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I’ve written before about how your images are being processed. This is true regardless of whether you shoot RAW and process in software such as Lightroom or Photoshop, or JPEG and allow the camera to make color and contrast decisions for you. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the canned in-camera picture styles the camera manufacturers prepackage in their cameras. Some are too contrasty, while others don’t offer enough color saturation for my taste.
While all of today’s digital cameras have some ability to adjust the processing decisions being made by selecting and adjusting Picture Styles (in Canon-speak) or Picture Controls (in Nikonian terms), many people aren’t aware that you can be even more creative and create your own styles using desktop software provided by Canon and Nikon.
There are two reasons why you would do this. First, if you do not like processing RAW files, or just prefer “getting it right in camera”, but would still like to be able to create your own look to your images, creating a custom picture style is an easy way to do so. Second, if you’re undertaking a project which would require processing large numbers of files, having the camera use a custom look for these images takes away a lot of processing grunt work.
Canon’s Picture Style Editor is available on the Canon EOS Solutions disc which is packaged with the camera and is also available for download via the various Canon websites, under Drivers and Downloads for your specific camera. Nikon’s Picture Control Utility 2 is available via Nikon’s Download Center.
Canon Picture Style Editor offers a tremendous amount of control over the final look of an image. Once inside the application, you’ll be prompted to open a Canon CR2 file you’ve taken. A popup will appear advising of the best way to adjust the picture style. First, make the basic adjustments. Next, you should make adjustments to the six color axis. Finally, make adjustments to specific colors.
In the Basic Adjustments, you select the Base Picture Style to start with, and then you can adjust Sharpness, Contrast, Color Saturation, and Color Tone using the labeled sliders. You can also create a custom tone curve here.
Once the Basic adjustments are done, you can move to the six color axis. Here you can adjust Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow values including Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity. For further color adjustments, you then click on the Specific Colors tab and again make adjustments there including Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity, as well as Tone Curve.
The number of adjustments available within the Canon software allows for a wide variety of styles for your images. Canon has several downloadable picture styles available so you can see what’s possible, but the ability to create your own really make this utility a great addition to your workflow, especially if you dislike post-processing. Effects such as selective color, muted color, highly saturated color, and more, can be created in-camera.
To upload your new custom picture style to your Canon EOS camera, you need to connect the camera to your computer with a USB cable. You also need Canon’s EOS Utility Software, which is provided on your EOS Solutions CD, or is available on Canon’s website.
Once inside EOS Utility, select Control Camera, then Camera Settings/Remote Shooting. You’ll see a window open up that displays the camera settings. Beneath that will be a shooting menu, where you’ll see the heading for Picture Styles. Click on Register User Defined style. A window will open up where you can select from three slots to register a user-defined style. Select one and then click on the Open Folder button to select the picture style file you created and upload it to your camera. Once it’s in the camera, you can select it the same way you would with the pre-loaded picture styles.
Nikon’s Picture Control Utility is a bit more limited in its adjustments than is the Canon application, but you still have a fair amount of control to create new image styles. When you open the application, you’ll see a listing of the Nikon Picture Controls on the left. These are the same as you see in-camera when you select the Picture Control menu on your Nikon. On the right hand side, you’ll see the adjustments you can make, which include Sharpening, Clarity, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, and Hue. You also have the ability to create a custom tone curve if you prefer, rather than using the Brightness and Contrast sliders.
While I prefer the greater control over color that Canon provides, Nikon’s Picture Control Editor allows you good options to create your own look for your images.
Uploading them into your camera is even easier than Canon’s method. Simply connect a Nikon formatted memory card to your computer, and at the bottom of the application window, click Use In Camera. You’ll want to use a descriptive name for your picture control so that you’ll know what you’re choosing when selecting it in camera. This will automatically save the picture style to your memory card. Insert the memory card into your Nikon camera and in the Camera menu, select Manage Picture Control. Select Load/Save and you’ll see any Picture Control files you’ve saved to the card and be prompted to add them to the camera.
That’s all there is to it. In addition to saving the picture control to a memory card, you can save it to a file on your computer, and also use it in Nikon’s Capture NX or View NX software.
In the digital age, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate your images from the millions of others out there. One way to do so is in post-processing. But that’s not something every photographer, be they professional or enthusiast, wants to deal with.
Creating custom picture styles takes a few minutes on the computer, but allows you to create a look that is distinctly yours. By uploading it to your camera you can then apply it to images you make from that point on. Have you created any custom picture styles for your work? Share samples in the comments below!