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D600 color processing: NX vs. LR

Started Jul 25, 2013 | Discussions thread
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D600 color processing: NX vs. LR
Jul 25, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks I've participated and/or read a number of threads about colors and how well they turn out or look. I thought I'd share a shot I took this spring, processed 4 different ways to highlight why I prefer LR over NX for quick RAW conversions that give me colors I like. Note I said "I like." Color "quality" more often than not comes down to (a) preference and (b) what we've gotten used to as "normal" or "accurate," so I don't expect others to necessarily concur with my choices. Don't let preference distract you from the point I want to convey, namely that with Lightroom one can tweak color more flexibly to arrive at the desired result than if one were to tie his/her hands with Nikon's Picture Control construct.

Having said that, let's look at the first two samples, both converted in ViewNX. The first one is a straight conversion using the Picture Control I had set in the camera (Portrait). For me this result is okay, perhaps even "true to life," but lacks pop.

As shot in camera with Portrait Picture Control

For the next sample, I used ViewNX to switch to the Landscape Picture Control. Now I get a little bit more pop, especially in the sky where I like deeper blues. Notice that the bass is also a deeper, more eye-catching orange. Blues and oranges play off each other (opposite in the color wheel), so that's an appealing element in this photo.

Modified in ViewNX to Landscape Picture Control

Now let's switch over to Lightroom for this next sample. I prefer Lightroom because it lets me isolate the effect I want by color (blue, orange, red, yellow, green, etc.). It also lets me play with tone curves on the R,G,B channels independently (can't do that with Picture Control Utility), which, although not used in this case, gives another layer of power and flexibility. Ditto for split-toning. As you can see in this sample, the blues are really popping (okay, perhaps over the top), but this is one preset I ginned up which I sometimes apply to my outdoor non-people photos.

Lightroom with customized Landscape preset

In the end, I went with a VSCO modified preset I use for my people photography. The look is more "filmy" (allegedly emulating Kodak Portra 160 film stock) for what I think is an interesting, appealing result. If you look inside this preset, you will find lots of the independent color tweaking I mentioned along with a multifaceted tone curve. For me this "filmy" look best fits the subject, namely some cool-looking musicians in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Lightroom conversion, using a modified version of the VSCO Kodak Portra 160 preset

Again, you may not agree with my preference, but perhaps you will see how many more possibilities you may have for creativity and expression when you move beyond the Nikon Picture Control construct. Let me know what you think!

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Los Angeles wedding photography that seeks the heart and spirit in each image

Nikon D600
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