This is article #15 in the DSLR Video Weekly series. If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.
Many DSLR cameras offer controls that influence how the camera processes the image. These controls let you perform tasks like boosting contrast or adding more saturation to the image. At first glance, the use of picture styles or controls can be very appealing.
Why Use Picture Styles or Controls?
The use of Picture Styles or Controls is a great way to make your footage look good right in the camera. If you’re concerned about being able to post the video online with less color correction or editing. Essentially, you can obtain a better sense of “what you see is what you get.”
Pictures Styles offer a number of presets that help improve your video. Some allow you to enhance the contrast in your scene. Others can be used to create a black-and-white image; you can also use them to boost colors. These presets are best learned through experimentation because there is a tremendous amount of variation between manufacturers.
Typically, your camera will ship with a small collection of Picture styles built in. Below is a list of the standard options from Canon and Nikon.
Picture Styles for Canon and Nikon Cameras
|Standard||Standard||The default setting provides sharp contrast and works well because it does not seek to emphasize any particular details over others.|
|Neutral||Neutral||Attempts to produce colors that most closely match the original scene. This is the correct preset to use when you plan on using the color grading tools in your editing software.|
|Vivid||Faithful||Attempts to create colors that are faithful to the original, yet well saturated. It works well for photos shot in outdoor lighting.|
|Portrait||Portrait||Works best for skin tones. It attempts to keep a wider range of color in the skin to show its translucency and depth.|
|Landscape||Landscape||Has a greater impact on hues ranging from blue to green. It also tends to boost colors beyond their real-life amounts.|
Typically, many more options are available from your camera manufacturer’s website. They can be loaded onto a camera memory card and then accessed via your camera’s menu system. Even a few third-party styles exist, such as the Technicolor CineStyle (http://bit.ly/technicolorcinestyle), which can be used on Canon EOS cameras.
Some manufacturers even provide end users with a utility to create their own styles. For example, Canon offers a free download of its Picture Styles Editor. Nikon also offers a similar workflow with its View NX software.
Although these presets seem pretty appealing at first glance, the problem is that their use limits future flexibility. For example, if you shot with a monochromatic style that stripped out all color, that color is gone. Making a black-and-white image in your nonlinear editing software takes only seconds, so why not do it there instead, especially because you can change your mind?
Even if you just use certain options like Standard or Vivid, you can record an image with too much color or contrast. And the last thing you want to do is compress the histogram of image data too much. Although a punchy image with rich blacks and bright whites looks attractive, it can lose details in the shadows or highlights.
It is better to shoot a flatter image that is more evenly exposed. Styles like Flat or Neutral tend to work well because they capture the most information about the image.
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Rich has published over 100 courses on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.
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