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Nikon Active D-Lighting, Raw and Lightroom - DON'T!!

Craig Rogers , Oct 17, 2011; 03:30 a.m.

Hi all,
Lesson learnt yesterday............don't always listen to advice from others, especially on the Internet (not photo.net though).
I was shooting indoor Show Jumping yesterday with a D7000 and Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 without flash.
I shoot in AP at 2.8 and then set the ISO to 400, but use the Auto-ISO set at a maximum of 3200 and shutter at minimum 1/400. To give the camera a bit more help, I set the compensation to -1 to try to keep the ISO down a little and then add +1 in Lightroom later. This usually works really well for me as it gaurantees wide open ap and fast shutter speed. Usually the highest ISO is around 2000 which is acceptable.
Now the caveat. I read a tip to utilise the Active D-Lighting which effectively is like adding Fill Light to the shots.
Did a few test shots, picture looked good on the camera (but we all know not to take too much from this) but more importantly, the Histogram was acceptable, ok a little shifted to the left as expected, but acceptable for post edit.
After about 8 hours of shooting and a card full of photos, I import them into Lightroom and then the cold sweat and panic sets in....................
..........the photos look like they've been taken in a cave lit by candlelight.................. WHAT THE.........????
Slide in +1 exposure and they are still very dark, add some fill light, woahhhhh multi-colourd speckled horses with little to no detail.
Why? Turns out Lightroom can't read the Active D-Lighting info from NEF. Open them up in NX2 and.........phew.......safe! But now I'm left with a big post edit task of a lot of photos.
Active D-Lighting is a great little feature, but if you're shooting RAW and using Lightroom.......turn it off, you'll be in a cold sweat like I was last night!


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Richard Sperry , Oct 17, 2011; 04:17 a.m.

Post some pics.

Sem Svizec , Oct 17, 2011; 04:40 a.m.

I guess it should be well known that LR doesn't read picture controls etc, so I don't think your shock is justified. AFAIK you can save PP work in LR by cerating a suitable profile and opening the shots with that profile instead of the standard one.
The -1 EC is effectively almost the same as bumping ISO one stop (as long as you don't blow highlights by it).
You should also be aware that ADL does not go well with high ISO in general because you need a lot of DR for lifting shadows successfully and ADL tends to waste a bit of it, so the lifted shadows tend to become noisy and lose colour. The D7000 is remarkable at base ISO (D90 sometimes produce these effects with ADL at base ISO), but full-frames are still better in low light. The main problem with ADL is that it may further induce up to one more stop of raw data underexposure which is covered up in image preview and histogram.

Oliver Racz , Oct 17, 2011; 05:24 a.m.

I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I am a little confused about this whole active D-lighting (it seems like Craig is as well), since I don't have a camera with this feature. Does it actually change the raw file? If yes, shouldn't that be visible in any raw processing software? If not, having it on or off should not make any difference in Lightroom, right?

Elliot Bernstein , Oct 17, 2011; 05:25 a.m.

ADL may not be the exact reason why your pictures look the way they do, but could be a part of it along with the other settings you used.

Elliot Bernstein , Oct 17, 2011; 06:26 a.m.

Elaborating on my previous response, ADL lightens the images, especially the shadow areas. But you can only see the effect using Nikon software. When you open the images in non-software, you do not see the adjustments - you see what the sensor recorded. But you can of course recreate the lightening effect, especially in the shadow areas with LR. I have found that I can get better results using the software such as DXO and Photoshop than by using ADL.

Since you underexposed by a stop, you would expect the images to look dark when opened with any non-Nikon software.

Craig Rogers , Oct 17, 2011; 07:09 a.m.

You're missing my point here.
The point I was trying to make is that when you have ADL turned on, the histograms on the camera look great (and so do the pictures), however, when imported into Lightroom, this camera control is not known to Lightroom so it put's it as Elliot mentions, as the sensor sees it.
If I didn't have ADL turned on, I would of noticed that the histograms were not correct, therefore done something about it. However, the histograms, that took into consideration the ADL effect, made the pictures look great, which they are.......when viewed in NX2.
Oliver, this is what I got confussed with. I incorrectly assumed it would change the raw data, however, it seems that it writes a little extra raw data that Lightroom discards. Only Nikon software can process this data.

Craig Rogers , Oct 17, 2011; 07:32 a.m.

....forgot to add (and if I've known this before, I wouldn't of used it) that it seems that ADL actually does the same "trick" as -1EV buy reducing the exposure so that it can bring out the shadows. Although the ADL data isn't read, it seems that the exposure is still dark, hence why the photos are showing as so dark in LR but ok in NX2.
If I get a chance I'll show some examples, but I need to get through all the images first.......
I think it'll be a late night (or two!)
Oh, and thanks for all the replies too! :)

Dwight Sipler , Oct 17, 2011; 07:37 a.m.

ADL is designed to be used for high dynamic range situations, where the difference between highlight and shadow is greater than the dynamic range of the camera. The camera modifies the RAW image a bit to compress the dynamic range to fit the capabilities of the camera, but in the process it reduces the exposure a bit. There are limits to the ability of ADL to compress the dynamic range. It isn't magic, just signal processing. The signal has to be there to process, not zero in the shadow or saturated in the highlights.

There's a (long) informative thread on flickr at http://www.flickr.com/groups/nikondigital/discuss/72157623298578772 about ADL. Thom Hogan has some information about it in his ebook series for various camera bodies. In effect, he says you should only use it when you absolutely need it for dynamic range problems that can't be addressed by bracketing (e.g. dynamic scenes).

Craig Rogers , Oct 17, 2011; 07:40 a.m.

Great stuff Dwight.
One thing I forgot to mention, the camera was set to Auto-ADL...... As I said, lesson well learnt and it will remain off in the future! :)

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