NIKON 1 files - dynamic range, upsizing and preparing for picture libraries.

In a previous post I wrote about preparing images from my Nikon 1 V1 for uploading to picture libraries and how I upsize them.

The reason I do this is both to give my pictures more chance of selling by making them available at larger sizes and secondly as a 'psychological' boost i.e. 'bigger is better'. And yes I know that's not always the case, but many think it is.

What needs to be done initially, of course, is to get a workable exposure. Fortunately the Nikon 1 V1 has excellent metering and I'm rarely struggling with a 'difficult' file.

So here's what I do. Firstly I work on the dynamic range.


The very first thing I do is to produce a 'flat' 'clean' file. I do very little in the actual raw conversion software itself (I use ACR in Photoshop CS6) and have a series of presets that I can apply to all my cameras, making any other adjustments that are necessary.

To this end in ACR I turn all sharpening off, use the tool to remove CA and fringing and apply a small amount of colour noise removal, usually the default setting.

These are screen grabs from ACR.

I also get as much dynamic headroom as I can. For this I use the highlight and shadow sliders and my own custom curves preset.

Using curves I dramatically tone down the highlights and bring up the shadows. This gives me a very neutral 'flat' file that I can work on in Photoshop. which I do my major editing in, no matter what conversion software I use.

The difference in levels between an out of camera jpg. and one of my raw file conversions can be seen here.

The reason I do this is firstly for commercial reasons, i.e. picture libraries are very hot on dynamic range. Since they sell to clients for print reproduction its essential that there is no absolute black or white, neither of which work for printing. Secondly, I much prefer using Photoshop to work on my files, and the amount of sharpening, saturation, contrast etc. that I wish to apply is much better done in that software as far as I'm concerned, since there are a lot more options.


I've also found that this produces much better files if I choose to upsize a file. Currently I'm sending my Nikon 1 files to libraries upsized to 5150 x 3447 pixels, which is an increase of 133%, produces a file of 50.8MB and is a 17.75MP file size. Again I choose the 50+ MB size for those 'psychological' reasons. Firstly, its slightly bigger than A3 and secondly some libraries show the MP size and 50+MB looks good.

Now in terms of upsizing, once I've got my file with as much dynamic headroom as possible, I immediately upsize it on a preset. This is because I want to see the effects on the file at the size I'm sending it out, and if I need to scale back some of this to preserve quality, then I can immediately see what needs to be done.

I then apply an Auto Contrast setting. Now this isn't the Photoshop preset, but a customised version of one of the options in the levels menu. Again this is avoiding absolute black and white.

I will then do some colour and contrast adjusting and bring some 'punch' back to the image.

I don't apply this to all of the image. In fact I use Quick Mask to eliminate sky and light areas of the image.

I then use curves again to lighten up the selected area.

After that I use a preset which brings back some colour saturation and contrast.

I then do whatever colour correcting I feel appropriate, in the case adding some magenta to the cyan sky in selective colour.

I may then use the sponge tool to selectively saturate certain areas of the picture. This tool also lightens those areas.

This then gives me a 'punchy' saturated file which is still within the dynamic range limits that I'm seeking to preserve.

Finally, I will add some sharpening. I always keep the pixel size down, which gives me a result I prefer. Again I won't sharpen the whole image. Using Quick Mask again I select the part of the image I want to sharpen. I never sharpen sky areas.

Here is a 100% blowup from what I end up with.

Sounds complicated and I suppose it is, but I can do all of this very quickly, since most of it is saved as Actions in Photoshop and I just press a button to do it. And yes I do this, or something like it for every single image I send to a picture library.

Just out of interest I timed how long it took me to get from this

To this

It was just under 2 minutes, so not so long. As well as doing this for Nikon 1 V1 files I also use it for my other cameras as well. I'm currently upsizing my Fuji X-E1 files to 24MP and my Nikon D7100 files to 36MP. And as I say, these are being accepted by the image libraries I upload to. I do remove the exif data when I do this, so that the editors make their decision on what they see, rather than the camera model. They seem happy with what I produce, so it works all round.

Now I'm not saying this is some great way files should be processed and edited and I've made it clear that this is for a specific purpose. It does however produce images I personally like. I'm fond of saturated and 'punchy' images as you would guess from what I post.

All of this was developed when I was shooting a lot on m4/3, and I had to find a way of coming up with images that looked good but didn't make them unacceptable to libraries. The process transfers very well to the Nikon 1 files and I've also taken advantage of the improvements in ACR over the years. 

This does all show, I think, just what a Nikon 1 file is capable of and the amount of flexibility it has and its ability to be printed at A3. Again I've been surprised by how comfortably these files handle what I put them through and this once again proves the point that its not the amount of pixels you have in an image, but just how well they are captured in the camera. And again it shows me that the Nikon 1 system, at least the 28MB versions of it (since thats all I've used), does this very well and perhaps better than I had a right to expect.