Post Processing of RAW Images
This discussion is specifically about the post processing of RAW images (See my prior posting on Shooting Raw Images). One of the issues of shooting images in RAW, is that often post processing is needed since processing can not occur inside the camera. When a camera outputs a JPEG image the camera itself will do some processing, depending on how the manufacture setup things and the setting selected by the user.
The parameters for this processing is guarded by too many camera manufactures who seemed more interested in selling their software than supporting the users. Adobe has provide some excellent software applications for post processing RAW images, including Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop and more recently Adobe Lightroom. One of the weaknesses of these products is their inability to read the in camera setting and apply those during post processing. People would therefore often feel that RAW images looked too flat and were not vivid enough.
If you have your Nikon DSLR set on “Vivid” for example and shoot in both RAW + JPEG, when you open both images in Photoshop, the JEPG image, which had the in camera processing, will appear much more vivid than the RAW image. If you open the same two images in the Nikon program Capture NX, then it would read the in camera setting and apply it to the RAW image so the output would look much closer to the JPEG.
Adobe Camera Specific Profiles
Adobe, has released camera specific profiles that approximate these in camera settings. I have tried them with my Nikon D300 and they look very good. To do a comparision, I opened the same RAW image in both Adobe Lightroom 2 and Nikon Capture NX and placed them side by side on the same monitor, then did a screen capture. The intent here is just to look at the color adjustments. No other adjustments were made.
This first example this shows with Lightroom using the Adobe Lightroom Camera Specific “Vivid” profile on the left and Capture NX using the “Neutral” setting on the right. I start out to show you how this profile can change the image significantly. You will see what you expect, the one on the left has more vivid colors. To view each image enlarged, click on it.
Now I changed the Capture NX (image on the right) to use the Vivid setting. If the Adobe profiles are good, then the colors of both images would be close.
Next I set both the Lightroom Image (left) and the Capture NX Image (right) to use the setting “D2X Mode 3”. This is a setting offered in the Nikon D300 to approximate what the Nikon D2X would produce.
And the last comparison is both set to “Neutral”.
Based on this informal testing, I feel that Adobe has done a good job at creating the camera profile for the Nikon D300. Considering that using Lightroom is a pleasure to use and much more power compared with the poor interface and slow Nikon Capture NX, I am excited about these camera profiles. Some may feel that Capture NX still does a better job but for me I would not say so and if it did, not enough of a difference to struggle using the Nikon program.
How to Use the Camera Profiles
View this video for more information and how to download and install this camera profiles. Note that these profiles only are working with RAW images and they only work with Lightroom version 2 and ACR 4.5. However note that there is no longer any need to download the camera profiles separately. They are shipping with the latest Camera Raw update (5.2 at the time of this writing) and will be shipping with the next update of Lightroom (i.e., 2.2).
In Lightroom, in the Develop module, under the Camera Settings, you will see this drop down (but only if you are viewing a RAW image).
These are the options that you can get for the Nikon D300. Each camera has it’s own options. I found it best to create a preset for the ones I wish to use the most.
View the above video for more information. Also see the FAQs on the Adobe website.