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If I make adjustments to my images (eg. exposure, shadows, etc.), does Lightroom take advantage of the fact, that RAW images have 14-bit depth?

I often shoot and let camera save to both RAW and JPEG. And when I load those photos in Lightroom, it's hard to see difference. I want to make sure, that I'm not loosing advantage of higher dynamic range, when editing images in Lightroom (which is faster) instead of Adobe Camera Raw or similar program.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Lightroom is Adobe Camera Raw (with a lot of extra features). Your display can't/won't show you more than 8-bit colour; the extra bit depth comes into play when you make adjustments (you'd usually need to boost the blacks/shadows and recover the whites/highlights to fit a 12- or 14-bit image completely into the rendered space). Internally, you will be doing manipulations on a 16-bit (or, with the latest engine version, optionally 32-bit) version of the image (as is the case in ACR as well); the degree of manipulation will be saved as instructions to an XMP sidecar file (or into a DNG); the result of those manipulations will be rendered to 16-bit or 8-bit files when you export the image.

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It does take advantage of the extra bit depth. Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw use the same processing engine.

Here are two tests you could try to reassure yourself:

  1. Do the exact same corrections in Lightroom and Camera Raw and see if the results are similar.

  2. Shoot both RAW and JPEG, manipulate the RAW file, then copy the changes to the JPEG file in Lightroom.

In test 2 try changing white balance or recover highlights from a blown out image. It should help highlight the strong points of RAW files.

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