D100 advice for beginners

Started Mar 10, 2003 | Discussions thread
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John Huber
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D100 advice for beginners
Mar 10, 2003

If you’re like me, you bought a D100 and ran out and shot photos, popped them into your home computer and ran prints. And were disappointed in them.

Here’s a brutal truth: You’re going to spend about as much money on the rest of your digital darkroom as you spent on your D100, lenses, etc. And that’s just to get prints equal to those from a quality photofinisher. Furthermore, you will spend about a week getting your system working correctly.

You can save a lot of time and exasperation by doing things in the following order (I learned this sequence the hard way; I’m no genius):

1. Order Thom Hogan’s “Complete Guide to the Nikon D100” at http://www.bythom.com . Read it cover to cover. Follow his suggestions, especially: shoot RAW, Adobe RGB. You bought a fine camera, don’t degrade its performance. Compact Flash cards are cheap.

2. Upgrade your computer hardware. If you try to do photos on a garden variety computer, you will be staring at the hour glass all the time. Go to http://www.pcphotomag.com and follow their recommendations on systems. If you go to a bigger hard drive, have a professional install it. It is almost impossible to transfer the files without some troubles; make sure they’re small ones. If possible, keep your old hard drive installed as D: (more on this later).

3. Buy Nikon Capture 3.5 and Adobe Photoshop 7. Yes, you’ll want to have both. Since you’re shooting in RAW, you need Nikon Capture to do the initial image processing (exposure, dynamic range, cropping, white balance, etc.). You need Photoshop for things as simple as processing different parts of the image, to montages, to creating totally unique images.

4. After upgrading your computer hardware, upgrade your software. Go to http://www.Microsoft.com and install upgrades for your version of Windows, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Since Outlook is part of Office, you’ll upgrade it, too. This may take several days over a dial-up connection. Often upgrades will fix many file linkage problems that came from step 2. Furthermore, you’re going to need a fast, powerful, stable system for the work following.

5. Install Photoshop 7. Go to http://www.Adobe.com and get any updates. This may take a day over a dial up connection.

6. Calibrate your monitor. Everything you see or print will be trash unless you do this first. Go to http://www.computer-darkroom.com and download Ian Lyon’s “Colour Management for Photoshop 7.” Click the button to get the pdf version, it is more complete than what you see on your screen. Follow his instructions on calibration. Several books have this information, but Lyons’ description is clear and step-by-step.

7. Buy Gregory Georges’ “50 Fast Photoshop 7 Techniques.” Go to Technique 6 “Configuring Basic Color Management. Follow his suggestions. Go back to Ian Lyons’ “Colour Management…” Follow his recommendations for Soft Proofing. Go to Georges’ Technique 44 “Using an ICC Profile…” Follow his instructions for Step 1, though your printer may be different. Only now is your system set up to faithfully communicate from your camera, through your monitor, and to your printer. Also useful are “Photoshop 7 Artistry” and “Photoshop 7 for Photographers” but the authors discuss color management for magazine printing and the extra content can become confusing.

8. Install Nikon Capture 3.5. Go to http://www.nikonusa.com and get any updates. This also can take some time over a dial up connection. Go to “The Color Management Tab” on p 182 of the Nikon Capture 3 User’s Manual. If it didn’t come in your package, you can download it off their website. Specify both your monitor profile from step 4 and your printer profile from step 6. Finding your printer profile may not be straightforward. The listings in Windows/System/Color are cryptic. You may need to open your printer software to discover it. My Epson Stylus Photo 1200 profile is Ee053_1.icm. Now you have color management and can get good prints from Capture.

9. Buy a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker card (available at good camera stores). Shoot an image of it on an overcast day with the D100 White Balance set to cloudy. Print it from Capture and Photoshop. Compare the prints to the original under white light (e.g. outside on a cloudy day). The printed colors should match the original very closely.

10. All this is advice for beginners. In many books and forums you will find more sophisticated approaches. These are valuable for people who can discern thirteen shades of aqua.

11. Optional: Run all the applications on your new hard drive for a month or more and be sure it all works right. Then format your old hard drive (see step 2 above). Go to Georges’ Technique 1 “Configuring Photoshop 7” and in Step 5 set the scratch disk to D:

12. You may be saying, “Why is all this hop-scotching necessary?” I can’t explain it. One thing to remember: Vendor manuals tell you what options you have. User-written documents tell you what options to choose. Try to find a user-author who does work like you do.

Now go out and have fun!

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John Huber

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