What are your favoured in-camera settings?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Ian Rance, Nov 8, 2011.

  1. I must admit that whilst trying different picture settings and custom modes in my D70s that instead of my photos getting better they ended up with off colour and generally unsatisfactory.
    I have been reading other peoples settings and they all seem to be different - with some saying set low contrast and no sharpening, some say use Adobe colour and some say RGB is best.
    So, as a start point I am interested in hearing what setings work for you. Sharpening, contrast and colour - all sorts or permeations and variables but no starting point that I can see (unless zero for everything is a start point).
    I tried the scene modes but using portrait and landscape seemed to make for flat images - or perhaps the images are flat on purpose to allow for boosting later?
    As a start I found:
    White balance 'cloudy' or custom (I need to carry a sheet of paper for that)
    Sharpening 'medium high'
    Colour 'IIIa' (as suggested by Ken R)
    Saturation 'high'
    to give images that printed up fairly well, but really I can't kid myself that they look good. I know they could be better as they end up looking not much like reality at all.
    I know experience will help in this area but I need a settings start point to get experience from. I have a D7000 on the way but don't want to start messing things up on that until I get a handle on the correct initial settings. Thanks for your input.
  2. Easy..... Shoot NEF's (RAW) and adjust the image with your preferred RAW converter.
  3. Here is the solution:

    1) Shoot RAW

    2) Download a 30-Day free trial of Capture NX2

    3) Open up the RAW/NEF file in NX2, and you will see that it has recorded the in-camera settings and is rendering you a version of the image that looks exactly like the JPG the camera would have made using those settings.

    4) Start playing with NX2's camera settings area. Not the control point dodgy-burny stuff, or the other post production tools (though you will get hooked on those, too). All of those camera setting features allow you to simulate, after the fact, anything you might have done in-camera.

    5) Find what you like in terms of saturation, contrast, sharpening, white balance, etc., and either reproduce those settings in the camera's menu system yourself, or export a profile from NX2, into the camera.

    NX2 allows you to do all of that after-the-fact fiddling in a completely non-destructive way, letting you see how a single RAW shot would look after all sorts of different decisions have been made about rendering a JPG in-camera.

    Most likely, though, you'll begin to see how valuable it is to just shoot RAW in the first place, and have all of that latitude for each shot permanently. 14-bit NEFs have hugely more potential than an 8-bit JPG. But you can always shoot RAW+JPG if you want a ready-to-email file right from the camera, too.

    Your best "correct initial settings" are likely to be the factory defaults, I think.
  4. Ditto on Anthony! Why bother with the white balance? Just shoot raw.
  5. Stop doing things backwards. Start by starting with the camera at its default settings and then take lots and lots of pictures under all sorts of conditions, and then see what doesn't look right to you and make adjustments as required. Default settings are generally determined to give pleasing pictures to most people who are in the target market for that camera. It's a question of "seasoning to taste". Right now your question is much like, "how much salt should I put in my soup before I eat it?"
  6. Colour 'IIIa' (as suggested by Ken R)
    Saturation 'high'
    ... really I can't kid myself that they look good.​
    Figures. Listen to Anthony, Matt, Richard and Bruce.
  7. Why bother with the white balance? Just shoot raw​
    The histogram is based on the JPEG which is created using whatever the white balance is set to. Later when you post process and adjust the WB you may find out that the highlights are clipped in one channel while they weren't in the JPEG.
  8. These are my usual rules when shooting film but digital photography can benefit from similar settings. Set aperture at my favorite fstop "f8" and set my shutter speed to the 1/250 with ISO400.
  9. My camera is normally set to shoot NEF only, and is A-priority with ISO 400- 800. For night shots I use M-mode, ISO 800, and keep shutter speed to set1/250s.
    Kent in SD
  10. Thank you for the thoughts. I will download the 'Capture NX2' as suggested and give it a go but from the comments here I think I would benefit from a short course which explained and gives hands on help. Sounds like a good birthday present to myself.
    Paul, 250th at f/8 is always good but I was more asking about the internal electrical settings - that is where I amn finding it heavy going.
  11. SCL


