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Like this article? We recommend Adjusting Picture Styles

Adjusting Picture Styles

Your camera probably has a second setting to help you control the way that the equipment records color. Canon calls it "Picture Style," but other manufacturers have their own terminology. Here are a few of the popular brands and their names for this function:

  • Nikon: Picture Control
  • Sony: Creative Style
  • Pentax: Custom Image
  • Olympus: Picture Mode

I'm a Canon user and accustomed to using the Picture Style function, so I'll use that term through the rest of this article.

The Picture Style setting is the digital equivalent of film type. When shooting with film, you can select the type of film that suits your subject. For example, Fuji Velvia is popular with landscape photographers because of its low ISO and saturated colors. However, that effect is a bit strong for portraits, so a portrait photographer would choose a film designed for portraits, such as Kodak Portra. Portrait films generally create softer, less saturated images and are designed to render skin tones in a flattering way. If you want to take a black-and-white photo, then you need to use black-and-white film.

Obviously, digital cameras don't have film that you can change; instead, you achieve various effects by changing the Picture Style. The latest Canon EOS cameras offer six Picture Style settings (see Figure 3): Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Monochrome, Faithful, and Neutral. The first three settings are the ones that you're likely to use the most: The Standard Picture Style is designed for general use, the Landscape Picture Style enhances green and blue tones such as grass and blue sky, and the Portrait Picture Style creates good skin tones.

Figure 3 Picture Style options available on Canon EOS cameras.

Nikon cameras have similar names for their Picture Control settings: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, and Landscape. The names make each setting fairly clear. If your Nikon camera lacks some of these Picture Controls, you can download them from the Nikon website.

One really useful Picture Style feature is that you can alter the settings to suit the look you're trying to create. Most Canon Picture Styles have four parameters that you can alter (see Figure 4): sharpness, contrast, color saturation, and color tone. Nikon Picture Controls are similar, giving you the additional option of adjusting brightness.

Figure 4 Most Picture Styles have four adjustable parameters.

The Monochrome Picture Style and Monochrome Picture Control work differently; instead of adjusting color saturation and hue, you can dial in colored filter and toning effects (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 The Monochrome Picture Style has color filter and toning effects instead of color saturation and color tone parameters.

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