Color behavior - Any answer?

Hi all,

I use photolab4 with NEF nikon format on 2 different windows 10 workstations (different graphic chips and brand so graphic card seems obviously irrelevant here).
When I look a new image for the first time (I mean when I click on it in the image brower for the first time), this image opens in Photolab main window with some colors. Then, few seconds later, those colors change (generaly a lot), and those new colors become the color that photolab keeps forever (If I don’t make any editing).
Those first colors seems to be exactly the same as those I see in windows explorer (when set to Icon and not list of course). I think windows uses a nikon Codec for creating its icons from NEF.

I know Photolab converts colors in Adobe rgb as working color space, and displays them in either sRGB or Adobe RGB (set by user in preferences) and I understand this process.

Question are :
1 - What are really those first colors ? I need to be sure what they are. Nikon codec result ?.
2 - Is there a way, or what would be ideally needed, to keep them because most of the time they are way more realist and more pleasing than the more saturated and contrasted ones “created” by photolab (photolab is not the only one to “create” them).
I tryed about every possible option (from testing every photolab color rendering settings, to adjusting any other parameter) but I can’t get those colors back.

Thank for color experts response.

The first colours are from the jpeg preview that is embedded in the NEF file. It will have been treated in camera according to the Picture Control settings you have either set or the default ones.

What you see after those few seconds is the true RAW data and has no corrections applied. To minimise that difference, you can zero out all the Picture Control and other jpeg related setting in your camera.

PhotoLab, or other RAW software, is not creating different colours, it is simply stripping out the processing that your camera did to the image to create a jpeg preview that you can see on the back of the camera or Windows explorer.

Jpeg images are limited to 8-bits whereas a RAW image can be 12 or 14-bits. This essentially means that jpeg images can only render 256 different levels of tonality or colour, whereas a 14-bit RAW image can have 16,384.

Why you see stronger colours in the jpeg is because they have been “compressed” from 16,384 levels into only 256 levels, losing a lot of subtlety and detail on the way.

If you prefer a stronger rendering, simply adjust one image to how you like and then save the adjustments as a custom preset, which you can then apply to future images.


Thanks for your so fast and very precise response !

Great to see specialists are closely monitoring this forum !

Is there an easy way to mimic Nikon Picture controls with Photolab parameters ?
I can’t get to it precisely.
Stronger render is generally Photolab one and not picture control one.

If you want to post a screenshot of the image as you see it without PhotoLab along with the NEF original, I can see what can be done to give you some ideas.

Could I sent those image to you privatly (the nef one especially) ?

No problem


How can I send it to you ?

Click on my avatar at the top of my post and then on the Direct Message envelope

I can’t send you the NEF.
It is a D850 shot and it is too heavy to be joined (I tryed to compress it with 7zip, but that makes no difference).

How can I do it ?

Unless I missed an option …

Very useful initial answer Joanna. The jpeg preview should be embedded in the NEF. There is no way to bring in Nikon Picture Controls in Photolab that I know of. I’m a Nikon shooter and find I have no need of those controls in Photolab as it’s ten minutes work to emulate them with a preset.

It helps to have FilmPack Elite to create looks to match particular Picture Controls. The palette you are looking for is Color Rendering. Experiment with other camera body profiles as well as both Negative and Positive film presets. Most are excessive but there are a few which work very nicely to slightly boost the contrast and richen colours.

Fine Contrast is similar to the sharpening Nikon might do in camera, as well as the Distortion (for lens correction).

As this is a public forum with public solutions, general etiquette around here is to share the image publicly. If you’d like to chat and work one on one, it’s probably better to do it in email than clutter the forum.

I’d call it “what DxO thinks that the image should look like”, which also depends on what preset is set as default…

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If the D850 is the same as the D810, you should be able to select the DX image area in the menus and take a shot with that.

Yes. Of course.
I had choosen an already done shoot.
I’ll do one In Dx crop for this purpose.
But I can’t do this today. Will do it at soon as possible.


I always begin with no preset at all.

But what @platypus is saying is that all RAW converters tend to have their own standards for “no corrections”, depending on their demosaicing algorithm

Indeed. “No Correction” results used to be less contrasty and saturated. I’ve seen this development in products from Adobe, PhaseOne, and, DxO. This means that results not only differ between products, but also between different (major) versions of a product.

First as many told the colors and image you see just before the “pop” are the embedded jpeg.
Second, to match the colors of those you need to check the camera colorsettings which are applied in the internal processing for the ooc-jpeg.
Anything else then “default” would not be represented in the camera list in colorrendering anyway.
To match as much as possible make jpeg +raw images, and then select some which could help to create a baseline.
Use the global colorrendering as saturation and vibrance, check auto microcontrast.
Try some camera body’s.
Find a general overall “looks good” and store that as preset.
If you have one camera just select this one as apply alway’s on new images in prefference. If not name it Nikon xxxxx .

Adobe DNG converter, Lightroom and Photoshop come with a load of .dcp profiles that can also be used with PhotoLab in order to match the looks of your raw and ooc .jpg images. They will handle colour and tonality, you can then add some PhotoLab settings to taste and save the lot as new preset. Note that only the “Elite” versions of DPL can save partial presets. “Essential” editions can only save absolute presets. Check out the guide for details.


I have the Gretag Macbeth target and use the X-Rite ColorChecker Camera Calibration app to create my own DCP files.

Do you know of a site from which folks can download ready made DCP files for specific cameras and “flavours” (standard, neutral, vivid, portrait, landscape, flat, etc)?