Some Raw programs are more equal than others

I’ve discussed before the possibilities of using extreme white balance shifts in your photography — it’s a common practice to hit an outdoor subject with amber light on a tungsten setting to make the sky deep blue, like so:


But why stop there? It’s the digital era. If I’d hit them with a flash gelled deep pink, I could get crazy greens in the background. Or I could make that blue totally saturated.* It’s a way to get that crazy gelled-background look with just one light.

But some raw programs are much better at extreme shifts than others. Adobe Lightroom is great at making things super-warm, going to 50000K, but can only go as cold as to neutralize an old tungsten light bulb — anything lit by red is out of luck.

This isn’t just an issue for your own crazy lighting — if you shoot concerts or anything extremely theatrical, you often have to deal with lighting managers who are clearly on some sort of loosely-controlled substance. That’s where unlimited shifts come into play. RAW Developer is pretty good at this, with an auto setting that will use whatever crazy setting seems right, but is still limited compared to my favorite, Nikon Capture NX. With the “set gray point” option in the white balance, you can set it to essentially anything you want. For example, here’s some crazy lighting from a wedding singer, as it looked in real life:

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Here’s the best that Lightroom could do with it (cropped slightly differently):

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But here’s what a simple adjustment in Capture NX did.

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Look! She has skin tone! See how the open flame went to a crazy green? Non Nikon users may want to try their own maker’s software or RAW Developer.

UPDATE: By popular demand, here is what Apple’s Aperture can do. This actually taught me something I didn’t know — in Aperture, the white balance dropper can get you into extremes that the slider alone can’t do. While the settings for this read 2000K, -150, it was actually far more extremely shifted than if you had just manually moved the slider.

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*(Be careful lighting with greenish tones, it can highlight skin imperfections)

Eric - Ryan,

Did you try using the white balance dropper tool on the guy’s shirt collar in the bottom left of the frame?

I tried it with your JPEG image and think it turned out closer to balanced than the second shot above. I didn’t get the warm skin tones like on the bottom shot, but I think I could get more out of the NEF file in Lightroom. Her teeth also worked pretty good with the dropper tool.

Ryan Brenizer - That’s because you’re working the JPEG image that I already got halfway there. Adobe is a bit more wild with their JPG white balance, since it’s a different scale. But the Lightroom image was at the maximum settings (2000K, -150)

Greg - Good info. do you have a feel for what Apple’s Aperture can do as a comparison?



kwb - And, it’s “Raw” instead of “RAW.” Check any Adobe manual. Raw is not an acronym. Otherwise, nice.

Ryan Brenizer - It’s not often I run across someone more pedantic than myself. ;-)

Ryan Brenizer - @Greg: View the update!

Max - This is a really good post – getting good colours especially skin tones) in lightroom has been almost impossible for me so its good to see that other programs can really do much better. LR is so bad that I started to get seriously paranoid about shooting under fluourescent light!

Just out of curiousity, what is your most commonly used Raw prog? Your pictures always have perfect skin tone!

Ryan Brenizer -

Just out of curiousity, what is your most commonly used Raw prog? Your pictures always have perfect skin tone!

Overall, Lightroom by far because of the incredible speed. But the photos presented o the blog are a split between Lightroom and NX.

Mike - Nice comparison! I found out last year that Lightroom’s temperature settings aren’t sufficiently low enough especially for specialized infrared work.

One solution, albeit clunky for the type of corrections you suggest in this blog, would be to be to create a custom camera profile for use in Lightroom to get extreme colour temperatures (i.e. for good IR photos I need a temperature in the range of 1600-1800K) – here’s a discussion I started on flickr about this:

Once again, clunky to do, and not precise, but there is a way to get extreme colour temperatures in Lightroom by building your own camera profiles.

kw - Aperture is truly a great program. I’ve been using it for long time for processing both nikon and canon files. It’s too bad people don’t see the power of Aperture and what it has to offer. With Nik plugins I never have to go to photoshop much anymore. Never used Nikon nx or Capture NX 2. I have used LR and much prefer Aperture. Just my two cents.

Thomas Lester - Hey Ryan –

I’m an Aperture user and am aware of the dropper being able to go extreme (off the sliders). However… as you can see in your sample, Aperture gets the temperature pretty close, but seems to almost always screw up the tint. I almost always have to re-adjust the tint even when using a grey card target. And it’s not always consistent. Sometimes it’s heavy on the pink side, sometimes it’s heavy on the green side.

Did you try the dropper in LR? I would think that it would behave similarly to Aperture.

BTW… I love Capture NX2, but I just can’t wrap my head around an efficient work flow since CNX2 stinks for Digital Asset Management and it’s SLLLOOOWWWW….

