D-Lighting applied after the shot......and other solutions.....

If the picture is still in the camera, but you have no chance to re shoot it at the correct exposure you still have one more opportunity to change it before it goes to the printer or the computer. The D80 and D90 have and additional step for post processing built into the camera which is in the retouch menu. Even though you have used Auto Active D-Lighting to capture the picture, there is one more chance to salvage shadow information in the camera. An overexposed picture cannot be saved, but a manual D-Lighting process may be applied to any picture to enhance shadow detail and may be applied only one time. It will create an additional JPG image with the first three characters of "CSC" instead of "DSC". You are allowed a choice of three different degrees of adjustment.

Hopefully, by now, you have a JPG that has the tonality you can live with. All the 14 and 16 bit math has been done and you don't have any more gross adjustments to the image except cropping and sharpening for the next step, printer or web. But, if not, you can forget about the previous six chapters and start over again with raw conversion. You have two choices, use Nikon View  which is free and accepts the preset conditions within the NEF file or Capture NX2 which costs $150 discounted or you could take your NEF file to a third party software such as Adobe ACR.

While you were in Nikon ViewNX you might have noticed that the exposure, white balance, highlight protection, contrast, shadow protection and other adjustments could have been made in addition to Picture Controls could have been used to create a new JPG version in addition to any already converted by the camera. You could have even saved the intermediate version as an eight or sixteen bit TIFF file for further processing.

Had you decided to use the purchased version of Nikon CaptureNX2 you could have continued to selectively enhanced areas of the picture using proprietary masking systems to make more artistic enhancements to sky, water and any definable area you desired. This is a legitimate option and many people prefer this.

When you leave the realm of Nikon software you give up all the special features that make your camera unique. There is no more in camera features such as gamma curves, vivid conversions, Picture Controls, etc. Although there are many non Nikon solutions for post processing, the most popular and well known options for raw processing are Adobe Camera Raw which is available for both the professional Photoshop and the inexpensive Photoshop Elements products. The most inexpensive ACR solution is to purchase Elements and download the appropriate ACR add on for free. The cost is about $80 discounted.

At this time ACR does not recognize the variables assigned by the camera to process the image but instead uses a best guess curve to the raw image. This is why ACR has frequent updates to include the most recent cameras and best guess estimates of what will produce an acceptable image. ACR for the D90 will only work with the most recent versions of Adobe products. Currently there is an ACR for Elements 5-7 and Photoshop CS3. If you have another camera check the Adobe site for ACR availability.

If the file opened in Photoshop is a raw (NEF) file, ACR will open with a window for the image and a single column of variables that should be used for the conversion to an editable file for Photoshop. The list of tasks is equivalent to a wizard in as much as it should be filled out from top to bottom and certain settings are remembered from image to image as you work through your list of images.

The raw conversion is very fast and the image can be passed on to the Photoshop application as an eight bit or sixteen bit image. You should not have any more tonal operations after you get to the next step.

The other adjustment you may find helpful is the Shadow highlight feature which allows you to adjust the shadow and highlight area as separate adjustments. Adobe has made a game of finding the feature under a variety of different menu structures. It is in every product, so be a good sport and find it in whatever product you may have. One thing they have done right is to do the math in 16 bit mode whether or not you have used 8 or 16 bit when importing the image. This means more accurate rounding and fewer gaps and peaks in the histogram. This is not true of the levels adjustment which can create posterized gaps in the dark tones. Remember that the histograms you see in black do not weigh the red channel as heavily as the other color channels and so you may still blow the red channel unless you particularly watch that channel.

Just to be clear, if you produced a properly exposed JPG out of the camera the levels and shadow/highlight features mentioned here are still an effective way to tune your image.

Continue to Chapter 7 

White Balance
Focus Your Camera
Leon Goodman Home
Photo Gallery


Back Home to Exposed

1  History of curves and programmable contrast and gamma

2  Picture Control and Picture Control Utility

3  Creating and installing Custom curves in the camera

4  How to design a curve for your needs

5  Active D-Lighting

6  D-Lighting applied after the shot

7  Where to go for more information

8  The DOWNLOAD page



© Leon Goodman 2009

Nikon, Picture Control, curves, exposure, contrast, brightness, vivid, portrait,  landscape, flash,  fill,  sun synch, NEF, raw, jpg, jpeg, TIF, TIFF, tone, gamma, sharpening, unsharp, USM, HDR, focus, blur, Custom curves, D-Lighting, auto, automatic, programmable, camera, DSLR, dynamic range, D90, D3, D300, D700, D70, D50, D40, D60, D80, D100, D200, D2, D2X, shutter speed, Aperture.

 The job of the camer