop. What that means to you is if you have a photo that needs a lot of "fixing" in Camera Raw (big Exposure adjustments, for example), then you'll be glad you shot in RAW because making big adjustments does less visible damage to a RAW file than it does a JPEG file (since a 16-bit file has way more data—if some pixels die in the process, there are plenty others there to make up for it).

Now, if you're having to shoot in RAW because you know your photos are going to be so messed up that you're going to need more than just minor tweaks, then learning Camera Raw might not be the best use of your time (you need to work on getting consistently proper exposures in your camera). Anyway, I wanted to get that out of the way up front; RAW images give you more "headroom" (room to tweak without visible damage) than JPEGs or TIFFs, but quite honestly, most folks will never need this headroom because today's cameras do a pretty amazing job of getting accurate exposures in most situations.

So what are the differences in editing? Almost 99% of the time, you wouldn't even really know whether you're editing a RAW, JPEG, or TIFF image in Camera Raw because all the sliders look and operate the same way, but there are three things that are distinctly different that you'll run into:


When you shoot in JPEG or TIFF mode and you click on the White Balance preset pop-up menu in the Basic panel, you'll notice that the presets are gone. Yup, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Daylight, and so on are all gone.

jpeg and tiff in camerraw

jpeg and tiff in camerraw

The reason is this: When you shoot in JPEG mode on your camera, your settings are "baked in," meaning things such as in-camera sharpening, contrast, picture styles, white balance presets, and color profiles (like Adobe RGB or sRGB) are all applied to the image in the camera. However, when you switch your camera to shoot in RAW mode, you're telling the camera to turn off that sharpening, turn off the contrast, don't apply a color profile, and turn off any picture styles you had turned on in the camera (like Vivid or Landscape). Just give me the untouched RAW photo and I'll add all that stuff myself in Camera Raw.

This is why RAW photos, straight out of the camera, usually look pretty flat—you turned off all the sharpening, contrast, and picture styles that make JPEGs look so good, but that's okay. I'm certain you (me, us, we) can do a better job of processing that RAW image than your camera does processing a JPEG, so even though our starting place might look a little flat, our ending place will look a lot better.

So this is why when you go to the White Balance pop-up menu on a RAW image, you have all those presets to choose from. This is when you pick which preset you want to apply to your image; however, if you shot in JPEG, your white balance preset you chose in your camera is already "baked in" so your preset choices don't show up.


I've read on the Web dozens of times, and even heard it from people who come to my live seminars, that the reason they shoot in RAW is that they "might want to change their white balance after the fact."

While you do have more flexibility in changing the white balance on a RAW image (and the sliders react a little differently), you absolutely can change the white balance on JPEG images using the Temperature and Tint Sliders and the White Balance tool (I). The only thing missing is the white balance presets in that menu, so the whole "I can't change my white balance" thing is totally a myth (that has now been busted!).


Most DSLRs these days have a feature called picture styles, where you can turn on presets to give you different looks for different situations. For example, if you're shooting landscapes and you turn on the Landscape picture style, your images will look more contrasty and more colorful. If you choose Vivid, then it's even more so! I always joke that turning on Vivid is like popping in a role of Fuji Velvia traditional film, which is a trick landscape photographers used for years because Velvia created a more vivid and contrasty image—perfect for landscapes.

If you chose one of these picture styles in your camera, but you shoot in RAW, the camera actually turns off those picture styles so when you open your image in Camera Raw, it's as if you never applied them. Luckily, you can choose to apply these picture style presets right in Camera Raw—just go to the Camera Calibration tab and you'll see a pop-up menu with different choices, including Landscape and Vivid (the presets you see are actually based on the camera you took the shot with). A lot of people use these picture styles in Camera Raw to get closer to the look of the JPEG (they add contrast and a more vivid look).

However, if you choose a picture style in your camera, and you shoot in JPEG mode, it embeds that picture style into the image, so when you open your image in Camera Raw, the picture style is already there. If you were to go to the Camera Calibration tab, instead of a list of picture styles (Camera Profile) you'd just see the word "Embedded."

jpeg and tiff in camerraw

jpeg and tiff in camerraw


That's right, if you shoot in RAW, the camera ignores whichever color profile you chose. So if you chose Adobe RGB or sRGB, it pretty much ignores those. That's okay because you get to choose which color profile you want in your final image in the Workflow Options, which is that little blue underlined line of text that appears below the image preview in Camera Raw. That's actually a link, and if you click on it, up come the options for how you want to export your RAW image, and you'll see a pop-up menu for choosing your color profile right there.

When you make a change in this Workflow Options dialog, you're basically setting the preference for how your images will be exported from here on out, so if you turn on sharpening here (which works really well, by the way, because it's based on your camera's size, resolution, and how it's going to be seen—more on this in a future article), it stays on for every image until you come back here and turn it off. That's not a bad thing, but just so you know, that's what's going on.

jpeg and tiff in camerraw

Those are the big three things you'll run into editing a JPEG or TIFF image in Camera Raw that would be different from editing a RAW image. This probably isn't going to change your workflow because everything else works the same, but now you know if you see something like Embedded for a Camera Profile, or you don't see any choices in your White Balance menu, you'll know exactly why (and if you want that extra level of control, it may make you want to shoot in RAW mode after all).


When you use Levels or Curves, you're using technology designed last century (they were both in Photoshop 1, and they really haven't changed since). Camera Raw is definitely the future, and besides just being faster and easier, it's really where Adobe is adding their most-important features for photographers. So even if you're not shooting in RAW, there's no reason to put off learning Camera Raw any longer (especially now that you know how to open and edit JPEGs and TIFFs in Camera Raw).

This article is courtesy of Photoshop User magazine, the official publication of KelbyOne, which provides quality online education for creative people. For more information, visit