Ryan Brenizer - I’ve never had LR’s dropper go extreme.

Kyle - Going to see what Canon’s program has to offer as far as white balance goes. Skin toes are my achilles tendon.

And YAY, Ryan has a blog we can all comment on!

Eric - “That’s because you’re working the JPEG image that I already got halfway there.”

Actually, I tried the dropper on the first image, not the second one that had already been processed in LR. Thanks for the update in Aperture though.

Sean McCormack - Steven Erat sent me over for a look.

Using the DNG Profile Editor you can quite easily make a much cooler white balance and save it as a profile.

I use this technique for Infrared, but it would work equally as well in this application.

Maria - Hi!, you always use Lightroom for editing because I´m your fan and I tried Aperture, photoshop and NX2, but always finish some effect in photoshop, If don´t edit a lot of photos which program do you say that is the best for more quality (forget the speed) and the photo before the aperture edit is finished in NX2 ? but started in Lightroom?

—I love you Ryan (your work) you inspired me-

Ryan Brenizer - Thank you Maria! Your comment is a bit hard to understand because of the language barrier, but in terms of absolute quality I will usually go with NX, with photoshop for fine detail work.

Dolly - I absolutely love this post. Those pictures of the background are my absolute favorite.

Simon - Thanks so much for this Ryan, this is the one problem with LR for me…View NX works way better for those rare shots where LR fails. Now if Nikon would only make it work faster and not charge extra for NX2 I’d be much happier.
Love the new blog BTW, long-time fan of your Amazon blog…

Alex - Ryan – Dealing with the white balance is always something hard for me. Could share some handy hints about what “simple adjustment” you did in NX to get this awesome skin tone out of the sluggish enlightenment.
Love your new blog too btw.

Ryan Brenizer — New York City Wedding Photographer : For You Blue - […] More extreme white balance? Nope — this is exactly what the scene looked like in real life, thanks to the crazy night lights at the High Line. […]

Craig Cacchioli - Wedding Photographer - An interesting insight. Obviously, different software has different tricks, but I never expected to see such a marked difference!

Hello (again)!

I was trying to get this a BIT more finished before the Grand Opening, but I’ve been blessed with an incredibly busy shooting schedule, and wanted to give new readers some content to look at. For now, here are some links to “Brenizer Method” content!

As some of you might have realized, despite the PhotoJojo title, this is all about LESS depth of field than is normally possible, not more.

Here are some images that show off the technique (You can also search Flickr:)

Wedded Bliss

A Bridge Just Right


The Dreaming Tree

New Life to a Tomb

A New World

While the Iron is Hot

Ceci n

Chris Bartow - I’ve been messing around with the Brenizer Method today and I always seem to run into the same problem. On the edges of the photo I always end up with lines that don’t line up. Check out the highlighted branches on this tree as an example.

I try not to move the camera too much. I think this may be an issue with CS2 photomerge that works better in the newer versions.

Any tips to fix this?

Ryan Brenizer - Really complicated lines can mess programs up, and CS3 is a big jump up from CS2 in terms of stitching. There are some free programs out there that actually do a pretty good job.

Mark Terry - Very nice shallow depth of field effect. Couldn’t you get similar results from Alien SKin’s Bokeh filter? I mean, if you’re going to use Photoshop magic to combine multiple photos to get one image, would you consider it out-of-bounds to create the same thing just using a filter?

Ryan Brenizer - You can do blurring with a simple Gaussian filter, but it really doesn’t look the same, either in true 3-d dimensionality or rendering of highlights.

Daniel Stark - Sweet blog, Ryan!

Tried your method the other day – -check out the results:

The thing is, is that Elements doesn’t do a great job with the merging so I have been doing it by hand! (Ugh!) I’ll have to try out the free programs.

Rochelle - I stinkin’ love the new blog.

Bert - Ryan, when I shoot wide open with 50mm f/1.8, there is always vignetting along the edges of the photo. After I stitch together the photos, I will get clear lines where individual photos converge, due to the earlier vignetting. Any advice on how to solve this?

Ryan Brenizer - Which stitching program are you using? If you have enough RAM, Photoshop will blend the vignetting away.

Mark Terry - Have you tried Bokeh? You can find many examples on Flickr of amazing results. And no, I don’t work for Alien Skin, I just happen to think this program is pretty amazing. Comparing it to Gaussian Blur is like comparing a D3 to a disposable camera. Maybe not quite that big of a difference, but still large.

