Despite the title of this chapter, I promise to keep it equation-free and relatively nontechnical. Camera Raw offers functionality that at a casual glance may seem to replicate that of Photoshop. But the important ways in which raw files differ from more conventional Photoshop fare, which we spent the last chapter examining, dictate that just about everything you can do in Camera Raw, you should do in Camera Raw.
To understand why this is so, it helps to know a little about how Camera Raw performs its magic. If you're the type who would rather learn by doing, feel free to skip ahead to Chapter 4, Camera Raw Controls, where you'll be introduced to the nitty-gritty of actually using all the controls in Camera Raw; but if you take the time to digest the contents of this chapter, you'll have a much better idea of what the controls actually do, and hence a better understanding of how and when to use them.
To use Camera Raw effectively, you must first realize that computers and software applications like Photoshop and Camera Raw don't know anything about tone, color, truth, beauty, or art. They're really just glorified and incredibly ingenious adding machines that juggle ones and zeroes to order. I won't go into the intricacies of binary math except to note that there are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary math and those who don't! You don't need to learn to count in binary or hexadecimal, but you do need to understand some basic stuff about how numbers can represent tone and color.