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Nikon D2H skin tone problems?
Some photographers have problems with the D2H's skin tones, which can show strong, sometimes almost mottled-looking orange, yellow, red, and pink overtones. Flash pictures usually intensify the effect.
Photojournalists, event, and studio photographers rely heavily on flash for primary and fill-in lighting, so they're especially affected by the problem. LCD screens (laptops & desktop LCD monitors) show the problem more than conventional CRT monitors ... combine flash pictures with an LCD screen and the problem is magnified. Most pros like to show proofs & samples to their clients on a computer monitor (part of the beauty of digital), many depend on a laptop computer as their primary display platform. And it's a serious problem when unnaturally strong or mottled looking skin tones in screen-viewed pictures turn out to be a deal-killer instead of a deal-sealer.
Or not ... ?
Other photographers find little or no problem at all, perhaps because of their particular shooting styles or techniques. It may be that they rarely rely on flash to light up their pictures. (Available light pictures seldom show a problem.) And perhaps they're viewing their pictures on bright, sharp, clear CRT monitors.
Examples & solutions
(Below) An example of too-vivid D2H flash photo skin tones, courtesy of
pro photographer Israel Hadari.
How to fix the problem
*Software required: Nikon Capture 4 or greater
Strong skin tones can be easily corrected by loading a modified Chroma curve into Nikon Capture 4's LCH Editor. The modified correction curve is a focused, slight saturation reduction to a particular range of orange/red/pink tones coupled with a small lift to the balance of the saturation level. I've gotten some great feedback from several different pros who've tried it on problem D2H skin tones.
Tip: Open a people picture (any race or skin color) in Capture 4. Now move your mouse cursor over the picture's skin tones with the LCH Editor's Chroma screen open. And watch where the colors map out on the Chroma screen's horizontal track line. This will show you where virtually all skin tones reside, (black, brown, tan, yellow, red, and white skinned people), a surprisingly narrow area towards the left side of the Chroma screen.
Screenshots of unmodified and modified Chroma curves are shown below, followed by samples of the above picture after applying increasing levels of Chroma curve corrections.
The unmodified (default) Chroma curve produces equal saturation throughout the color spectrum.
The modified Chroma curve slightly desaturates the offensive colors and very slightly raises the saturation level in the remaining colors to retain image quality.
For extreme cases, click and drag the arrow on the right side of the Chroma screen downward until the skin tones desaturate enough to suit your needs. By dragging the arrow down, the curve's shape & output balance are retained. (Samples with stronger curve output also shown below.)
(Below) Harsh tones slightly corrected to a more natural look with my -10+2 correction curve (the one shown in the above screenshot). This is an extreme skin tone example, so this version is followed by two more views of the same picture with stronger curves.
(Below) with a stronger -15-3 curve.
(Below) And with an even stronger -20-8 curve
(Below) Another example of too-strong D2H flash photo skin tones, also courtesy of pro photographer Israel Hadari. Mr. Hadari especially noted the man's "red face". Also note that the woman's skin has excessively strong yellow and orange overtones.
(Below) Skin tones corrected to a more natural look with a simple "click" in the LCH Editor in Nikon Capture 4 software using the -10+2 Chroma curve.
Mr. Hadari likes what he sees in the corrected version. The changes are subtle, but smooth. And the picture retains a natural, lively look.
Click to enlarge / 1199 x 794 pixels, 315 KB
Download the modified Chroma Curves (free)
- Click to download the -10+2 curve
- Click to download the stronger -15-3 curve
- Click to download the even stronger -20-8 curve
Put the file(s) in the default folder that comes up when you select "Load" in the Capture 4's LCH Folder icon to the right of the green light. (It's usually "My Documents".) Click & open the file and be sure the green check mark is on next to the LCH Editor title. Choose the Chroma view option in the dropdown choices. The shape of the curve line should look exactly as shown above, the up/down positioning relative to the midpoint will vary depending on the strength. Toggle the check mark on & off to view the differences.
Capture 4's LCH Editor works on any file format: Jpeg, NEF, or Tiff. You can batch process your pictures in Capture 4 with it and make your workflow simple. And the same Chroma correction also works to fix oversaturated skin tones in Nikon D1, D1H, D1X, D100, D70, and Coolpix pictures. In fact, it will work on any Jpeg, or Tiff file from any camera.
In my experience, regardless of how intense some uncorrected pictures might look on screen, they'll probably look great in print without any correction - bold, bright, and colorful.
Hope for the future
Perhaps Nikon's upcoming D2H firmware upgrade will make this page obsolete. Let's hope so ...