Active D-Lighting: how to make your Nikon capture more detail in shadows and highlights

Active D-Lighting: how to make your Nikon capture more detail in shadows and highlights

There is no shortage of Nikon-specific tips and tricks out there, but one of the most useful tools you’ll find on your Nikon DSLR is its Active D-Lighting feature.

Our sister publication, the Nikon magazine N-Photo, recently put together this simple guide on how to use Active D-Lighting to capture more detail in the shadows and highlights of your scenes.

Active D-Lighting: how to make your Nikon capture more detail in shadows and highlights

There are many lighting conditions when it’s nigh-impossible to keep detail in the highlights and shadows. To help you get better results when shooting high-contrast subjects, many Nikon DSLRs have a feature called Active D-lighting.

Active D-lighting adjusts the contrast in the image to increase the shadow and highlight detail. There are different strength settings available. These range from a low setting, which applies a small amount of contrast adjustment, to a high (or even extra high), which should only be used in extremely high-contrast lighting.

Like any effect, Active D-lighting is not something that you want to leave on all of the time. In lower-contrast conditions the processing can reduce the contrast too much, giving a flat, dull image.

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How to use Nikon’s Active D-Lighting feature

How to use Nikon's Active D-Lighting feature: step 1

01 Set Active D-lighting
There are two ways of accessing the Active D-lighting settings, depending on which model of Nikon you use. All models capable of Active D-Lighting will give you access via the Shooting menu, and you can access it from the rear information screen on many recent models.


How to use Nikon's Active D-Lighting feature: step 2

02 Menu setting
If your camera has Active D-lighting it can be accessed from the Shooting menu screen, under Active D-lighting. With this setting highlighted you can press OK, or the right section of the multi-controller, to access the different strength settings available.

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How to use Nikon's Active D-Lighting feature: step 3

03 Information screen setting
If you own a newer Nikon, you can access Active D-lighting from the information screen. Press the I or info button to activate the settings icons, then use the multi-controller to navigate to the icon. Press OK, and choose from the different strength settings.


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  • Winston Mattis

    If I shoot Raw does Active D_Lighting have any effect?

  • justbobf

    I believe Active D-Lighting only affects JPEG images; the RAW data is just that, RAW, no effects applied.

  • Haris Nalbantic

    Like most in-camera affects Active D-Lightning only permanently affects JPEGs. Open RAW files in Nikon’s own software to apply it to them!

  • Sammy01

    I have read people put up a solid argument that your camera exposure changes a little from what it would be with Active D Lighting turned off. Shooting RAW Is the way to go because you can turn it off after the fact. Use to be a very good reason to buy Capture NX. Haven’t payed with Capture NX-D though. If you’re planning to use Lightroom it Active D Lighting may be less useful, unless you’re shooting RAW+JPG and have to get things out quickly.