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3 Steps to Creating Custom Photos With Picture Style

There are times when you would like to take photos that look more attractive or dramatic but can't achieve the results you want. In that case, how about trying the Picture Style function? This article introduces the basics on how to use Picture Style. (Edited by: studio9)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 16mm/ f/8/ 1/800sec/ ISO 400


Use Picture Style to change the look of your shots!

Once you become a little more accustomed to taking photos, you probably will be able to capture the subject, composition and brightness quite well. However, you will also probably hit another obstacle, where the ambience of the photo does not turn out as expected.
At such times, you can use Picture Style to change that ambience to suit your preferences. By simply adjusting this setting, you can obtain a completely different finish for your photos!

Picture Style is packed with various features, but in this article I will only focus on two modes and on the Contrast parameter to show how they can be used to edit photos.


Do you prefer a softer finish? Or would you rather prefer a more sombre finish ?

By changing the Contrast parameter in Picture Style, you can either create a soft and cute ambience, or a sombre and dramatic ambience.
Let's look at some specific examples.


The “soft” look

I wanted to express the slowness of time in this photo of a scene along a riverside, so I set Picture Style to "Standard", resulting in a photo like this when using the default setting. (This example was simulated in Digital Photo Professional using the RAW file.)

Picture Style: Standard/ WB: Daylight

By simply tweaking the camera settings, I created the photo below with a soft ambience to it.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ f/4/ 1/4000sec/ ISO 250
Picture Style: Standard (Contrast -4), WB: Daylight, Exposure Compensation: EV+1
Setting the contrast to its lowest value and using positive exposure compensation gives the photo a totally different look. The greens are paler and the clouds seemed to have a rather soft ambience, thus creating an ambience of slowness in the passing of time.


A sombre atmosphere

For the photo below I wanted to express the strong light rays from the sun, so I selected "Landscape " in Picture Style, which provides vivid blues and greens. The photo looks like this when taken using the default settings.

Picture Style: Landscape/ WB: Daylight

I then changed the settings to give the photo a more sombre look.

EOS 5D Mark II/ FL: 33mm/ f/16/ 1/25sec/ ISO 800
Picture Style: Landscape (Contrast +4), WB: Auto, Exposure Compensation: EV -0.33(-1/3)
I changed the contrast and used negative exposure compensation to create well defined contrasts within a sombre atmosphere. By making the walls of the building and the wet ground darker, the contrast with the sun was effectively expressed.


Configuring the settings

In this section, I will describe the steps for deciding how to configure the settings. While there are a lot of detailed parameters that can be used, I will provide 3 steps that anyone can use with ease.


STEP 1: Decide on the Picture Style mode

First, decide on which Picture Style mode to use. It is best to refer your camera’s User's Guide to check what kind of Picture Style modes your camera includes. On most camera models, you can also check this from the shooting menu.

While the modes may differ according the camera models, there should be the following 7 modes available in the menu: Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome. It is impossible to be able to master all of the modes at once, so I will just focus on two modes for now.

I recommend "Standard" and "Landscape" modes to start with. Select “Standard” if you want a calm ambience, or “Landscape” if you want an energetic and lively ambience. Each mode has its own special features, so you should be able to select your preferred mode without trouble!


STEP 2: Adjust the contrast

This is the most important point! Although the impression of the photo can change considerably even by changing only the Picture Style, adjusting the contrast is the most effective manner to create a soft or sombre look.

Select the Picture Style and press "INFO" to proceed to the Detail Setting screen.

The four parameters: Sharpness, Contrast, Colour Saturation, and Colour Tone, are displayed on the screen, however adjusting the contrast provides the greatest effect. Try adjusting the contrast to start with.


The contrast parameter adjusts the dynamism between dark and light. Using it to achieve either of the 2 effects shown above is easy. You can either just set it to the smallest value (-4) for the "soft" look, or the largest value (+4)for the "sombre" look.

Once you get used to setting the contrast, adjusting the colour saturation, or the strength of the colours in the photo, will allow you to create an even more impressive image.

This is all there is to it! Easy, isn’t it? Of course, it is also alright to play around with the other Contrast values to fine tune the effects to suit your needs.


STEP 3: Apply exposure compensation

Exposure compensation is a parameter for the brightness of photos, regardless of the Picture Style. This setting alone can create a completely different look for your photos, so feel free to try it.

Most camera models simply just require a turn of the dial to adjust exposure compensation.

The key point to remember is that if you want a soft ambience, apply positive compensation, and apply negative compensation for a more sombre atmosphere.

For the “soft” look in particular, setting a large positive compensation of EV+1 to 2 is more effective in bringing out the ambience. Try to apply positive compensation boldly without worrying about blowout.

For a more sombre atmosphere, slightly darkening the exposure would be more effective in bringing out the ambience, so I would recommend EV0 to -1 as a guide. As the brightness will differ depending on your subject, try taking some shots to find a brightness that suits your preference.

The trick is to start off by boldly applying compensation until you start to think that you have overcompensated, and then step back little by little. This enables you to obtain a good result more quickly than if you started off slowly.

■If you want to check how to use the exposure compensation feature, click the link to the article below
[Lesson 9] Making Use of Exposure Compensation



The main point in this article is to create photos with the ambience you want in 3 easy steps, where possible.

1. Decide on the Picture Style mode
2. Adjust the contrast
3. Apply exposure compensation

Once you master these 3 steps, you can expect the ambience of your photos to change dramatically, so do give it a try.


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