My raw images start off very dull looking in lightroom
This is by design. This is normal operation for Lightroom.
I have tried to adjust the raw image in lightroom to match but I can only get so close after a lot of work. What is Nikon NX-D doing to enhance these Nikon NEF raw files? Can we apply a preset to import raw images with same adjustments?
Nikon software has the advantage of being able to know how the camera was designed and also read the camera settings data in the RAW file, neither of which is a capability of Lightroom. So, NX-D does this adjustment automatically, while Lightroom cannot.
As far as I know, there is no Lightroom preset that will work on every photo in every situation, and based on your experience and the other people who have tried, there is no point in trying to find one. In Lightroom, you can create some extremely good results from Nikon NEF RAW photos (which many people including me like better than the Nikon software results) with not a lot of effort, and there are some good presets available including the camera calibration presets included in Lightroom; but if you want to match the Nikon Software EXACTLY, I would say that will take a huge amount of work (if its possible at all) and it's not worth it.
Thanks for the responseDJ - if you could refer me to info on how you process NEF RAW photos it would be appreciate. The approach I have been taking is to first identify the best photos from a shoot and then work on them individually in LR. What is nice about the NX-D software is that all photos are processed as batch providing a better starting point. It is much easier to spot the "keeper" in a photo shoot when they all look sharp and vivid to begin with. Thanks, Paul
What you are seeing is the camera's Picture Controls being applied to the raw file by the Nikon software. Only Nikon's software reads these Picture Control settings. All other third-party software ignore the Picture Control data and apply their own (or your) presets to the raw files.
Take a look at the "camera calibration" panel in LR's Develop module. You should see some rough approximations to the Nikon settings. See if you like one of those instead of the default "adobe standard".
I can't answer your question directly, because your photos are different than my photos, and your eye for quality will be different than mine.
However, in general, you take a typical photo from your photo shoot, then edit that to look the way you want it to look, and then create a preset from that edit. Next you apply the preset to the other photos from that shoot, and to future similar shoots.
I have two different presets because 95% of my photos fall into two broad categories. The remaining 5% don't have a preset applied, and are edited individually.
As a Follow up to this questions...is anyone aware of a Lightroom plugin for Nikon NX-D? So that you can process raw images in NXD and save back to Lightroom for further processing?
It will not work that way. The Nikon software stores the adjustments in a unique file that Lightroom does not and cannot read. But I recommend that you do is to modify a newly imported image that represents what you "normally" take until you get it to look as close to what you want it to be as possible. Then save new camera defaults that include those adjustments. After that, all you have to do is go through and tweak individual images that might need further adjustment.
But to answer your question directly, Lightroom cannot read the adjustments made using NX-D, And it won't work in the other direction either.