How to view DNG thumbnails in Windows

If you convert RAW files to DNG as a part of your workflow in Lightroom like I do, you probably get frustrated with the fact that Windows does not display DNG image thumbnails or let you view files in Windows Photo Viewer. Windows by default does now know how to read DNG files and the only operating system today that has some support from Adobe, is Windows Vista. Adobe officially released a 32-bit DNG codec for Windows Vista, but it does not work with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, Windows XP or Windows 7, making it pretty worthless. Gladly, there are a couple of workarounds to get all Windows operating systems to display DNG thumbnails and open them in Windows Photo Viewer and I will show you how to do that in this quick article.

DNG support in Windows XP

Interestingly, Windows XP (32-bit) comes with full DNG support, but it needs to be activated from the Windows registry. If you are running Windows XP, here is what you need to do:

  1. Download this registry file and save it on your desktop
  2. Double-click the file, which will ask you to confirm if you want to add entries to your registry. Click “Yes”, which then will modify the registry as needed.
  3. Reboot the computer.
  4. Go to a folder with DNG files and switch to thumbnail view. Verify that you can see the thumbnails, as you can see with JPEG files.
  5. Delete the downloaded registry file from your desktop.

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Lightroom 3 Process Version

1) What is Lightroom Process Version?

After you convert all of your Lightroom 2 catalogs to Lightroom 3, you will notice that images from the converted catalogs will have a warning sign when you view them in Develop module (under the image). In addition, you will also see a new drop-down under “Camera Calibration” that was not there in Lightroom 2 called “Process”, which contains “2003″ and “2010 (Current). Here is how it looks:

Lightroom 3 Current Process Version

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How to Upgrade Lightroom 2 to Lightroom 3

This is a quick guide on how to upgrade Lightroom 2 to Lightroom 3. One of the good news for Lightroom 2 (LR2) users, is that unlike the beta version, the full version of Lightroom 3 (LR3) allows upgrading the LR2 catalog to LR3 catalog without having to re-import all images into a clean catalog. Also, Adobe allows keeping both versions of Lightroom on the same machine, which means that you can install LR3 and continue to use your old LR2 with the old catalog. Until performance issues are all addressed in LR3, I would keep both versions on the machine in case of failures or problems.

1) Download and install Lightroom 3

If you are hesitating about downloading the online version of Lightroom 3 versus buying a boxed version from a store, don’t – they are both exactly the same. Adobe lets you download the full version of Lightroom and use it for 30 full days until you input the serial number from a retail boxed version. This is a great way to try it out and see if you want to keep it or not. If you do, then simply purchase the retail version of Lightroom 3 later and when the package arrives, use the serial number to unlock the 30 day limitation – you don’t even need to insert the CD.

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Panoramic Photography Tutorial

I wrote this tutorial for those who want to learn about panoramic photography and how to photograph and stitch panoramas using a point and shoot or DSLR camera. The technique consists of two parts – photographing a scene using a camera and then using special software to align and stitch those images together to form a single panoramic image. I will go over both and will show you how to create stunning panoramic images of any subject, including landscapes.

Dead Horse Point Panorama at Sunrise

Dead Horse Point Panorama at Sunrise

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HDR Photography Tutorial

This is a detailed tutorial on HDR Photography for beginners and how you can create HDR images from single or multiple photographs using different exposures.

While I was driving through Rocky Mountains last year, I saw a beautiful sunset. It was so beautiful, that I stood there in awe for a moment, before taking out my camera and attempting to take a picture. I took one quick shot of the sunset and quickly realized that there was too much contrast between the sky and the mountains for my camera. The image came out horrible – the sky looked somewhat fine, but the mountains were pitch black. I only had my camera and my trusty tripod with me, so I knew that I did not have many options. I decided to try out a photography technique known as “HDR” or “High Dynamic Range” and I ended up with the following image:

Combined in Software

While some people really like the above image, others just hate it. That’s how it goes with HDR in general – the surreal look of HDR photographs is not for everyone to love and enjoy, although, there are cases when it is done extremely well. But let’s save this discussion for later and first try to understand what HDR photography is all about.

