Capture NX

If you’ve played at all with Nikon Capture NX, you already know that it has some of the best editing tools on the market (if you haven’t played with it, a free demo version is available here). But, if you’re used to the workflow management and output features of Apple’s iPhoto, you may be reluctant to give up iPhoto’s powerful library features to switch to a Finder-based workflow driven by the Capture NX file browser. Fortunately, there’s a very easy way to integrate the two programs. With an integrated iPhoto/NX workflow, you can import and organize your images in iPhoto, but edit them using Capture NX’s superior raw conversion options and localized editing tools.

You have two options for integrating Capture NX with iPhoto. First, there is the "manual" way: in iPhoto, select the image that you want to edit, then choose File > Export. In the Export Photos dialog box, choose TIFF format, specify the size and naming conventions you want, and then click the Export button.


iPhoto will write out the file to your chosen destination. You can then open that image in NX, edit it, save it back out as a TIFF, and import the new version into iPhoto.

If your image is a Nikon Raw file, then you might want to set the format to Original. This will pass the original raw file to NX, allowing you to perform your raw conversion there. If you’re shooting with a non-Nikon raw format, then you can’t pass the original raw file, as Capture NX only converts Nikon raw files.

While this scheme works just fine, it’s a bit of a hassle, what with all that exporting and re-importing. A better way is to use iPhoto’s round-tripping feature, which lets you launch images into NX directly from iPhoto – no exporting required. With this scheme, you’ll replace iPhoto’s internal editing tools with Capture NX.

To utilitze the round trip feature, you first need to configure iPhoto’s preferences. Choose iPhoto > Preferences. With the General tab selected, use the Edit photo pop-up menu to select Capture NX.

Next, click on the Advanced tab. Here, you’ll want to consider how iPhoto should handle raw files. If you’re working with Nikon raw files, then you’ll want the original raw file passed to Capture NX. If you’re using a non-Nikon raw format, then you’ll want to pass a 16-bit TIFF. So, if you’re using Nikon raw files, check Use RAW files with external editor. If you’re using non-Nikon raw files, check Save edited RAW files as 16 bit TIFFs.


Close the Preferences window. Now, when you double-click on an image in iPhoto’s browser, or, click the Edit button to edit a selected image, the images will be opened in Capture NX, where you can perform any edits that you want.

If the image that you passed to NX was a JPEG or TIFF image, then when you’re done editing you can simply hit save to save the results back into your iPhoto library.

If the image you passed to NX was a Nikon raw file, then you can press save to save your results back into your iPhoto library, but you won’t see the results in iPhoto. Remember, a NEF file is a container format. In the case of Nikon raw files, the NEF document contains the original raw data, plus the list of edits that you created in Capture NX. iPhoto does not know how to read and interpret this list of edits, and so shows only the initial raw conversion.

The good news is that your edits are still there. If you save the image, and then re-open it from iPhoto into NX, you’ll find that all of your Capture NX edits are still in the Edit List. If you want to be able to see your edits in iPhoto – or put the edited photo on a web page, into an iPhoto book, order prints of it, etc. – then you’ll need to save a rendered version of the edited image in another format. Follow these steps:

1. In NX, choose File > Save to save your edited NEF file back into iPhoto. This will ensure that you always have an editable version. Your document should remain open.

2. Choose File > Save As, and save a TIFF version of your image to your desktop.

3. Import the TIFF file into iPhoto.

You’ll now have two versions of the image in iPhoto, an editable NEF image, and a properly rendered TIFF image.

If you’d like to streamline that third step, you can use Automator to easily create a watch folder that will automatically tell iPhoto to import any image that’s placed into it.

1. Open Automator (it’s included in your Applications folder)

2. In the Untitled workflow document that appears, click on iPhoto in the Library pane.

3. In the Action pane, double click on Import Photos into iPhoto. This will add an import action to your workflow. By default, it’s set to import into the iPhoto library. If you’d rather have it import into a specific album, or into a new album, configure the action accordingly.

4. In the Finder, create a new folder on the desktop and call it something like "Edited in NX".

5. In Automator, choose File > Save as Plug-in.

6. Name the plug-in "Import to iPhoto".

7. From the Plug-in for pop-up menu, choose Folder Actions.

8. Use the Attached to Folder popup menu to select the Edited in NX folder that you created in step 4.

9. Close the Automator document and quit Automator.

Now, anytime that you save an image into your Edited in NX folder, it will automatically be imported into iPhoto. It foesn’t matter whether you actually save from NX, or from any other app – or even copy or move a file into the folder using the Finder.

Note that when you use iPhoto’s round-trip feature you completely lose access to iPhoto’s own internal editing tools. There’s no way to choose between editing internally within iPhoto, or sending to your designated external editor.

Also, if you wanted to add further automation, you could configure your Automator workflow to automatically delete the imported image from the Import folder.