Work flow

We hear this term a lot, but what does it mean? It most often refers to the way one processes their images after they come out of their camera. This is most usually applicable if you are shooting in your cameras native RAW mode (NEF for Nikon, Canon has it’s own version) which in every case was developed and expanded from the TIF model.

I often hear photographers crowing about an image being “straight out of the camera” (SOOC). Well, how wonderful for you. Yes occasionally it all comes together and we get it right. But perfect? I don’t care how good your camera is, if you’re shooting in RAW, jpg, what have you, every image can stand some buffing up, even if it’s only a little bit. So, that’s SOOC huh? So, what’s that thing here in the shadows? Wow, that area sure is bright, and that sky sure seems a bit washed out. Get my drift?

I can empathize with a beginner, because I once was one, and still consider myself a student of this thing called photography. It actually took me several years to get my workflow down to something I called acceptable. After some trial and error with several pieces of software, I think I’ve hit on the combination that works for me. Or have I?

I started re-thinking my work flow after reading a tip from Moose Peterson, who I hold in very high regard photographically speaking. Plus he seems like a pretty good guy too. It was a setting tweak in the Nikon menus that frankly, I’d never considered because I had stopped using Nikon’s Capture NX2 program, for the most part. I hadn’t abandoned it completely, but it was starting to gather some dust on my hard drive, so to speak. I’ll also be frank enough to say that the program is starting to become a bit dated, in light of some other software that’s available. I also use the Nik Software Complete plug in package for Photoshop/Lightroom. I guess I felt like I was missing something because I began exploring some other options. None of them were filling the bill for me.

It dawned on me, that the settings I was using, were part of the proprietary file settings in the NEF file, that are basically unavailable to Photoshop, Lightroom, and any of the others. So this little tweak wasn’t actually showing up in my workflow and wasn’t a factor in what I was seeing in Lightroom as I downloaded my cards. Clearly, I needed to get back to Capture NX2 in some fashion. I started comparing images in Capture and Lightroom side by side. Yep, Capture was showing the tweaks I had made in the camera. Simple matter of a couple other settings and export as a TIF, then continue with my regular workflow. The image above was created in Gloucester, UK, at Gloucester cathedral. It was also managed in my previous workflow. Yep, it’s a perfectly acceptable black and white image. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. You may not agree, but I only have to please me in this case, not a client so you are welcome to your opinion :-).

Since I had been thinking of adapting my workflow, I decided to do so using this image as a comparison. So starting from the NEF file, I ran it through Capture before Photoshop/Nik. I’m much happier with the second image overall. There’s a bit more richness of detail as well as tonality to it. This second image is here:

I mentioned that Capture NX2 is slightly dated. Well, it was introduced about 4 years ago as a significant upgrade to NX, which itself was a huge leap forward from the original Capture program provided by Nikon with some of their cameras. That program was nearly useless, in my opinion. Enter Nik Software. They did a major overhaul of Capture, it was renamed Capture NX, which introduced the concept of ‘control points’, allowing the photographer more selective control over processing. Nik has since developed their plug ins to a very high state of usefulness, providing a very powerful and easy to use interface. No, they don’t pay me to tout their products. I just love them that much. So much, that I found myself drifting away from Capture NX2. I’ve rediscovered the power and ease of use this program offers to Nikon shooters in processing NEF’s, before adding all the wonderful finishing tools also offered by Nik. Sorry to say, that users of other camera platforms will not benefit from the more powerful aspects of Capture NX2. Those can be made available to them in their other offerings however.

Capture NX2 was designed as a RAW processing tool only. Rumor on the street has it that Capture NX2 is being redesigned with some/most/all of Nik’s other plug in capability, which would make it a formidable competitor to, dare I say it…Photoshop? Details are of course, sparse. It may not even be true. I have talked with people about this possibility and speculated on this very thing happening down the road, so I can only hope it’s true. Keep an eye on for further developments.

In the meantime, try to stay flexible. This was the original point of this post. Just because something works for you, doesn’t mean something else won’t work better. It was somewhat satisfying on my part, to rediscover an important place in my workflow of something I had once considered very important but had lost sight of. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some demo products on my hard drive that I must delete.