Adobe Camera RAW 14

I am a firm believer in keeping up with technology, learning new things and generally being ‘up-to-date’. The one thing that regularly makes me question that philosophy is the changes that Adobe make on a regular basis to their Camera RAW plug-in for Photoshop. This isn’t going to be my first blog post about what they’ve changed and how it effects my workflow. I was unhappy about what they did in Version 12.3 (but I got over it). I was pretty pleased with Version 13.0 and remained so throughout its lifespan. Now that I have had some time to digest what Version 14.0 has to offer I thought that I’d come back and share my impressions.

Before I get into this remarkably short post I’d like to mention one of the relevant things that I have learned over the years – to avoid commenting on change until I have given it a chance to grow on me.

The principal thing that I get worked up about is when the software engineers throw out features that were simple and quick to use and replace them with over-complicated functions that don’t help me to crop, tone and edit my images better. I mention this because my initial reaction was that Adobe had managed to substitute a very easy to use set of tools (the graduate and radials) with something a lot more versatile but much slower to use. I even had a few conversations with friends and colleagues about the changes and I have no doubt that one or two of them are reading this and remembering how annoyed I was.

A month or so down the road I’m still not wildly enthusiastic about the new process for editing images which require the use of the graduate and radial tools. What has happened is that I have realised that for some (and in my case a very small number of) things the new option is undoubtedly better. Furthermore the new masking tools are really good and I have realised that what I actually want/need is both options. I want the old toys for the basic uses that I had for them and I want the new ones for those few occasions when I need them.

What I am actually asking for here is a bit of the dreaded ‘software bloat’. I’d love to be able to customise the interface and have some of the v13 tools re-instated and keep the v14 upgrades there as well. My general workflow just got a tiny bit slower and I’d like to be able to reverse that because nobody wants to spend longer editing their pictures than they have to.

Anyway, that’s most of my gripes and suggestions out of the way. Let’s talk about the masking tool.

B****y brilliant!

It isn’t every day or on many images that I need to use masking in the RAW editor but when I do I have always struggled to mask as accurately as I would want to without it taking considerable amounts of time. The new automated mask is a work of genius. Like most genius it is the tiniest bit flawed but, once you learn to know when it might make mistakes, you have got to love it.

I have said it on many occasions and it is still true: the fastest way to edit images is to get them as close to perfect in camera as you can. I have spent the whole of my career trying to do just that but there are occasions when colour, density and contrast adjustments are required and having software that allows you to make them quickly and accurately has to be welcomed. If you haven’t yet tried the new masking then I strongly suggest that you do.

Of course it’s never good to be trying to learn a new technique whilst working on a live commission against a deadline and/or a budget. I have learned that the hard way too many times and so I have been practising the use of the masks as well as working with the gradient and radial tools and I’m pretty much up to speed with them now.

I said that I had revealed most of my gripes but there is one that just keeps coming back. It feels as if every time Adobe makes a change to Photoshop it is to bring it in line with Lightroom. It’s as if they don’t understand that there those of us who regard making Photoshop in general and Camera RAW in particular more like Lightroom as a bad thing. Lots of us don’t use Lightroom because we don’t like it and because it works in ways that we just don’t want to. I’m not necessarily talking about functionality here – it’s mostly (but nowhere near exclusively) the interface. So here’s my request to Adobe:

Please don’t turn Photoshop into any more of a Lightroom clone than you already have done.


  1. Hi Neil, The masking is a great feature no doubt. I love the brush and subject masking ability. Sky masking helps on occasion too. It does take getting used to though and I totally agree as a Bridge/Photoshop user… please Adobe keep it that way. I looked at Lightroom and other software but my entire work has always been stored in numbered job folders so the idea of making catalogues….. is not for me. always enjoy your insights…. Ps Happy Christmas to you and all your readers


  2. 100%
    Masking is really good but the extra stage in applying vignettes to skies and edges etc. is a pain. One step forward and one step back.
    I had 13 years as an imaging specialist on national newspapers here in Scotland, so don’t get me started on Lightroom!
    Keep up the good work đź‘Ť


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