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How to Photograph Waterfalls

In this article, I will share some tips on how to capture beautiful waterfalls. While it seems like a simple task, photographing waterfalls and making the water look silky smooth can be a little challenging, especially if you do not have the right equipment. Use the tips below to understand how to get this effect and capture beautiful waterfall pictures.

Waterfall - 5 Second Exposure (Shutter Speed)

1) Your goal – slow shutter speed

In order to make the water look smooth, you need to use an extremely slow shutter speed of several seconds or longer. Slow shutter speeds create the “ghosting” effect, making the subject appear smooth and blurry, which is exactly what you want. Fast shutter speeds only freeze the running water, making the scene look too ordinary. Here is an image of falls that I captured with a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/250th of a second:

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How to Update Firmware on Nikon DSLR

One of the areas within the camera that rarely ever gets touched, is the camera software, also known as “firmware”. Most modern electronic gadgets provide the ability to update their firmware by downloading fixes and updates through manufacturers’ websites and applying those updates on the devices. The firmware updates not only provide important fixes for identified bugs, but also provide brand new features that were absent when the device was shipped from the manufacturer. This ability to be able to update and run the latest version of firmware has become a standard among DLSR manufacturers, allowing end users to run the latest and greatest firmware on their cameras.

If you have never updated firmware on your Nikon DSLR or have not performed an update for a long time, you might want to check if new firmware is available for your camera. Some photographers argue that they do not feel the need to touch camera firmware, since they do not have any problems with their cameras and everything seems to be functioning properly. I personally feel otherwise – why not to run the latest and greatest camera software? And why would you resist adding more functions to your camera, especially if those functions are available to you at no charge? If you agree with me, then you should check what firmware you are running today and what firmware is currently available from Nikon.

In some cases, it is best to wait for at least 2-3 weeks after a brand new firmware update is released, to make sure that it does not come with unexpected bugs and problems. Although Nikon has a very good history and reputation when it comes to firmware releases, it does not necessarily mean that bad things won’t happen in the future.

1) Check current Firmware Version

Checking the firmware version on Nikon DSLR is very easy – just press the “Menu” button, the go to “Firmware Version” under “Setup”. You should see something like this (image courtesy of Nikon):

Nikon D300 Firmware Version

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How to Choose and Buy a Tripod for a DSLR Camera

Choosing a tripod can be an overwhelming experience, given how many different types and choices we are presented with. On one hand, a tripod is a very simple tool to keep our cameras steady when we use them in challenging light conditions. On the other hand, there are so many different variables that come into play when choosing a tripod: How tall should it be? How light should it be? How stable should it be? What kind of weight can it support? How much should I spend on a tripod? These are just some of the questions that might come up as you look into buying a new tripod.

Manfrotto Tripod

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Photography FAQ #3

Happy Friday! Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can. Here is the third compiled list of FAQs from the last two weeks:

