One of the things I like about shooting in RAW is that I have the ability to override my in-camera settings during post-processing. The RAW safety net is tremendously useful, even if you get most things “right” on a shoot. One thing I don’t like, however, is using software that automatically throws away my in-camera settings because it thinks it is smarter than me. When I preview my images, I want to see what I had shot in-camera, even if I got it “wrong” (I like to learn from my mistakes).
I’m mostly talking about image browsers, here. All these products that are “RAW saavy.” That’s really just code for “built-in RAW converter” that will ignore all your in-camera settings. The problem with multiple RAW converters is that each one works with its own set of instructions. If you use Browser “A” to view your files, then process them in Application “B”, when you go back to Browser “A,” you won’t see any changes in your image previews. This conundrum is why we’re seeing a big push towards “soup to-nuts” products like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture.
Take for instance, the scenario where you shoot NEFs using different Nikon Picture Controls. By default, you can make four different core settings in your camera:
When you look at the LCD preview on your camera, you can tell the difference between the images. Neutral is low-contrast and low-saturation, while vivid is high-contrast and high-saturation. And monochrome, well it’s black and white.
Now consider what happens when you download those same four images and preview them in a browser that has its own RAW engine:
Some people assume that the Control Point technology found in Capture NX2 and Nik Viveza is something you use to make radical image adjustments, like changing the color of a sky. Not so. In fact, some of the most powerful adjustments I make with Control Points are subtle ones, intended to accentuate a subject against its background. The image above is an example of where I used Color Control Points (in this case, in Capture NX2) to enhance the subject.
I finally got a little time (and sunshine) to head out to the local nature center to fiddle around with my 600mm VR lens and try it with the TC-20E III. When you are using long lenses, tripods are absolutely mandatory; hand-holding is not at all feasible (well, maybe if you pump iron like Ah-nold).
I started off with my normal combo for small birds: 600mm + TC-14E. This gives an effective 840mm focal length on my FX Nikon D3s. The TC-14E only costs one stop of light, so my lens behaves as though it were f/5.6 instead of f/4 when it is wide-open. I’ve used this combination several times in the past, and it works really well. I get sharp images and AF performance is still very fast and accurate.
I had the pleasure of going back home to Florida for one of those “you are getting old” rituals– my 20th high school reunion. Unlike last time, when I brought my point and shoot film camera, this time I was ready, armed with a Nikon D3, 24-70mm lens, and SB-900. I figured I’d do what I had always done at official high school events– shoot photos! But I wanted to make sure that these photos would have a better quality than the standard snapshots we get with the point and click cameras that I knew everyone else would be using.
Photo Mechanic 4.6.1 (still in public beta at this time, but available for trial download from Camerabits) offers a new watermarking feature that allows you to put a watermark image on exported images. I’ve adapted this technique to put my signature on images that I can export as JPEGs directly from my NEFs without having to go through Photoshop first.