    Shoot RAW and learn post processing. Initially it may seem like a PITA, but after a while you will become glad to have the flexibility it offers. If you absolutely need a JPEG always, just set it up to shoot RAW+JPEG (whatever size is appropriate for you). You can then play around with the JPEG settings without losing the underlying full capture.
  12. Setting white balance and color choice in camera takes time, and your scene might be changing by the minute or seconds. Or it could be 12 degrees and you are more worried about losing feeling in your fingers and bracketing and framing.
    As has been said, RAW gives you options JPG can't, 6100K vs 5500K vs 3900K can make a big difference and unless you shot RAW you won't see it. Your card might only be able to take 300 shots not 1200 shots if you shoot RAW+JPG, but I prefer having the JPG for quick review/picking, but processing from the RAW.
  13. +1 for Matt's advice.
    My default in-camera settings:
    RAW+JPEG Basic (for Facebook!)
    Auto White Balance with A2 set on the fine tuning (I like it a little warmer than default)
    Neutral Picture Control with +1 sharpening
    Active D lighting set to auto
    When I snapping the kids I find this generally gives me a jpeg I am willing to share with family and friends without further modification.
    For creative work, I will tweak everything in Capture NX2 - an amazing tool IMHO!
    If you are new to it, I recommend Mike Hagen's book "Capture NX2 After the Shoot"
  14. As other folks advised, the best solution is usually to shoot raw.
    However there may be occasions when you might prefer getting the JPEGs right in the camera. That's how I normally used the D2H when I was shooting school sports and other events that involved hundreds of photos per session. I wanted a quicker turnaround than I could get with the raw converters available in 2005-2006. Looking back now, most raw converters then were awkward kludges and even with a fairly powerful PC it was painful to sort through hundreds of raw files just to produce finished files when my goal was simply to give the photos away as gifts to family, friends and the schools to support their athletics and arts programs.
    One trick you might try with the D70, in addition to the other custom settings you mentioned, is the custom curve. Besides the preset tone curves in the earlier Nikon dSLRs, you could also create a custom curve in Nikon Capture* and load it into the camera. I did this with my D2H years ago and still use that same custom curve for specific situations - mostly those increasingly rare occasions when I shoot lots of JPEGs only and don't want to mess with post processing. Neil van Niekerk wrote an excellent article about it several years ago and it's still worth reading.
    However, keep in mind that Neil also emphasizes that he gave up that process years ago and has moved on to working almost exclusively with raw files. Software has improved tremendously since 2005-2006 and newer computers are capable of handling the raw workflow are more quickly now.
    In particular, if you follow KR's advice to shoot JPEGs only and boost the saturation, you're sacrificing a lot of potential quality in scenics and landscapes. In-camera JPEGs are significant compromises for large expanses of blue skies - if you examine those blue skies closely even in the highest quality JPEGs you'll see some compression artifacts. JPEGs also tend to desaturate bright blues, greens and, especially, reds. Check for yourself by photographing bright red flowers and comparing the best in-camera JPEGs from your D70 against the tweaked raw files or lossless conversions (TIFF, PNG, etc.). Use an eyedropper tool and spot check the results. You'll see significant compromises in the JPEGs.
  15. As well as (or instead of) the Capture trial, try the free View NX2 download (which doesn't expire):
    This gives you all the basic raw controls with a nice interface in the 'Edit' window, and more advanced custom curve stuff via the (clunky but functional) 'Picture Control Utility'. You don't get Capture's 'Control Points', but you do get a nicer image browser (which can be used in combination with Capture if you like both packages).
  16. Thank you for the guidance. I had honestly hoped that I could work using JPEG settings but reading here is seems I was misguided. I have not heard of View NX2 - but as it seems to be permanent then that looks good - I don't want to learn about using something only to have it taken away after a month just as I may be making headway.
    I will get a book for reading in a quiet moment but nothing beats asking questions to a real person so I have been researching what is available locally. Sadly though it all seems to involve fiddling about on a computer and me being the outdoors type I prefer being out there rather than indoors with square eyes but that is the price we pay I suppose.
  17. There is no loss of anything whatsoever by shooting JPEGs, other than the ability to edit your way into an image rather than in taking it.
    If it's just a matter of white balance, then just get yourself a little plastic grey card to set it in more unusual lighting. Believe it or not, photography is not at all dependent on changing settings for each shot.
    Ignore the pundits, both the famous and the not famous. Leave or reset your camera to its default settings, take lots of pictures in different situations until you develop to ability to know how your camera will handle them, and then only change if there's something you KNOW you don't like about those default settings. Even then, only change it a little, and only one setting at a time.
  18. Walt said:
    The histogram is based on the JPEG which is created using whatever the white balance is set to. Later when you post process and adjust the WB you may find out that the highlights are clipped in one channel while they weren't in the JPEG.​
    Easily sorted Walt. In that case you simply need to reduce the overall exposure in the raw processor.