I’m glad I found your blog through PhotoJoJo – I’ll be reading it religiously…

Ryan Brenizer - But no filter actually knows which parts were slightly closer to you than others. Passable either with a LOT of masking or only in extreme cases

Ryan Brenizer - And thanks!

Bert - I am using CS3 with 2GB RAM in Vista. Is that not sufficient?

Benson - Ryan, I can’t stop reading your blog (it’s now 2am here in my country).

I’m practicing this method a lot but it seems like CS3 is having a difficult time stitching images taken indoors. What should be a 20+ photo panorama only includes 10+ thus my image is incomplete. Maybe too much similarities in the color of the walls?

Also, can you use flash with the “Brenizer Method”? The last and 3rd to the last photos seem to use it. If so, does the flash fire in every shot you take?

{Jen & Jeff} The Engagement | Creative Ottawa Wedding Photographers | BH Photography - […] been working on a couple new techniques. The following photo is a variation on the “Brenizer Method“, which was developed by Ryan Brenizer, a wedding photographer from New York City. Although […]

[WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP () and so is spam.

Stitching with a macro - […] Ryan Brenizer Effect. He uses it mostly on people, but I wanted to try it on items. The idea is to use several photos […]

REPOST: Jill and David

(Most of my posts from March until August are only on the Amazon blog, but I have a few on local draft:)

I got the rare pleasure of second-shooting a wedding with Dave Robbins, the fantastic union of Jill and David. (And that’s Dav-eed, he’s French). I don’t get to second-shoot much for the best of possible reasons — I have too many of my own weddings to shoot — but it’s always fun when I can to try new things, feel my way through a different pace, and just see things from a different angle. There’s no slideshow this time, so I included slightly more photos than normal.

The wedding itself was a fantastic ceremony overlooking the city from the Hotel on Rivington, after which all of the guests marched through town behind a group of musicians, ending up at the stunning Angel Orensanz Foundation. From there it was a big, unending party, with a fantastic band, a musical interlude where the flower girls sang a song the groom’s father had written, and great speeches. In my favorite moment of the night, as one of the best men was giving a speech, his daughter crawled up the stage, tugged on his pants leg, and wouldn’t let go until she was picked up. I love the natural searching instinct of children, and am probably doomed when I have my own, since I spend so much time silently hoping they never do what they’re told.

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RKB_0802 copy


marilou - I absolutely love these. Wish you had been at my wedding!

Mystery Must-Have Lens Arrived!

(testing out the post-via-iPhone goodness … it’s good to have a supported blog!)

I just got a package in with a Nikon lens i will review. At first glance, i’d have to say this might be the one lens I recommend to just about every last Nikon DSLR user. Any guesses?

Adrian Charles - A cheap, fast prime. Nikon 30 mm f/1.8?

Andrew Lusk - 35mm 1.8?

Mark Gregory - 24-70mm f2.8?

brett maxwell - 200 f2!

Josh Mitchell - 28mm f/1.4D

Ryan Brenizer - @Brett: Haha, if everyone wants a free bicep workout.

Ryan Brenizer - @Josh: I wish.

Marlo - Perhaps the remake of the 18-200mm?

Paul Benjamin - I can only assume it’s the ne 70-200mm f2.8. My logic is as follows…

Not the 50mm f1.4 you’re a Sigma user and so you couldn’t unreservedly reccomend the nikkor.

24-70mm 2.8 is not so awesome on APS-C

17-55mm is the opposite.

14-24 is great but a bit of a speciality lens…

Perhaps one of the micro nikkors, or a new 85mm everything else either works on FF or APS-C or is a speciality lens…

Larry Chua - 70-200 VR II

Dominik - 50mm 1.8!

Adam Shingleton - I want to know what it was!

C.F. - 85mm f1.4……

Bill Reynolds - New? 16-35 ƒ4.

Reworked? 24-120, 135/2 or 180/2.8.

Wish list: any ƒ3.5 or ƒ4 zoom, such as 16-85, 24-105, etc. — for walkabout


John LaPlante - Ryan, love your site…would really like to know what lens you’re talking about…I have been looking at your wedding pics, but haven’t seen too many posted with what would be a 70-200VRII…so I’m curious…what be this lens?

Their Middle Name

Their Middle Name

Not only are they hot, not only are they world-travelers, but they’re getting married today! I can’t wait to spend the day with this fantastic couple.

Lynne - I love all of these! I’d love to use something like “dangerous” for my son’s soccer team and would love to know what font you used and how you got the effect. I’m not a pro, just a soccer mom with a Nikon and Photoshop hoping to be dangerous too! Seriously, I don’t sell anything photographic and I live in the midwest, but I do understand if this is proprietary.

