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

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by craig_rogers|3, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. Hi all,
    Lesson learnt yesterday............don't always listen to advice from others, especially on the Internet (not 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! 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!
  2. Post some pics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. ....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! :)
  9. 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 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).
  10. 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! :)
  11. Active D-Lighting underexposes, but not by a full stop; I think at max it's about half a stop, maybe 2/3rds. However, yes, it does affect the RAW file since the exposure itself is affected. And indeed, only Nikon software takes the effect into account, so all other RAW editors will just see a slightly underexposed file.
    Underexposure causes noise, so I've stopped using ADL alltogether (even though I am using CaptureNX2); it works well at ISO200 but at high ISOs the noise in shadows does become much more apparent. And either way the effect is fairly easy "redone" with shadow and highlight recovery.
    The "trick" to underexpose by a stop to keep ISO down to lift it later in software is essentially the same as shooting one stop ISO faster. Underexposure causes noise, and especially when the camera is already near the limit of its acceptable noise. If you need ISO3200 to get shots, just put it to ISO3200. If you're working in these light conditions, nobody can really expect you to come out with noise free photos anyway.
    I find with my D300 that at ISO1600, exposure has to be really spot on, a tad overexposed even, to get good results.
  12. Thanks Wouter.
    Just out of interest, if I have manually set exposure to -1 and then ADL is applied, will the camera then effectively reduce by the -1 I've set AND then stop it down further with ADL. Therefore, resulting in an underexposed shot being further slightly underexposed.
    That would then make sense in the results between NX2 and LR. In NX2, they are underexposed, but acceptable in LR they are just waaaaaaaay underexposed.
  13. ADL should be considered a useful too only if you stay within a Nikon software environment. Nikon software provides a feature called D-Lighting, which is essentially an automatic curve tool, which brings up shadows and midtones without pushing up the highlights too much. The Active D-Lighting on the camera merely does that automatically so you don't have to use D-Lighting off the camera afterwards, with the added benefit that it evaluates the scene in conjunction with the matrix metering and in so doing, decides if it should underexpose it a little to save the highlights. This is essentially the same thing I used to do myself when shooting black and white film in the 1970's, ie. underexpose the film a little, say a stop, and then deal with the shadows in development and/or printing (pushing by a stop, more or less).
    Of course, there is no ADL actually applied to a raw image, other than the underexposure it did on purpose and the information passed to the Nikon raw converter. So, if you process the image in a 3rd party raw editing program instead of Nikon's own (VNX2 or CNX2), you get the underexposure part of it but without the automatic raising of the shadows. You can easily do this yourself with sliders or a curve tool, but if you're starting out with a picture purposely underexposed by a stop as you did, and they are low or interior light pictures, you are going to increase noise probably like or worse than if you had shot it 2 or 3 ISO ratings higher in the first place. You also won't benefit from some of Nikon's D-Lighting tricks that help avoid colour shifts as the curve changes are applied.
    Even with everything working for you using ADL within the camera and then Nikon software, it's important to realize that ADL is not really meant for higher ISO shots. It works best in the lower ISO ranges. Nevertheless, it can work well for higher ISO pictures if they are in black and white.
    I sometimes use ADL when I know I'm going to convert the raw file in Ufraw or Picture Window Pro 5, because unlike matrix metering by itself, ADL virtually guarantees that nothing will be overexposed. This works great for black and white.
  14. Ha ha, there's my answer! :)
    I'll convert all the images to B&W and pretend that I planned it! :)
  15. ADL drops the base exposure (depending on the ADL setting and the lighting) by: nothing, -1/3 or -2/3 stops. Very good for JPGs, because the D7000 very often clips highlights. Harmless when RAW conversions are done with Nikon software. Not so great with other RAW software, because it will result in higher noise levels when the exposure is adjusted.
    If you dialed in -1 stop exposure compensation, then you could have wound up -1 2/3 stop under. One really has to check the histogram and flashing highlights as a sanity check to make sure exposures are in the ball park.
  16. One other point - ADL has no effect on your image file if you are shooting raw. This setting is only visible on jpeg images.
  17. Are you sure about that Wayne? If so, then why in LR is the Histogram shifted right off the left side of the scale when in NX2 is more toward the centre? This only happens when ADL is active.
    Bruce, that was the issue, on the camera (and in NX2) the histogram is acceptable, it's only when imported into LR it's off the left side.
  18. Craig,
    Don't know if this is any help but the included article may have info you would be interested in. Have not yet got to play with the theory.
