Some folks recommend the use of the active d-lighting feature of Nikon cameras. However, if I am reading correctly, Aperture won't pay attention to this in a NEF file. Would the experts in the room recommend turning it off and just pay close attention to exposure to get good highlights, or letting the camera deliver JPG, or using Nikon's transfer program to punch up the highlights based on the ADL information in the NEF file?


1 Answer 1


Active D-Lighting doesn't do anything that you can't already do in Aperture (or Lightroom or similar). All it does is to reduce contrast in the highlights (depending on the strength of the highlights) so all (or at least more) of the detail can be fit into the 8-bit JPEG. Your RAW processor will let you control highlights to the same degree (and may, in some cases, read the "ADL Strength" tag in the NEF and adjust the default image adjustments).

What the ADL will do for you when you're shooting RAW is adjust the histogram and highlight warnings on the camera, which are based on the JPEG that results from your conversion settings (Optimize Image/Picture Control/ADL/White balance). That will give you a better idea of what levels are being recorded in the NEF (and, of course, what the resulting image will look like if you make the same adjustments the camera makes). Without ADL, the highlight warnings will turn on at lower levels, which may lead you to reduce exposure, potentially damaging the shadow detail in a high dynamic range scene. (Conversely, it can lead to slight overexposure decisions in flatter scenes, such as portraits, unnecessarily adding to post-processing time and effort.)

So while ADL may have little actual affect on what APerture presents to you, it's still a good guide for shooting RAW in landscapes, architecture and similar scenes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that I'm using the raw processor that shows up in Aperture by default -- which is claimed not to read the ADL strength tag -- thus the notion that having ADL on will require some Aperture tweaking of the images. \$\endgroup\$
    – bmargulies
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @bmargulies - I read that (the aside was in reference to Nikon's View NX and Capture NX and potentially others), but the in-camera histogram info is still relevant if you're shooting high-contrast images. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is not entirely correct. ADL ends up affecting RAW because it changes metering behavior, unless of course one shoots in manual exposure mode. See my answer to the suggested duplicate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 22:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Itai - did I say anything different? Or are you just good at reading things into other people's statements? \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ First sentence, second paragraph: you say it adjusts histogram but nothing about exposure. True, you did not say outright that nothing else changes but I find this answer misleading. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 22:43

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