Monday, August 16, 2010

Nikon RAW Workflow

If you want to get the best image quality out of your digital SLR, there's no doubt you should be shooting in RAW format, .NEF in Nikon speak. I'm convinced that, for the time being, to get the ultimate image quality from the latter you should be using Nikon's own conversion software, Capture NX2*.

However, there is a big frustration with NX2 when it comes to fitting it into your workflow. Frankly, the user interface is so clunky you'll want to spend as little time using it as possible. Workflow to me has three phases:
  1. Uploading and rating images
  2. Conversion from RAW to TIF files
  3. Post-processing (stitching, sharpening, etc.) and output
Adobe Lightroom 2 is an excellent product to handle all of the above but unfortunately doesn't allow you to call NX2 as an external editor, or rather, it does - but only after converting the NEF file to TIF in Adobe Camera Raw and passing this, not the original raw file, to NX2.

The solution I have found is not to use Lightroom, but instead a much older product, Adobe Bridge. Bridge installs by default with Photoshop CS4, and I have configured it so I can quickly rate my images red/amber/green (green's will always get processed, some ambers might, red never). Once this is done, I filter the view just the greens, and then I can open these NEFs directly in NX2.

Once I have processed the files, any further post-processing on the resulting TIF files will be done in Photoshop CS4. Incidently, I also use NX2 to crop images since it lets you specify an aspect ratio i.e. 3:2,5:4 etc and provides a very useful cropping guide.

*A new version of Adobe Camera Raw may change my opinion, but for now I'm sticking with NX2.

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