    There's absolutely nothing that a JPEG can do that you can't do in raw processing, no matter what WB setting is used. In fact a raw file usually has about 1.5 extra stops in hand that you can drag back down, even if the JPEG has badly clipped highlights. Nobody uses raw files for the fun of it or just to be "clever". We use raw because it has definite and visible advantages over JPEGs in any circumstances. The JPEG format was created purely for web use based on its small file size - it was never intended to be a "quality" format.
  19. The D70 must be shot in raw if you want the maximum image quality. Newer cameras have good jpeg rendition but this one does not.
    Also newer cameras have better auto white balance. You absolutely need to set a custom white balance if you want accurate colors. A piece of white paper will usually work fine for this in the field if you don't care to invest in a spectrally neutral WB target.
    There are much more to it but too lengthy to write here. If you don't want to mess with raw at all you should not waste anymore time with the D70. If you are used to film you will need to get image capture in the field and processing of the raw files in your "lab" down to a science or you will be disappointed.
  20. When shooting raw I recommend you set the camera so that the histogram becomes useful.
    I use: Optimize image=Custom, Sharpening=-2 low, Tone Comp=-2 low contrast, Color Mode=1a (sRGB), Saturation=0 Normal.
    On this camera with these settings when you see clipped highlights in the histogram there is no recovery possible in the raw file as it is clipped there as well. Very useful.
    I recommend shooting in manual mode, using the spot meter (it's very narrow, one of the best dSLRS) to get the exposure you want. Set to ISO 200 (lowest) and stay there as you will lose dynamic range going lower. This camera don't have much dynamic range so it's important to get the exposure optimal.
    For focusing use single area and center point only, it's the most accurate setting and also the best in lower light. I have all my cameras set to focus on AF-On just so I can shoot without trying to lock focus again but that's just personal preference. On this camera AF-C or AF-S with these setting makes no difference in accuracy.
  21. Thanks for the thoughts. I have been putting them into practise already and the spot meter advice was 'spot on' as now my images are much more consistant in exposure (as opposed to matrix which seemed great sometimes and off other times). Pete, I tried your JPEG setting and that was a help as when I used Google Picassa I can easily boost contrast and colour.
    I do have another question. By setting the colour and contrast 'low' in camera am I losing anything by boosting them afterwards as opposed to allowing the camera to do that for me?
    Digital is certainly more of a science that I ever thought and only when I know what I am looking for do I see what is wrong with images I have taken.
  22. Raw (uncompressed or lossless compression)

    Auto white balance (occasionally a custom setting done via Expodisc)

    Aperture priority or manual exposure mode

    IS/VR on for handheld shots, off for tripod work

    Mirror lockup on unless the subject is moving

    Single point autofocus (selectable point) unless I'm using manual focus in Live View

    "Standard" preset

    Matrix/Evaluative metering pattern in most cases

    Multi-shot shutter release at the camera's max speed for Raw

    ISO selected to give me the shutter speed mandate by subject movement or desired sharpness

    Aperture selected for the balance of the DoF, sharpness, and shutter speed desired

    In tricky metering conditions, I might set a three-shot auto bracket for exposure

    Long exposure noise reduction for shots of two seconds or longer

    A bunch of other stuff when using strobes, but I think that covers the main bits.
  23. I do have another question. By setting the colour and contrast 'low' in camera am I losing anything by boosting them afterwards as opposed to allowing the camera to do that for me?​
    No, it's better to capture the image flat and with normal saturation. And that also goes for sharpening. Better to change all these in post as you can control the amount. That way you can avoid destroying highlight and shadow information when increasing contrast, clipping color gradations when increasing the saturation and apply sharpening that is appropriate for the image both creatively and for printing.
    When you do it in post you also have the option of doing these changes to the image selectively. For instance you might want to saturate the green grass to make it look lite what you saw but leave the sky alone.
    I don't know what you can do in Picassa and if you work with raw files or jpeg. If you shot raw the color, contrast, sharpening settings in the camera are not permanent but rather a starting point for the raw converter.
    Many use Lightroom for raw files but I prefer Capture One. The selection of raw converter is a little bit like shooting with different films. Those that like the look of the original jpeg will probably prefer software from Nikon.
    I suggest you try a trial version of Capture One. They have the express version (about 100 EUR) that lacks some of the more advanced features but still very good. It may be daunting at first because there are a lot of options in the software but you can just use the basic stuff and get very good results.
  24. Nice picture Robert
    Almost makes me want to see snow again
    for an hour or 2
    1 more vote for raw and jpeg basic for review
  25. Yes, shooting raw and then post process for correction can fix many problems. But it will not fix any out of focus shots. These dslrs's AF systems are very complex and the settings are not well documented and explained. Incorrect AF settings for a particular shooting situation can result in unexpected results. No amount of post processing can salvage them.

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