Photoshop is a big, complex piece of software. You’re not going to learn everything about it in a day or even a year, but that’s OK — you have to start somewhere!
In the Camera Raw environment, you can make all kinds of adjustments to color, contrast, etc. There are many ways to do this; it’s more art than science. Here’s a basic workflow for processing raw camera files:
Before you start
Set up your work environment to reduce glare on your monitor.
Turn up the monitor brightness so that the display is easy to see (if working on a laptop, plug in your charging cable).
Wipe your monitor clean of dust and junk.
Import your images into the Camera Raw editor
Copy your images from the camera’s SD card to your computer. They will appear as Raw files with an extension like .CR2, .NEF, etc.
Select the camera image files you wish to work on
Right-click on them and open with Photoshop
The Camera Raw environment appears
Adjust white balance
Expand the Basic controls and find the White Balance settings.
Select Custom white balance, then click on the eyedropper icon
With the eyedropper tool, select an area of your image that should be pure white. This could be the white patch of the color chart. Neutral gray works too.
Enable Remove Chromatic Aberrations (fixes color artifacts introduced by the lens)
Through the magic of XMP metadata, Photoshop knows what kind of camera and lens the image was made with, and applies appropriate corrections. This is especially helpful when shooting flat artwork.
Click on Open to continue working on the image in Photoshop.
Or just save it to native Photoshop format (.psd) to “bake in” your adjustments. The Raw file remains untouched.
The changes you made in the Camera Raw environment are saved in a separate “sidecar” file with the .xmp extension.
The next time you open the Raw file, it will come up with your saved settings applied, as long as the .xmp file is still present in the same folder. This allows you to non-destructively edit your settings later!
To revert the raw file to its original state, simply trash the .xmp file.
The .xmp file is just a bunch of xml. You can open it with a text editor and see what sort of info is getting saved, if you’re interested.