Retouching a RAW capture as much as possible before finishing the photograph in Photoshop is a best practice. RAW files contain all of the data that the camera was able to record of a scene, without a gamma curve imposed. In other words the RAW photo is pure, unaltered image info along with a color look up table (LUT) telling the RAW processor what color each pixel is on the sensor. Edits in Camera Raw are non-destructive. They provide the highest quality image to hand off to Photoshop. For instance it is much better to darken a sky of a RAW file in Camera Raw than it is to the Camera Raw Filter on pixels in Photoshop.
Compare the exact same settings in Camera Raw on a RAW capture (left) to them rendered with the Camera Raw Filter on pixels (right.) Pixels, even in 16 bit, can’t match the quality garnered from working directly on a RAW file.
My class RAW Retouching class at Photoshop World, September 4th at 10:45am shows retouching techniques using Camera Raw on Smart Objects in Photoshop to maximize image quality. This video is a preview of just some of the RAW magic in my session.
I’ll see you in class at Photoshop World, Las Vegas!