Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Processing The RAW

Photographers in the digital age are inundated with software so Digital Photo Pro talked to the experts to get the ins and outs on two of the most popular RAW processing packages on the market

Using NEF Instruction Sets

After you open a NEF image in Capture, you'll notice a small arrow icon and a red X in the upper left-hand corner of each Adjustment palette. The arrow opens and closes the palette for use. The red X indicates that the palette is inactive and can't be adjusted. The actual setting for that palette has been provided by the Instruction Set in the NEF file. When the image is opened and processed, the NEF image you see is using the Instruction Set from the camera. This set was embedded in the NEF file as the camera shutter was released. It can be altered by simply clicking the red X to activate the palette, which will turn to a green check mark; then you can make your adjustment.

Any adjustments you make here won't replace the original settings in the Instruction Set created by the camera. At any time during the adjustment of the image, you may return to a view of the original Instruction Set by clicking the green check mark in the upper left-hand corner back to the red X. This will return that setting to the original NEF Instruction Set. Toggle this on and off to see the changes you've made. Now, for each palette you've adjusted, you may save each of those individual settings to a folder on your computer for future use, either in single image editing or by using Capture's batch operation feature.

Each palette has in its upper right-hand corner a small tab that when clicked will display Save and Load settings for that adjustment palette. For the White Balance setting, for example, it easily can be saved to your hard drive in any folder, with the name you want, or you simply can copy it temporarily to the clipboard and then paste it directly into any other image you may have open in Capture. This also is available from the Settings menu.

In addition to copying individual palettes to the clipboard, you can copy all your palette adjustments at once to the clipboard by using the Edit Menu > Copy Image Adjustments; then you can paste this entire collection of settings directly into other opened images in Capture. That's fine when you have images open in Capture and you're taking your time. But what if you return from an assignment and need to perform a batch process to an entire folder of images, and you need particular changes to be made to each and every one of them? Using Instruction Sets along with the Capture Batch command is the NEF power tool for you!

Here's how the last scenario just mentioned will work. Open a single exemplary image from the folder of images to perform an adjustment that you want to apply to all the images. Let's say you set the white balance incorrectly for all of these images and you want to change the color space setting from sRGB to Adobe RGB. Also, you had your camera Tone Compensation setting too high and you want to lower it to the Normal setting. You need to change all these images quickly.

Make your original palette adjustments. From the Settings menu, select Image Adjustments > Save. This brings up a dialog box asking for the destination and naming of this Set file. Save these to a folder you easily can access since soon you'll see what a useful tool this really is. Once you've saved the Set file, you can start the batch processing.

When setting the Batch options, you'll be asked whether you want to Apply Current Settings, which applies to whatever Image Adjustment palettes are open and active to the images during batch, or if you want to Apply Settings In; this is the option you want to select in order to use NEF Instruction Sets during batching. Once you select this option, you need to tell Capture which Set file (that you have previously saved) to use. The last option in the Batch window for image adjustments is to Use Settings Already In NEF File; this tells Capture to batch-process images without any changes. This uses the Set created by the camera at the time the picture was taken. Once you run your batch process, all the images will be processed using the Instruction Set you've created, saved and applied.

You can see that using Nikon Capture's Instruction Set capabilities allows you to essentially go back in time and correct or change settings you made on your camera so that all your images come out right every time.


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