How do I set up my in-camera settings? I get asked this question a lot. Most modern DSLR cameras offer a tremendous number of options for image quality and other settings that go beyond film, when all that mattered was setting the appropriate exposure.
Camera settings come in several categories, but here are the major ones:
Exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO)
White balance (color temperature)
Processing settings (color, contrast, sharpness)
Noise reduction settings
Other corrections (lens distortion, vignette removal, etc.)
Each of these settings offers the photographer control over the final image, so it’s easy to see how they can quickly become overwhelming. But here’s the deal. Unless you shoot JPEG or use your manufacturer’s raw conversion software (eg, Nikon Capture NX or Canon DPP), most of these settings are utterly meaningless.
A long time ago (as in 2005, when I got my first DSLR), I routinely shot RAW+JPEG when I traveled. The big reason for this was because at the time, most laptop computers were just not capable of rendering RAW previews fast enough to make browsing lots of images feasible. Since then, computers got faster, and software got better, and a RAW-only workflow became a viable option for travel.
Nikon has just announced the immediate release of Capture NX2 version 2.3. This is a major update to the software, as not only does it include numerous bug fixes, but it also offers native 64-bit processor support. It also offers native Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) support. I had the opportunity to run a series of performance benchmarks, and I’ll also address the new features and caveats of upgrading. Continue reading Nikon Capture NX 2.3 Performance Review→
Periodically, I like to go through my old images and re-process them; it’s one of the great benefits of shooting in RAW. Being able to work with my old images in new software really opens up some options that I didn’t even consider at the time I made the shot. I captured this image in 2005 while on a photo safari in South Dakota. At the time, I was shooting a new Nikon D2x camera and I had just gotten my 17-55mm f/2.8 AFS DX zoom Nikkor lens. I also had just upgraded to Photoshop CS2, which had a new feature: “Merge to HDR.” I thought HDR could be a cool thing to learn, so I shot a lot of bracketed exposure sequences during this 5-day trip. Many of them were uninspiring. Others, I found difficult if not impossible to process, and so I just processed the best exposure in the sequence with traditional techniques (that’s the nice thing about bracketing– you’ll always have at least one “normal” exposure).
The one thing I didn’t do, however, was delete the other exposures from the bracketed sequence. They’ve just been sitting on one of my 1TB hard drives, waiting for me to give them a second chance. Fast forward to 2011, and now HDR tools have progressed to the point where you can get great results quickly and easily. So, yesterday I went back and re-processed the HDR sequence in HDR Efex Pro and Capture NX 2, and I was quite pleased! Here’s what was in the new technology that I couldn’t get in 2005. Continue reading Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow→