Sometimes, when timid Jpeg shooters take the leap and shoot in Raw format, they find that they can’t open their Raw files, or even view them.

And other times, experienced Raw shooters upgrade their camera, then are startled to find they can’t edit their first batch of Raw files.

“Help!!”

In almost all cases, this is because your camera is newer than your version of Photoshop. At the time of releasing a version of Photoshop, Adobe includes support for Raw files from all cameras which have been manufactured to that date. Then, as time goes by, they release updates to support newer cameras. Once they release a new version of Photoshop, they stop updating the previous version.

(Please note that I’m using the word “Photoshop” to include Elements and Bridge as well.)

The first thing you must do is update the Photoshop that you have. Go to the Help menu and choose “Updates”. If there are any updates available, it will automatically download and install them. It’s a good idea to do this in Bridge as well as Photoshop.

(In very rare cases, if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to manually visit the Adobe site and download them. However, this is a PITA, and hardly ever necessary. The Help menu option should work fine.)

If you update, but still can’t open the files, it means that your camera is significantly newer than your version of Photoshop. From here, you have four options:

1) Upgrade Photoshop. This what Adobe would love you to do, of course. However, it’s not always in our budget.

2) Convert your Raw files DNG. DNG (Digital Negative) is the generic Raw format, which can be opened by any version of Photoshop. The DNG converter is a free download available from the Adobe site (Under “Downloads” on this page – make sure you’ve got the most up-to-date one!). DNG conversion is a relatively fast batch process – it only adds a few seconds per image to your workflow, and can easily be done while you’re pouring a wine after a hard session. Once your files are DNGs, you can edit them to your heart’s content.

I’ve recorded this brief video demonstrating the converter:

3) Use the software that came with your camera. I’m sure most cameras come with at least rudimentary software to open their Raw files. It might not be the world’s best, but it’ll get you started. If you find the software is just converting to Jpeg without giving you any options to control the white balance, exposure etc, then run a mile. The whole point of shooting raw is to control those things.