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Index Capture NX Interface

Capture NX: When you run NX the first time (opening a NEF photo), you will see a screen that looks similar to this (TIP: Press 'F' at any time to enter/exit full screen mode).

Capture NX - Interface

Toolbar Palettes: Along the top and sides (left/right) of the photo window, you will find toolbar palettes. Once you become familiar with NX, most of what you need to do can be accomplished via the palette interface. (TIP: Press 'TAB' at any time to hide/show all toolbar palettes). One of these toolbars is the 'Edit List', which is a fundamental feature to understand within Capture NX.

The 'Edit List' and New Step: The edit list contains and ordered list of all of the changes (adjustments) made to your photo. The first step is always 'Develop' (added by Capture NX; can not be deleted), containing 'Camera Settings', 'Quick Fix', and 'Camera and Lens Corrections'. To add a new step to the end of the edit list, click on 'New Step'.

Develop: Always the first step in the Edit List. A list of common (plus NEF specific) adjustments typically made to photos. The order in which the adjustments are actually performed is 'undefined', and Capture NX will perform them in the order which results in the highest quality photo. The 'Selection' of 'Develop' is always the entire photo.

Adjustment: A single enhancement made to a photo, like contrast, brightness, color balance, unsharp mask, noise reduction, photo effects, etc. Each Adjustment can be refined to have a specific Opacity (transparency) and blending technique.

The Nikon Capture NX manual talks about "Adjustments" and "Enhancements". I suspect the developers chose "Adjustment", while the PR and documentation people thought "Enhancement" sounded better. I use "Adjustment" because when you click on 'New Step', you see "Select Adjustment", not "Select Enhancement".
New Step
Step: A Step consists of one or more ordered Adjustments, all of which apply to a Selection (all or part of a photo) specific to the step. There will be a next to the step that you are interacting with.

New Step Button: The 'New Step' button at the bottom of the Edit List allows you to add a generic step to the edit list. As you can see (above), you must click on 'Select Adjustment' to select which specific Adjustment to make at this step.

Also, new steps (by default) have a Selection of the entire photo. Just use the Selection tools to make the adjustment apply to just a portion of a photo.
You can think of a step as a 'layer' of changes, which normally replaces the prior layer, but the layer can also be 'blended' with the prior layer.
Selection: The default Selection for a step is the entire photo (see 'All Selected' in the step to the right), but can be changed to most any complex shape by using the Selection tools (brush, lasso, polygon, rectangle, oval, gradient). A selection can be 'Feather'ed to facilitate a more natural blending of the Adjustment edge with the photo.

Quickly Zoom in/out: Use the Birds Eye to quickly zoom in/out and move around your photo:

Capture NX - Bird's Eye
  • Zoom in: Press the + magnifying glass
  • Zoom out: Press the - magnifying glass
  • Move: Drag the red rectangular box

More Terminology

Dynamic Range: The ratio between the smallest and largest light intensity values that can be recorded, commonly expressed in photography in terms of EV. Even the first computers with only 16 colors had black and white, meaning they had a large dynamic range, so 'dynamic range' is only the first part of the story.

Tonal Range: The second part of the story is tonal range, which is the number of tones (or shades) in a particular dynamic range.

RGB: RGB stands for 'Red, Green, and Blue'. Computers (and your digital camera) reference any color as a specific combination of three primary colors, red, green, and blue. RGB from Wiki

Luminance: It describes an amount of light (or brightness) without regard to color (chrominance). Think old black & white television.

Chrominance: Or, chroma for short, describes a color, without regard for brightness (luninance).

HSB: HSB stands for 'Hue, Saturation, and Brightness'. HSB from Wiki

LCH: LCH stands for 'Luminosity, Chroma, and Hue'.

White Balance: If I take a picture of you outside in bright sun, or inside under incandescent or florescent lighting, the RGB colors recorded (of you) by a digital camera change slightly. The process used to correct that color shift is called 'white balance'. Most photos can benefit greatly, even from subtle white balance changes. White Balance from Wiki

Neutral/Gray Point: A neutral (or gray) point is often used to correct white balance problems -- but a point (or region) that you select. Basically, you need to select a point in a photo that you know should have no color to it (but it probably does have a color cast to it in your photo). That means white, any shade of gray, and even black. This is a critical concept to understand. As you look at a photo, regardless of the current colors you see, you are selecting a point (or region) that you know 'should' have no color to it. That is all the information that is needed to correct most white balance problems.

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