Monday, May 6, 2013
Using Picture Styles For Photo And Video
Change the look and feel of JPEGs and movie files
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Most DSLRs offer some variation on the following picture styles: Standard, Neutral, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. (Though this text uses Nikon and Canon cameras by way of illustration, the principles are the same across camera brands.)
Nikon offers an extra style called Vivid, which is punchier, contrasty and more saturated than a standard picture style; great for bringing out the "wow" in brightly-colored scenes. Canon adds an additional style called Faithful, which is designed to deliver accurate color in daylight. That doesn't mean that other styles are inaccurate, just that they're designed to emphasize (or de-emphasize) certain colors to make for more vibrant or subdued images depending on the picture style you've chosen.
Standard picture style is the default on most cameras, and it produces photos that are fairly vibrant, fairly contrasty and fairly sharp. Thus, they're the standard. Makes sense, right? But sometimes Standard picture style is a bit too contrasty, too sharp or too vivid. This is especially true when capturing HD video. For that, most folks recommend starting with the Neutral picture style and adding the necessary contrast and vibrancy in post production.
Neutral picture style is actually quite similar to the Faithful picture style, but Faithful delivers colors that aren't quite so desaturated as Neutral style. (Nikon's Neutral is very similar to Canon's Faithful, making the whole thing that much more confusing!) Portrait style has adjusted saturation specifically to enhance skin tones by taking down excess pinks and orange tones that can sometimes make portraits look unflattering. In order to hide wrinkles and blemishes, Neutral picture style also produces lower edge sharpness than most other modes. Many photographers struggle with creating a bright white background for portraits, because they either create too much light spilling from the background onto the subject, or they manage to keep the background source off the subject, but they can't get the ratio right and it isn't pure white. This task gets trickier when you've got to see each subject from head-to-toe in an interesting, energetic pose and universally flattering light. Combine that with a fast-paced shoot full of long days and overtired subjects…Well, even the simplest tasks can become daunting. So, here's how I tackled a recent assignment to create a winning combination of white background, flattering lighting and a totally comfortable subject.
Landscape picture style has stronger sharpening characteristics, plus increased saturation in blues and greens—colors that are prevalent in nature scenes. Monochrome picture style also works well for landscapes—or portraits or practically any subject you want to see in black-and-white. This picture style is a great way to preview how a RAW file might look once converted to black-and-white in post-processing, too. You see, RAW files can actually be shot with picture styles—it's just that the style only applies to the JPEG preview visible on the back of the camera, not to the actual RAW file itself. (This can be quite useful to help you see if you've retained detail in shadows and highlights, and you've only altered the JPEG preview.)
There is another way RAW files can have picture styles applied. Both Canon's Digital Photo Professional software and Nikon's ViewNX 2 allow these same picture styles to be applied to RAW image files in post-processing. So, while your RAW captures from the camera remain raw, you can have the best of both worlds by applying these camera-specific styles to the RAW files during conversion in the computer.
Changing picture styles is pretty easy in any camera. While the specific menu locations may change a bit from model to model, ultimately they're fairly straightforward adjustments to make. In the Nikon shooting menu, look for Manage Picture Control. With Canons, it's also found in the shooting menu—although some cameras have a dedicated Picture Style button, and each manufacturer usually offers some short of button-driven shortcut via SET or FUNC buttons programmed to make changing styles easier.
Picture styles can be fine-tuned and modified, too. This is helpful if you want to create customized variations (maybe a less contrasty, less saturated image with higher sharpness, for instance) or even homemade picture styles started from scratch. Canon allows for User-Defined custom picture styles to be created in the Picture Style Editor, which can be used in-camera or saved for use in the computer when applying styles to RAW files via Digital Photo Professional. Nikon's approach to adjusting Picture Controls is similar, even allowing for totally custom creations in the Picture Control Utility that can be uploaded for in-camera use or saved for processing RAW files in ViewNX 2.
For making adjustments to factory-set Picture Controls, Quick Adjust menu options make it easy to tweak contrast, saturation and sharpness, as well as to even modify brightness, hue, filter effects and toning in the camera's standard Picture Control settings. Those settings can then be saved as new custom controls. All in all, Picture Controls can have a huge impact on digital image files, and photographers who ignore them aren't making the most of some of the most powerful in-camera adjustments available. And, if you're shooting video with your DSLR, picture styles are practically invaluable. So, take the time to navigate your camera's menus, and consider experimenting with the various controls to determine when you might be able to apply more appropriate color, contrast and sharpness settings to improve your photos and videos.