  1. What lens do you recommend for architectural photography?
    If you are serious about architectural photography, you should get a tilt and shift lens like the Nikon 24mm PC-E f/3.5D, with an ultra wide-angle lens such as Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. Both are superb for most architectural photography needs.
  2. I have heard so many stories about a thread problem and debris inside the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens. Is this something to be worried about? Also, how does the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II behave on older camera bodies such as Nikon D70s?
    Forget about the thread/debris problem in the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II, because it is NOT a problem. People started complaining about this so much that they made Nikon provide an official response, in which they are stating that the lens thread is normal, it will not release any debris inside the lens and the performance is not going to be affected in any way. Although the lens was released specifically for FX cameras, it will work even better on DX cameras, including the older Nikon D70s/D80/D200 cameras.
  3. Do you recommend the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens for landscape photography on a DX body?
    No, I do not. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G is wide enough for FX, but on a DX body is equivalent of 35-105mm lens, which is sometimes too long for landscape photography. If you are shooting on a DX body, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G or the new Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR would work better, because they have a bigger field of view, which means that you can fit more of the scene into the frame. I love the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens and it is definitely one of my favorite lenses for landscape photography, but when shooting on FX.
  4. What should I buy, a lightly used Nikon D300 or a brand new Nikon D90 for the same price?
    If you know the person who is selling the D300 and know for sure that the D300 is slightly used, then get the D300 of course! Although noise-levels on the D90 on high ISOs are slightly better, the D300 is a solid professional camera with a better AF system, faster speed and tougher weather sealing (in addition to many other features) compared to the D90.
  5. Will Nikon be releasing a VR or f/1.4 version of the Nikon 35mm lens anytime soon?
    Rest assured that the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens is not going to get VR, at least not anytime soon. Adding VR would make this lens heavier/larger in size and would add to the cost. In addition, there are many other lenses that are due for updates. For example, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D needs an update, hopefully with VR. As far as an f/1.4 version of the 35mm, it is definitely long overdue and many photographers have been desperately waiting for an AF-S version of this lens.
  6. I am afraid to purchase the Nikon D5000, because it does not have an autofocus motor in it. What do you recommend?
    I do not know why this question keeps coming up, but stop worrying about having or not having an AF motor in the camera body. Sure, having no motor was a problem in the past, but Nikon has released so many new excellent DX and AF-S lenses that having no AF motor in the body is no longer an issue. Instead of wasting money on an old, used lens that you think is a bargain, just buy the cheap and excellent Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens and you will not regret it.
  7. What Nikon lens do you recommend for indoors and outdoors sports photography?
    For outdoors sports photography, it all depends on how far away you are from the subject. The Nikon 70-200mm VR II would be a great choice for medium range photography and you could add a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR for subjects that are further away. If the above lenses do not fit your budget, try the inexpensive Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens – it works great when there is plenty of available light. When it comes to indoors sports photography, the choices are limited to either expensive f/2.8 lenses or fast-aperture fixed lenses such as Nikon 85mm f/1.4, considering that you cannot change the lighting conditions.
  8. Will Nikon be releasing updates to current DSLR cameras this year?
    I honestly do not know, because I do not work for Nikon and manufacturers always keep camera and lens announcements in secret. But you can get a pretty good picture of when Nikon will be releasing an update based on the schedule of camera releases by Nikon in the past.
  9. Do you really respond to all comments by your readers?
    Yes, we do. At least we try. Sometimes it takes me several days to catch up with all the comments, but Lola and I do our best to respond to every single query. I am not sure that I will be able to continue responding to all comments going forward, because the number of comments has dramatically increased and I sometimes spend more time responding to comments than writing content for the website. But I promise to do my best.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

How to Make the Sky Blue in Lightroom

One of the biggest frustrations in photography is the fact that our cameras are not able to fully capture the light and the dark tones that we can normally see with our eyes, which is known as “dynamic range”. How many times have you seen situations when the sky is blue and beautiful, but it comes out very pale or gray in your photographs? There are other cases, when the sky is not blue at all, but you still want it to be blue in your picture. Gladly, the problem can be easily fixed in Lightroom, as long as the rest of the picture is fine.

In this tutorial, I will show you how you can transform the sky from light-blue/gray:

Original Image

To darker blue:

Snow and Blue Sky

1) Graduated Filter Tool

In the past, if you wanted to fix the sky in a photograph, you had to open it in Photoshop, then work with it through layers and masks. With the introduction of Lightroom 2, Adobe provided plenty of great functions within Lightroom without having to use Photoshop. These new functions truly save a lot of time, because you can copy-paste the same settings from one picture to another, especially when working with panoramas.

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