Ryan Brenizer - No font used, that’s just a straight ol’ picture! As for the font on the sign, something like Impact would be close enough.

Lynne - Thanks Ryan! Any other Photoshop tips for the sign? And when are you going to let us know about the new lens! Is it as awesome as youthought it would be?

Living in Art

You know you have a power couple when you take them to the celebrated scultpture on the Metropolitain Museum of Art’s rooftop and they say “Oh, that reminds me! We should invite the artist to the wedding!”

Nicole and John, 7/10/09

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

It POURED during our vendor meeting at New Rochelle’s Beckwith Pointe, like it did through most of June and July here. The skies were opened, the venue’s gorgeous view looked gray and muddy. “Don’t worry,” the manager said. “I promise there will be sun on the wedding day. I will make it so.”

Good job, guy. The wedding day was sunny and bright. Spirits were high, and only got higher as the night went on. Their families were incredibly close-knit — the very manly best man brother was nothing but sincere, open and emotional during his speech, no embarrassing stories in sight.


Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Amy and Mike: 7.25.09

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

Mike and Amy’s wedding was multifaceted. On the one hand you had the consummate planning, the beautiful Prince George Ballroom, the guests and wedding party looking gorgeous and dapper, a touching, deep-felt Catholic mass in a beautiful church … and on the other hand you had a room full of people with such intense energy and joy that there was no point in containing it. When I finally realized that nothing short of an Act of God would tame the wedding party for a group shot, and realized that Mike and Amy weren’t the type of people to want a tame shot anyway … I went with it.

“OK … you two kiss. The rest of you? Without causing injury, be as rowdy as possible.”

The floodgates opened, and from then on the wedding was more thrill ride than work (but they usually are … shhhh, don’t tell anyone I enjoy my job so much).

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Rules for Shooting Group Photos

The Ties that Bind

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Toffiloff - That second to last handstad shot is epic! Great job on this one! #haitirelief

Hard-tested lens review: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

If you’re into photography, you’re probably familiar with the common format of lens reviews: Walk around with it for a few days, subject it to lab tests, shoot some brick walls to test distortion, and pass judgement.

Well, most of us don’t actually shoot brick walls for fun or profit, so I decided to be slightly more thorough with my testing of Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8G. Here was my method: Use it for 20 months on countless assignments, take nearly 200,000 photos with it, and grind it down from overuse until it began to fall apart in my hands, the rubber zoom ring falling off, and then the lens breaking entirely. So I know a few things about this lens.

When the 24-70 came out, it was overshadowed by the more shocking announcements of the Nikon D3 and the 14-24mm f/2.8. Whereas the 14-24 seemed to break the laws of physics, 24-70 is a fairly pedestrian range, and it may have seemed like catch-up to Canon’s, which was released in 2002.

This is unfortunate. The 14-24 is amazing, and helped win me a major award, but let’s face it — on a full-frame sensor, it’s a novelty lens with insane perspective distortion, and with a heavy, fragile front element. 24-70mm, though, is a range where the actual work gets done, where you can take photos that are more about the scene and less about wide-angle distortion or extreme telephoto compression. On a DX camera, it acts like a 36mm-105mm. That’s a range that lens-makers deliberately make anymore, but it makes for a fantastic range for portraits, from full-body to head-and-shoulders.

So, if the range is useful, how is the lens itself? Darned well one of the best lenses I have ever used, absolutely astonishing for a zoom. Let’s get into why.

For samples, here are hundreds of images I’ve taken with the 24-70.

The Bad:
(I’m listing this first, because the good list is way too long.)

•It’s a big, heavy beast. Slimmer and longer than the 28-70 it replaced, it’s still something that instantly will cause wrist strain if you hold a camera with one hand. It’s too big to be well-balanced on cameras like the D700 without an integrated vertical grip, so either a big camera or attaching a separate grip is recommended.

•Barrel distortion at 24mm, particularly when close-focusing. It’s not awful, but is definitely noticeable. If you’re shooting architecture or you really are into brick walls, you’ll need some software to straighten out your lines.

Also, I’m not the only person who’s had the rubber zoom-ring problem, though I’ve only heard of it from among seriously heavy users.

The Good:

Focus acquisition: Holy cow. This of course depends on the camera you’re using and your technique, but with the excellent system of the D3 as a baseline, this lens focuses more quickly and accurately than anything else I’ve used except exotic, extremely expensive telephotos like the 200mm f/2. The focus locks immediately and is deadly accurate. The error rate even in challenging conditions for me is well under one percent.

Color: I have never even given a serious thought to lens color transmission before using the 24-70. For me, either a lens was bad and turned your images muddy or yellow or it worked right. But right from the first picture, and across a number of different cameras, the color of photos taken with the 24-70 has been vibrant and accurate.

