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Should Real Estate Photographers Bother With Picture Styles/Picture Controls?

April 7th, 2015

PictureStylesDario asks the question:

Do you have posts about how to set best picture style on Canon 5D mark II, for interiors or is everything in post production?

First of all the Canon feature that Dario calls Picture Styles is called Picture Controls on Nikon cameras. Both features work generally similar. They give  you some control of sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone of JPEGs, TIFFs, video coloring and what images look like on your LCD screen. If you shoot RAW the picture style/control will “tag” the file with the style but not “bake it in” like it does for JPG and TIFF.

For people that shoot JPG, TIFF or video (and don’t want to spend time in post doing color grading) picture styles/controls are something you want to consider. It’s possible on both Nikon and Canon DSLRs to create your own picture style/control and may be something you want to do, particularly if you shoot video.

But frankly I think it makes more sense for real estate photographers to shooting stills to shoot RAW and use Lightroom on a large screen to adjust the look you want on your images. The fact is, Lightroom gives you much more control of the image than the picture styles/picture control settings. Picture styles/controls appear simple and crude compared to what you can do with Lightroom.

 

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14 Responses to “Should Real Estate Photographers Bother With Picture Styles/Picture Controls?”

  • At least in my experience, Lightroom is going to “force” a style on you — defaulting to what they call “adobe standard”. It’s pretty neutral, but both Canon and Fuji make their styles available in the dropdown profile menu. I find it helpful to start with a style (I use Fuji’s “Provia”) and build my raw file from there. I haven’t found a way to escape the profile assignment, so I just picked one that’s most appealing to my eye. Having said that, I don’t understand why the camera calibration menu is last, not first. Calibration to my mind should be the first thing you do. At least its where I start.

  • I don’t use the camera’s picture settings. The style is as neutral as I can make it so the LCD display on the camera is as close to what I will have when I import photos into LR.

    I use an import preset with LR to apply lens corrections and convert to DNG. All other settings I change based on the home.

  • I photograph with RAW only and auto white balance with my Sony A6000 plus fill in bounce flash off a corner or wall. I open the images in Camera Raw, the first one I set the lens corrections, set sync all. Next I tweak each image for color, brightness, contrast, highlight, shadow and save. Then I open them in Photoshop and fine tune each one and run an action to downsize the images. Average total time in post for 30 images is one hour. I use Photoshop instead of Lightroom because I’ve been using it for twenty years and although the end results are the same, I find Photoshop easier and quicker to use. I found using the Sony A6000, it has cut the photo time and post time by 33% over any other camera I’ve used.

    I make my images to look as natural as I can, not too cold and not too warm, just right!

  • Tyler, If you find that you are using the same camera calibration profile, and any other settings as well, on most of your images you can create a preset containing those settings and have LR apply them during import. It can potentially save you a considerable amount of time with PP.

  • @Kerry — Good point. I usually make global changes with auto sync out of the gate. For some reason I have resisted using the import settings, but I have been really pressing to find time savings, so I probably need to look more closely at it. Thanks for the tip!

  • Absastinkin’lutley! Picture Style control via DNG editors does amazing things for us. I use it to dial down the reds and ambers, which get way too saturated fast. That’s interior lighting and woodwork, especially kitchen cabinetry. It gives far more control over the final result.

    This is an especially great tool for shooting video (because it’s basically a series of cooked jpgs), which is far harder to correct in post in terms of individual colors. I have an outdoor setting which hypes the blues and greens, but still mutes orange, red, and yellow.

    For interiors, I mute anything in the red-orange-yellow-blue range, since that’s where the problems are going to lie. The original video clips are fairly desaturated, moreso for the ranges I’ve changed, and when I bring up the saturation in post, I only have to do it until the woodwork looks normal, but rarely have to color correct at all, and when I do, it’s only a slight change.

  • @ Larry The idea behind creating custom picture styles is complete integration with LR or ACR. IF you follow it through all the way, you make a custom picture style that resides in-camera, and then you create a develop setting/profile in LR or ARC that matches your picture style. When applied, you can predict the outcome of any situation, whether it’s a white room going blue due to incoming daylight, or a deep deep beige room with ceiling the same color, or an orange colored cabin situation. You don’t have to guess in LR then, you’ve already pre-programmed the outcome. It’s really pretty amazing. It simplifies the workflow considerably. It’s not just color either… that profile set can contain saturation or desaturation of individual bands of color, and the contrast, and even the hue of certain colors. I tend to tell reds to be muted and more orange then pink. I tell yellows to head towards brown.

