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How to match raw/nef colors to jpeg

Tim Nelson

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I'm not exactly sure why this happens, but when I go to browse my Nikon .NEF files in Adobe Bridge, they are always identical to the jpegs that are created at the time of capture. But then when I click on on of the thumbnails for the .nef files, it instantly loses a lot of color & contrast, and opens that way in Camera Raw/Photoshop. So it ends up meaning that I have to do a lot more color adjusting to the raw files than I would like to. Why can't they just open up to match the jpegs?


Does anybody know whats up with this?

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Well, I found a most annoying workaround, almost. From reading elsewhere, people seem to think Nikon does not like to share its camera settings for Raw files and therefore 3rd party programs like Adobe's Camera Raw basically only retains the white balance info. and thats pretty much it.


So the workaround is to use ViewNX that comes with your Nikon to read the .nef files, and then you can export them to either jpg or tiff files. And in that case, the raw files get converted to look exactly like the jpegs. But the drawback of that is that you lose any of the benefits of raw in the first place, since you cannot do any editing in ViewNX.


To make matters even more annoying, I have the D60 which will only let me shoot raw+basic jpeg. Soo....not cool.


Now I have to decide whether to switch back to shooting only jpegs or deal with this hassle.

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you can also use the camera profiles in ACR and Lightroom to give you a reasonable approximation of the default jpg settings.


In lightroom it is under the Develop panel, then Camera Calibration, you select a Camera Profile in there. I almost always go with Camera Neutral myself, so i made it into a preset which runs on import, the rare occasions where i'd want portrait for instance i just change manually.


camera raw has the same settings but they are in a different spot, and i found not quite as close as lightrooms. none of them come close to the ViewNX or CaptureNX, but thats one of the breaks with this RAW stuff. you can convert easily with the nikon programs, but they're horrific for editing with. or you can do a little more work on the basic color grading in ACR or Lightroom, and have a lot more flexibitility.


If you haven't yet, i'd say check out Lightroom, the beta is free for something like the next 5 months, and its hard to turn back after you use it for a while. the easy preset/copy/paste of settings makes mass color grading a lot less of a hassle.

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Here it is on mine, with an NEF file from a D60. The color I get from the various modes is similar to, though not exactly, what Capture NX 2 does.


I mostly use Aperture for my raw files, and I've come to expect the color I get, because I:

-Don't shoot jpg

-Don't trust the camera LCD to show me the image exactly as it will be on the calibrated computer screen

-Don't run Capture NX 2 unless I absolutely have to

-Am accustomed to Aperture's treatment of the files and how to adjust them to get the effect I want

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