Making your Nikon Images "Pop"

Started Dec 22, 2015 | Discussions thread
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Dyun27 Senior Member • Posts: 2,780
Making your Nikon Images "Pop"

I've seen a few threads come up concerning the "pop" factor, especially from those coming from older DX cameras to newer FX cameras. Bodies like the D750 and D810 have a new picture profile called "Flat" and these cameras have a lot of dynamic range.

For most people this particular picture profile is very bland with low contrast and low saturation, making it look quite bad when compared to the more saturated and contrasty images one might get from older cameras. Most older cameras have a "Neutral" picture profile which has more saturation and contrast than "Flat", and most people generally end up using the "Standard" or "Vivid" profiles which have more of that "pop".

When Nikon's RAW files are imported into Lightroom, in-camera picture profiles are not applied to the RAW files. Some people look at the back of their camera and see lots of color and contrast, but are disappointed when they load them into Lightroom.

Personally if I want my RAW files to look exactly like what I'm seeing on the back screen, I use Nikon software such as ViewNX-i and ViewNX-D to process the RAWs. Why? Because Nikon software recognizes all the in-camera settings and applies them to your RAW files.

I decided to compile a quick visual guide to ViewNX-i to show you how you can achieve more colorful, contrasty and sharper photos with your new camera.

For starters, I shoot RAW using the "Flat" picture profile, which is the most dull-looking. I do this, because I want to be able to see the totally basic image and get an accurate histogram in-camera so that I'm exposing properly. Picture profiles can affect the way the histogram looks, because too much contrast might make me think I'm underexposing too much, or vice versa. "Flat" is just a more accurate representation.

You can go from an image that looks like this:

To an image that looks like this (which is a bit better):

To start, open ViewNX-i. You can download it for free here:

Here's what one of my photos looks like when I first import it. It's quite dull. The histogram looks good. It's not touching the left or the right side, so it's not over or under-exposed, but the image needs a little bit of life breathed into it.

To make it "pop" a bit more, I played with the sliders on the right. Click on the "original" image for details.

Getting the proper white balance is important. If you didn't get it right in-camera, here is your opportunity to fix it. Nikon makes it pretty easy.

Sometimes your RAW files are sharp, but they could use just a little bit of sharpening. This particular file could use it.

If you don't have in-camera sharpening turned on, ViewNX-i does a pretty good job. In this case my sharpening was turned off, so I set it to level "4". It really helped, IMO.

After you're done making these easy changes, you can export your image as a JPEG, or as a 16bit or 8bit TIFF. I export mine as 16bit TIFFs so that if I need to make further adjustments in Lightroom, I still have the flexibility of a RAW to do it, but without losing those Nikon adjustments.

I use Lightroom to crop the image, add my watermark and export to JPEG once I'm happy with it. Here's the result. It went from this:

To this:

Obviously you can take it much further than this. It's up to you what you prefer. This is enough editing for my taste. You can always add more contrast, more saturation, more clarity, more sharpening and so on.

I will try to post a visual tutorial for setting up the in-camera picture profiles when I have more time, with examples of what the images look like, using each.

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 Dyun27's gear list:Dyun27's gear list
Nikon D40X Nikon D610 Nikon D750 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR +10 more
Nikon D750 Nikon D810
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