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Of course Active D Lighting can affect your RAW files as well, because it sometimes underexpose a bit on purpose. Once the exposure is changed, it will affect JPEG as well as RAW alike.
  20. Well, I have to admit, even though I probably won't be using it again, the ADL is pretty clever. I've opened them up in NX2 and it's incredible. I've +1 to the exposure (undoing the manual stop down I put in the camera) and the images are pretty much where I wanted them to be.
    Therefore, right now, I've got NX2 batch converting all the images with +1 exposure out to Tiff where I'll then make the final crop/straighten plus any little noise clear ups in Lightroom.
    Thanks to all for the well informed education!
  21. Sorry about your results but that's why I don't like ADL. It's just a poor implementation of Photoshop's Shadows/Highlights feature, which I prefer to adjust when I'm editing my photos rather than taking them.
  22. Thanks Jon, as I said, it's a lesson well learnt. Luckily, although time consuming, I've got some usable photos and certainly made sure that ADL is set to off
  23. Craig,
    ADL is affecting the NEF Files. Pictures taken with ADL on can only be processed with NIKON software, ViewNX or CaptureNX. All other software will produce underexposed, soft and washed out results, simply because they can NOT read and justify the ADL parameters set by the camera at the time of the shooting.
    ADL in my D7000 works much better than in my D300s and it gives very good results in most of the cases. Don't use it in low light scenes, very fast moving action with CF or very close portraits. It's perfect for nature/landscape though and still subjects. All you need is a little familiarization with it, otherwise just turn it off and forget about it :) Anyhow you can process everything afterwards in LR, PS or any other RAW converter.
  24. confused bc mine is set to RAW and does not allow me to even turn on active-d lighting bc of that reason. hmm
  25. I've had similar issues with lightroom. In the develop module, drag the 'black' slider back to 0. That should fix your photo.
  26. @Rahul Jayaraman thank you so much for that tip! Works really well!
    (I find that if I bump Blacks to 0, Recovery to maybe +5 and Exposure to +2 it is a good "basic" fix for most images underexposed in this way.)
  27. After reading this, I've done some home work with my D7000. I'm sorry it is in Dutch, but I think you understand it.
    As can be seen, the picture taken with a D7000 isn't influenced at all by D-lighting. In PS 5, all the pictures are the same. Only a slightly higher overstaturation of the shadows when d-ligthing is out. But you can't see it in the picture, as being so less.
  28. Hi Everyone.
    I took some pictures of my daughter recently for her baptism. I shot in RAW. The histogram was as close to ideal on my camera and the images and then when I went home and loaded the pics, I was really disappointed to see they were all underexposed despite what my camera was showing me. I googled underexposed, RAW, histogram and this thread came up, and I checked my camera, and I had unintentionally set the active d-lighting to normal. So, I'm glad I found this thread so at least I know now it's because of the active d-lighting setting but are all of these pics I took, unsalvageable? :( Because I don't know if I can get them done again. Do I need to download another software so I can have the same results that my camera is showing me? If any of you can help or give me suggestions. I would really appreciate it. Thanks.
  29. You need a Nikon program with a raw converter to correctly read files with ADL on. You can use the free View NX or
    the not-free Capture NX. View NX has limited adjustment but can take the image as shot and convert to a file type
    that other programs can read. I think it can output 16 bit per channel TIFF, which is a huge file but you can do edits
    and then save to a more reasonably sized file type.
  30. Rubbish! Nothing to do with not being able to read ADL in Lightroom. My slightly dull under exposed images taken inside a Church still look the same in NX2 as it does in Lightroom. Thought I had similar settings to yours except that I used minimum iso 100 and maximum 3200 on my D7100 no flash because I preferred to capture the natural feel. Flash was only used on my zoom Lens in FP 125 sec on my other Camera. I am yet to figure out why the 125 FP set speed kept changing to 80 sec e.t.c along with the auto iso? Images appeared fine on the view screen on my Camera and there for trusted it to be ok and not check the histogram. I need to concentrate on my shots like we all do. I re checked all my settings and they appeared to be fine. How ever" I have set the ADL to off as I suspect it may have something to do with it. In particular because I had it happen on both cameras I used with ADL on. Have to run some test shots to confirm this though.
    As to anything conclusive as to why images have come out darker? Wedding Dress does have an impact as it is white in my case. How ever" It should not render photos noticeably darker for one to do some long hours on the PC with Lightroom balancing them back to where they should have been.
    I need to do some more reading up on this. Hope you also find the answer.

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