When you shoot in NEF format, you create an uncompressed RAW file. This gives you a more complete story about a scene’s colours and tones than you’d get from the shorthand version of an image described as a compressed JPEG. The lack of detail that’s held in a JPEG means you’re more likely to introduce artefacts when you edit the photo using Capture NX 2. These issues might include posterised colours and extra noise.
As well as providing you with better-quality results, the NEF format also gives you more editing choice. For instance, when you apply Picture Control settings to a JPEG in-camera, it can be tricky to adjust the shot’s colours and tones later on.
If you shoot in RAW, you can make tweaks from the comfort of your computer, experimenting with different looks. Capture NX 2 is also designed to read all the extra information in a NEF file, so you can make edits and try out various White Balance settings. It’s as though you’re still on location with your DSLR in hand!
In addition to these handy features, when you open a RAW file in Capture NX 2, you gain access to an extra Camera Settings panel that enables you to get more from your shots. Let’s see how it works…
How to edit Nikon raw files in Capture NX2
01 Open Camera Settings
Go to File > Open Image and browse to find the Nikon raw files on which you want to work. Toggle open the Camera Settings tab in the Edit List. The shot is too cold, as it was taken with Incandescent White Balance, designed for shooting in artificial light.
02 Change White Balance
In the New WB area, click the first dropdown menu. Pick the Daylight White Balance setting. This will reveal the correct colours. You can boost contrast and tweak hues by setting the Picture Control dropdown to Landscape.
03 Switch tabs
As well as using the RAW-only Camera Settings tab, you can also edit NEF files with Capture NX 2’s standard editing tools. Open another of your Nikon raw files. Here, our back-lit subjects lack detail in the shadows.
04 Even out lighting
Click on New Step at the bottom of the Edit List panel. In the Adjust panel, select Light > D-Lighting. Tick Better Quality (HQ). Move the Shadow Adjustment slider to 64 to brighten the shadows. Now drag Color Boost to 69.
05 Restore highlights
Go to View > Show Lost Highlights. Blown-out areas will appear as coloured patches. Set the D-Lighting’s Highlight Adjustment slider to 49. Press Shift+H to turn off clipping warnings. The sky should now have some colour and detail.
06 Boost exposure
Open exposure_before.NEF. Open the Quick Fix menu. The graph’s highlights end before the right side, indicating underexposure. Drag Exposure Compensation to 0.68 and then pop Saturation up to 13 for more vibrant colours.
Advanced Capture NX2 controls
If you’re not totally happy with your edited NEFs, try these extra options and save your changes as a preset.
The Picture Control option in the Camera Settings panel enables you to experiment with a variety of colours and tones quickly. However, you’ll probably find it useful to tweak a few extra properties using the Advanced sliders.
If you use the Bird’s Eye panel to zoom in to 100 per cent, you can use the Sharpening ruler to give your print more punch. You can also tweak properties such as Contrast, and boost Saturation if needed.
You can even save the adjusted settings as a customised Picture Control, applying it to other shots in the future.