George Cairns explains how to reveal details in shadows and highlights
If the sky is too bright or the land too dark in a photograph, you can correct it using Nikon Capture NX-D – we’ll take you through the process step-by-step
When shooting highcontrast landscapes you could try to capture an evenly exposed scene using your Nikon’s Matrix metering mode. This will cause your camera to analyse light readings across the whole scene and then capture an ‘average’ exposure. This compromise approach may enable you to capture a more balanced exposure, but it can still lead to blown-out highlights that are hard (or impossible) to recover, especially if you only have a compressed JPEG to work with.
By setting your Nikon to shoot in Manual mode, you can take a light reading from the sky and then adjust aperture and shutter speed so that the brightest areas of the sky are correctly exposed. This will cause the ground to look very dark, but if you’re shooting in RAW then you can be confident that Capture NX-D’s Tone (Detail) panel will enable you to reveal any missing shadow detail. It’s worth prioritising to expose this highlight detail correctly because it is much harder to recover blown-out (clipped) pixels if you over-expose your landscape’s sky. Under-exposed shadows are much easier to recover, especially if you’re working with an uncompressed RAW file.
You need to treat the location shoot as half of the image-making process, with your work in Capture NX-D as the other half. When you view an unprocessed RAW file on your Nikon’s display, the shadows can lack colour and detail. However, you can be confident that the RAW file contains the shadow detail that was visible to the naked eye while on location, and equally confident that Capture NX-D’s selective tonetweaking tools will be able to brighten up the shadows without over-exposing the correctly metered sky. Capture NX-D – Nikon’s free digital darkroom software – can also recover colours hidden in the RAW file’s shadows (such as the heather in our source image).