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What Is Active D Lighting On Nikon Cameras?

If you know a thing or two about photography you know that high-contrast scenes are photography’s worse enemy.

And that’s when Nikon’s Active D-Lighting kicks in.

What is Active D-Lighting?

Active-D Lighting is Nikon’s term or say technology that expands the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor to eliminate contrast.

Not only Nikon but a number of the major camera brands employ similar technology, just in different code names; different names but they all have the same objective.

They attempt to increase the details in the highlights or the shadows of an image, which is a thing that is mostly applied to scenes with contrast; where the camera sensor cannot cope with the difference between bright and dark parts of the scene.

How Do You Use Active D-Lighting?

How the Active D-Lighting is found depends mostly on your Nikon camera model. Don’t worry though, most of them have an identical process.

Inside the menu, you just have to go to the photo shooting menu and you will find it there. It is a simple setting that’s turned on and off or if you don’t want to switch the settings every time you can just use the auto option.

Once you go inside the Active D-Lighting on your camera you will be greeted by the Auto, Extra High, High, Normal and Off choices.

You want to use extra high for high contrast scenes while the low one for the scenes with a minimal amount of contrast. While Normal ones as the name imply, for moderate contrast.

How to fix already taken photos?

There is another feature in the camera named, ADL. It gives you the option to add a D-Lighting effect after that photo took place.

This is a great help for images when you aren’t sure if the contrast is high or low.

Should I Use Active D-Lighting?

Yes you should, especially if you are using the JPEG format. As said above Active D-Lighting will improve the image’s wide dynamic range without you having to go through editing and elaborating the photo.

Alternative Ways to Fight Contrast?

Auto light optimizers sometimes can be overkill, there are more subtle ways to deal with contrast in a scene.

Shooting in RAW

By using the RAW format to take pictures you utilize the full dynamic range of your sensor, shooting raw will allow you to access more of the sensor’s data and can edit things in post-production, simply you can restore details to highlights and dark areas.

You just want to simply leave it off when shooting in RAW.

Shooting in HDR

High Dynamic Range photography is all about recreating the scene in front of the camera with as much dynamic range as possible, so the picture can look more natural as the human eyes see it.


As I said in the beginning, high-contrast scenes can be a pain to work with. Thank’s to modern technology and prominent manufacturers like Nikon, things are a lot easier for us with features like Active D-Lighting.