When you switch to shooting Raw files with your Nikon, you unlock the door to better quality, better control and better photographs. Here is everything you need to know about NEF files…
Start shooting in Raw – and master the post-processing digital darkroom workflow – to create your best images yet
Raw files are often described as ‘digital negatives’ because they contain all the information captured by the camera before it’s been processed into a JPEG file. Each camera maker uses its own Raw file format, and in Nikon’s case it’s NEF files. It’s like the difference between a film negative and a print you get back from a lab. With Raw, or NEF files, you can access the full range of tones, all the colours and all the digital data captured by your Nikon before it’s been ‘processed’ into a JPEG.
JPEGS are fine for quick shareable pictures, and with relatively undemanding scenes they can be adequate. But if you need to work on your photos later, apply special effects or manipulate specific areas, then the cracks can eventually start to show. If you edit a JPEG, you’re re-processing an image that’s been processed once already; when you edit a Raw, however, you’re working directly with the data captured by your camera.
So, over the next few pages we’re going to explain exactly how Raw files work and what they enable you to do with your photographs. We’ll explain the practicalities of shooting Raw and whether you need to use your camera differently.
But processing is also a massive part of shooting Raw and an important phase if you’re really going to get the best from your camera. We’ll look at some of the key steps you can take to perfect your pictures, and also some of the key software tools for doing it. We all tend to default to Adobe software for our image processing, but don’t overlook Nikon Capture NX-D, which is a powerful and interesting Raw converter in its own right. In fact, there are many interesting alternatives to Adobe when it comes processing Raw files and we’ll take a look at a few here.
Indeed, although we talk about Raw files as being the ‘digital negative’, it might be more accurate to call them ‘undeveloped negatives’, because choosing your Raw processing software is just as important as choosing the right ‘developer’ back in the days of film.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s not waste any more time and get started!