Thursday, August 2, 2012

Integrate Capture NX 2 and Lightroom into Your Post-Processing Workflow

As a long-time user and advocate of Nikon’s Capture NX 2 (CNX) and a new user of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR), I was eager to find a way to take advantage of both tools in my post-processing workflow. Both tools provide non-destructive editing of RAW image files. The bad news is that edits applied to RAW images made using one tool, are not visible to the other.
However, the good news is:
  • After initial editing of the RAW images, I usually create TIF files for further editing, which are visible to both LR and CNX.
  • LR’s auto import and other features provide the link between the two tools.
Getting Started
  1. Create the following folders:
    •  CNX Edits – This is where you save your TIFs after editing RAW files using CNX. This folder will not appear in LR’s Library module because it is not part of the catalog.
    •  CNX Imports – This is where LR automatically moves the TIFs from CNX Edits and imports them into the LR catalog.
    •  LR Edits – This is where you export your TIFs after you have processed the RAW files using LR and then want to do further adjustments in CNX.

    Note: In my main “Photos” folder I have a top-level folder called “Work” which is where I created these folders, but you can name and put them anywhere that suits you.

  2. In LR, enable auto import and set the watched folder to CNX Edits, and the destination folder to CNX Imports.
    For complete instructions on how to set up and use auto import, read: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 - Import photos automatically.
  • Setting CNX as an “Additional External Editor” from within LR
    This is an optional feature but if, from within LR, you want to be able to edit TIFs in CNX while still working in LR:
    1. From the LR Edit menu, choose Preferences, then click the External Editing tab.
    2. Under Additional External Editor, click Choose and then enter or paste the path to CNX, e.g., C:\Program Files\Nikon\Capture NX 2\Capture NX 2.exe.
    3. For the File Format, choose TIFF, specify any other settings you want, e.g., Color Space, Bit Depth, etc. and then click OK.
  • Processing your RAW files and creating the initial TIFs
    Depending on what you want to do with a particular image and which tool you want to use to process your RAW images first, do one of the following:
    • Using CNX – open and adjust the RAW image to your liking, then save it as a TIF in the CNX Edits folder.
    • Using LR – in the Develop module, adjust the RAW image to your liking, then save it as a TIF in the LR Edits folder.
      Note: Before you click Export, be sure to check Add to This Catalog otherwise you won’t see the image in LR.
  • Editing your TIF images
    Here is where the power of this approach really kicks in – You can now make further adjustments to a TIF you created from either CNX or LR.
    To adjust the TIF using CNX, do one of the following:
    • In LR’s Library module, right-click the image (or the thumbnail of the image) you want to edit, choose Edit In, and then choose Edit in Capture NX 2.exe.
      CNX launches and opens the TIF, unless it was already open, in which case it just opens the TIF. Make any further edits required in CNX and then save the file when you are done.
    • If not already open, launch CNX, navigate to either the CNX Edits or LR Edits folder depending on where the TIF is located, open the file, make your edits and then save the file.
    In either case, the adjusted file will be available in the appropriate LR catalog folder with the edits applied.

    To adjust the TIF using LR:

    • In LR’s Library module, navigate to the appropriate catalog folder, select the file, click Develop, make further edits and then save the file when you are done.
    You can continue to make additional adjustments using either tool until you are satisfied with the result.

    Moving your edited images to your final folder

    1. In LR’s Library module Navigator panel, navigate to the root folder where you will place your final TIFs.
    2. Right-click the folder name and click Create folder inside “{folder name)” … and type the name of the folder, e.g., “Project 123 final”.
    3. In LR’s Library module Navigator panel, navigate to the folder containing your final TIFs (either the CNX Imports or LR Edits).
    4. Select the files you want to move, and then drag them to the final folder.
    You can now print, post, or do whatever else you need to with your final images.
    Happy editing!


    1. That's not what i was looking for. What a greedy piece of crap LR is by not allowing to open a nef file in CaptureNX.

      1. Just right click on the nef file in LR and select Open in Explorer. Then open in CNX2.

    2. Hi Carlos, By the same token, in CNX when you open a NEF that has been adjusted in LR, you don't see the LR adjustments in CNX. That's because the adjustments applied in both programs aren't made to the actual NEF files, but only to their "virtual" copies.
      I'm sorry that the workaround I described here is not what you were looking for.

    3. This is an excellent description of your workflow, exactly what I wanted to see. Thanks for going to the trouble to explain and doing it in such complete detail.

      1. Thanks owltech. I really appreciate the positive feedback.

    4. THANK YOU so much. I have been scratching my brain trying to come up with a way to incorporate CNX2 and LR4 into my workflow.

    5. I meet the same problem when use NX2 vs LR. It's great share for me and very detail.

      1. Hi Cindy, I am very happy to hear that this post was useful for you!
        I read recently that Nikon is planning to de-support CNX...and have to confess that I have "gone to the dark side" and now use LR almost exclusively.
        Thank you for your comment!