Better Images: Adobe’s Improved “Process Version” for Adobe Camera Raw

Vermilion Lakes Sunset, new and old ACR "process versions".

Vermilion Lakes Sunset, new and old ACR “process versions”. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Adobe has a new “process version” for Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). This means better image processing for your RAW camera files.

ACR comes with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Photoshop Elements and it is used to process RAW files from your camera. Different versions of ACR are numbered sequentially (ACR5, ACR6) and are also indicated by year (ACR 2003, ACR 2010). Each new version of ACR has some improvements, but the biggest improvements have been the two recent Process Versions that do a better job of “tone mapping” (remapping the tonal values in an image) for your photos. There are times when we expose for the highlights (brightest tones) in an image so we don’t blow them out, but it leaves other tonal values too dark. When opening an image in ACR, the tonal values that are too dark can be “remapped” so they are lighter. Or you can make lighter tones darker provided they aren’t totally washed out. ACR also has to interpret the color values in the RAW image. I recently upgraded from Photoshop CS3 to Photoshop CS6, which means I am now using ACR7’s much improved “Process Version 2012”. It does a much better job of tone mapping, not to mention the other improvements like better noise reduction and better reduction of lens vignetting.

I was doing photography at Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park in October 2012. I opened one of the RAW files in ACR5 (Photoshop CS3, Process Version 2003). It is the lower version of the pair of images above. After I upgraded to Photoshop CS6, I went back and opened the same RAW file again with ACR7 (CS6, Process Version 2012) and ended up with the upper version. This version is much closer to the colors I saw at Vermilion Lakes for both the clouds and the darker blue areas of the sky. Click on the image above to see a larger image. The new process version is much better.

Adobe has made two recent improvements to the process version. Here the the three latest versions by year and sequential number, along with the software that uses each version.

Process Version 2012 (ACR7): Photoshop CS6 & CC, Lightroom 4 & 5, Photoshop Elements 11, 12, & 13.

Process Version 2010 (ACR6): Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, Photoshop Elements 10.

Process Version 2003 (ACR5): Photoshop CS3 & CS4, Lightroom 1 & 2, Photoshop Elements 9.

If your software is using Process Version 2003, it will be well worth your while to upgrade to a more recent version. There will be a significant improvement in the way your RAW images are processed. If your software uses Process Version 2010, the decision is a little harder since the difference between 2010 and 2012 isn’t as a big a jump forward. It may come down to other improvements in the software in addition to a better process version.

For the story on how this image was created in the camera, read POTD: Vermilion Lakes Sunset.

This article was originally posted Feb. 11, 2013 and was updated October 1, 2014.


There are lots of good reasons for shooting RAW files:

The RAW versus Jpeg Exposure Advantage

RAW vs JPEG Camera Files

The more adept you become at using ACR, the better your images will be. Read the article Mastering Photoshop & Lightroom: Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

The Best Image Editing Software

Order Adobe Photoshop Elements or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom at Amazon.

You can order a print of the above photo (top version) in sizes up to 20×30 inches in the Banff Gallery at