Build quality: Admittedly, began to stick on me — after I’d banged it into hundreds of walls, tossed it into my bag countless times, shot in the cold, in ludicrous humidity, on the beach, and done everything you’re never supposed to do with expensive gear. It’s a tank.

Sharpness: Very, very sharp, even wide-open. Certainly enough for the D3’s 12-megapixel sensor, and stopped down it should match even the megapixel monster that is the D3X

When you put lens sharpness and focus acquisition together, you get something that you can’t see in lab tests — your images of challenging scenes will tend to be sharper than any other similar lens I’ve used. The Nikon 17-55 is pretty good, but the 24-70 schools it in accuracy. Whether this lens will make your pictures better is up to you and your composition, but it will definitely make them sharper and more colorful.

The final word is this: I don’t like zooms. They’re too big, they’re not light-sensitive enough, and they don’t have the depth-of-field control I crave. But I cannot ever let this lens out of my bag.

Nikon D600 Review » Ryan Brenizer — NYC Wedding Photographer. Problem solver, storyteller. - […] without a vertical grip, I find it poorly balanced with heavy-but-not-gigantic lenses like the 24-70mm f/2.8G, since too much weight gets put onto one wrist (luckily there’s an optional vertical […]

Geeky, Part 1: Samsung 30-inch monitor unpacking

Based on what I shot last year, and that business is even higher this year, I figure I might shoot more than 200,000 photos in 2009. That’s a lot of photos to process. So I’ve put in some major upgrades to my computer system. My screaming fast Mac Pro is still being put together, but my new Samsung 305T 30-inch monitor is in! I know there’s a lot of debate about whether it’s better to have one giant screen or multiple monitors, but I’m not that much of a multitasker, and a lot of my most-used programs, like Lightroom, have singe-window interfaces. Now I can select, say. 25 images on a screen and still see enough detail to know which ones I want to keep and which are b-list.

Anyway, for my fellow geeks out there, here are some unboxing shots.



Top of the box. Not too many cables — if you’re looking for an HDMI connection, you might want to try another model.


The cables, together.



I assure you that’s a normal-sized stove.


I’ll be running it from my Macbook Pro until the new beast arrives.

For the photography-geeks out there, those last two are also a lesson in how wide-angle perspective distortion can make objects look bigger or smaller.

Jake - Very nice. I’m wanting a 24″ monitor, but want a new desktop, too. I’ll probably wait until fall when Snow Leopard is out, and either get a quad core iMac (if they are released) or a late-model octo core Mac Pro. That 30-incher looks sweet, but too big for me. Of course, I could always repurpose my 1080p 37″ TV.

Kirsten - I gotta say, you’re brilliant and I’d normally never question you. And it is too late anyway……

But…I use 2 monitors in Lightroom now, as of this week. One displays the whole wedding in “library” mode and the other screen is the one picture I am editing in “develop” mode. Best time saver EVER. For me. I can work so much quicker now in lightroom than I ever did before.

Still, that huge monitor is AMAZING!

Now with video

Facebook apparently isn’t playing nice yet with easy embedding, and not everyone has or wants an account, so here is my “What’s in My Bag?” video, safely embedded:

[vimeo w=640&h=360]

What's in My Bag?

I get asked this question a lot, but there is no one answer — cameras and lenses are tools, made for particular jobs. So I put together a little video showing how I prepare for some very different jobs. Check it out here!

Timoria and Bob: 2/28/09, Battery Gardens, NYC

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

(Also scroll to previous posts for more portraits of the bride.)

I feel sorry for any photographer who had to spend February 28 not shooting Timoria and Bob’s wedding. I knew I was in for something special after our engagement session, but when you walk in and see a congratulatory note from Candace Bushnell, Sex and the City author, you know you’re in for a fabulous time. What I loved best was that the wedding managed to be classy and extravagant, using the fantastic Battery Gardens, but was not stuffy at all. From belly dancers to guests getting down to a gaggle of adorable children, the wedding was warm and joyful throughout. I’ve said before that one of the unique things about wedding photography is that it’s the one sort of job where it actually matters how good your 500th-best photo was that day. Well, so much was going on here that I wish I could share that 500 and more.


Getting-ready photos are almost always light and airy, with a lot of ambient light. I took a lot like that too, but wanted something more dramatic here, so I actually killed all ambient by going to 1/8000th of a second and, with the blessing of the make-up artist, worked in extremely tight with a small softbox.




The groom, through the best man’s glasses





You. Better. Work.

Believe it or not, I can actually do this move, though it’s been a while.