As many of you know, Nikon is eliminating their image editing program Nikon Capture NX2 and is replacing it with a new software package called Capture NX-D. They recently announced that they will cease supporting NX2 at some point during the summer of 2014.
If you are a NX2 user, then what how should you manage the photos you’ve created when support for the software ends? What software should you use moving forward?
Quoting from Jason’s website:
“In this episode of The Sensor Plane, I sat down with Mike Hagen, a professional photographer from Washington state, USA. Mike and I have both published books on Nikon’s Capture NX2, and were avid Capture NX2 users. We discussed the current state of Nikon NEF processing in light of the recent announcement that Nikon was dropping support for Capture NX2 and releasing a new product, Capture NX-D.
Mike and I discussed some options for current Capture NX2 users looking to move forward as Nikon transitions to the new Capture NX-D software.”
A few days ago while flying from Seattle to Salt Lake City, our airplane passed over the Cascade Mountains. I took about ten photographs of the mountain range, but knew that they weren’t going to amount to much because of the hazy sky. After returning from my trip, I decided to take a swing at creating a usable image from my original RAW file using Adobe Lightroom 5 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
The reason hazy photographs look drab is that they lack contrast. In other words, the image doesn’t have significant separation between the shadows and the highlights. This low contrast scenario is readily apparent if you look at the histogram. Notice how in the original picture, the histogram is bunched up in the middle of the graph. This means that the shadows are not black and the highlights aren’t white.
The solution to giving your image more contrast is to spread out the histogram so the shadows are darker and the highlights are brighter. There are a few ways to do this, but the quickest and easiest is to simply adjust the contrast slider in your editing program. The contrast tool is a fairly blunt tool and I rarely recommend using it because it doesn’t have much finesse. However, in a situation like this photograph, I recommend it. Increasing the contrast effectively spreads out the histogram so the highlights are brighter and the shadows are darker.
The next step is to add some micro-contrast so features like mountain ridges have more definition. Do this by increasing the Clarity slider or by adjusting Structure in plugins like the Nik Collection.
Finally, to really make a hazy photograph look good, my suggestion is to convert it to black and white. I’ve found that color photographs tend not to look great when they started as very hazy images. Converting the image to B&W allows you to add even more contrast without messing with the saturation or color balance of the image.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved with three different conversations with photographers about when to crop a photo in post processing. One person suggested cropping at the beginning of the process, one suggested cropping at the end and the other just wasn’t sure.
I tend to crop differently depending on what software I’m using. The cropping process in Lightroom is different than in Photoshop because of the way they handle your image files. Let me explain:
When using Lightroom or Aperture, I can crop at any point in the process without really worrying about the workflow. The reason why is that all of the edits in LR/Aperture are applied globally and the crop doesn’t affect these settings. If you crop the image at the beginning of the process and then continue editing the image with saturation, contrast and noise reduction, then LR/Aperture allow you to change the crop later on while still applying all your settings to the entire photo.
In other words, crop instructions in LR and Aperture are only a virtual crops. They don’t really remove pixels or image data from the file. For this reason, I often crop at the beginning of the process in LR/Aperture because I know it can be easily changed or reversed.
The workflow in Photoshop is different though. When you crop an image in Photoshop, you are actually eliminating pixels from the picture. Let’s say that you decide to initially crop your photo in a square format, then convert it to black and white. Then, you do some more work on the photo such as cloning out dust or adding contrast. Finally, at the end of the editing process, you decide that you also want to create a 5×7 image with the same settings as the square crop. With Photoshop, you can’t easily to this because you cropped at the beginning. You’ll have to undo all your editing steps, crop it as a 5×7, then re-do all the editing steps. Therefore, in Photoshop, I recommend cropping at the end of the process. That way, all of your edits are in place and you can crop for output as your final step.
Take the image below as a workflow example. Notice the blown-out area of the sky in the upper right corner? I know that this isn’t going to reproduce well when printed, so I’ll need to crop it out. The question isn’t if, but when I should crop. In the Lightroom/Aperture workflow, it doesn’t matter when I crop. I can crop at the beginning or at the end of the process since all the edits I make are just instructions.
On the other hand, if I was working on the image in Photoshop, I tend to wait to the end of the process to crop. That way, my edits are applied to all the pixels, and my final step can be to crop the image for my desired output. This gives me the most flexibility with my files, since I might want to make one image as a panorama and another as a 4″x4″ square with the same settings.