    That way, when I open lightroom, I just apply the preset, and rarely have to tweak the WB, and can then apply those setting to the rest of the rooms in shoot. (except for rooms painted blue or green for some reason, those get crazy, but are easily corrected using the same profile, with just a WB tweak)

  • The picture controls affect the dynamics of the jpeg you are seeing on the back of your LCD or Camranger if you use one. I set all my picture controls on my nikon to as flat as possible because I would like to be seeing, in terms of blown highlights and lost shadows, the closest depiction to a raw file. The way I understand it, the jpegs highlights blow “quicker” than your raw file, meaning there is a built in, conservative buffer there if you are working off of highlight blinkies from your jpegs. If you over sharpen or increase contrast you could be misled into thinking areas are blowing out when they are in fact not even close. That is why I use the flat settings, meaning no sharpening, no contrast, no saturation boost……

  • No.
    First, because all of that stuff only affects a JPG. It has no effect on a RAW file – and there’s no reason whatsoever not to be shooting RAW, unless you’re in a very, very unusual situation.

    Second, because those settings are incredibly crude compared to what can be done, quickly and automatically, via presets in Lightroom.

    Kelvin — When you say “DNG Editor” I’m assuming you are shooting RAW (DNG doesn’t get you anything in terms of edit-abilty, when the original file is anything other than RAW). You’d be better off to use Camera Calibration, which can be “tuned” to each camera body you shoot with and will apply automatically.

    Tyler — that last bit might be useful to you, too. Camera calibration is meant to be specific to an individual camera body. Any issues it addresses would be unaffected by lenses, subject matter, exposure, etc. So, you’d create a profile for each camera body you shoot with and likely never mess with it again. Jeff Schewe’s book, The Digital Negative, is a great resource for this stuff; as well as why the LR Develop panel is laid out in the way it is.

  • @Andrew I do just the opposite. Whether shooting Canon or Nikon, I shoot RAW, but my picture style profiles are dialed-in to look just like the finished product, which means contrasty and full of color. Less apparent with Nikon though… the picture styles don’t show up nearly as accurate as the Canon rear screens. (and I typically shoot Canon, Nikon, and Samsung on every job, not redundant, different applications)

    The reason I do that is because flat settings don’t show you what your problems areas are when viewing them on the rear camera screen. You could have a room that is severely off-color, or blown out, and the RAW depiction from flat settings won’t show any of that… the room will look normal. It won’t show blown saturation which might be hard to recover from.

    In certain situations, like blue incoming light, or maybe a ceiling that is reflecting green light bounced off the lawn… my PP settings will make me do a double-take at the rear screen, prompting a possible new white balance for that room. When using a very flat setting, that same room doesn’t look any different then any other room. When processing in LR using developed profiles, LR appears to take the WB the camera assigned and move the profile around it, (like maybe not a neutral start-from-scratch WB position), so if a room has a different ambient color temp, LR doesn’t know that, and then applying a preset will give different results to different rooms – but, if that’s accounted for during shooting, the results of the LR profile are pretty consistent. (betting I didn’t explain that very well) A dialed-in rear screen is a good indicator of how things are going room to room.

    There isn’t a right and wrong to it though, you get used to your workflow either way. It’s not that you can’t correct all of it in LR when shooting RAW, but it’s a very time consuming workflow to dial in the settings from scratch every time you shoot a new property. I have PP’s for portrait work as well, and they are dialed-in for problematic skin tones.

    The other sort-of-advantage to a “hot” rear screen, is that when you show the RE agent or the home owner the back of the camera, and it’s a simulation of the final product, there is a pretty good WOW factor that generates significant excitement, (over chimping a dull-looking RAW representation), and there is some value in that momentum. I frequently get referrals just based on the rear screen, even before enhancements.

    Interestingly enough, if I accidentally shoot in jpg, the files are dead on, but it’s cooked, with less latitude for adjustment or recovery, and some processing noise, but nothing a customer would notice.

  • @Scott I use a passport color-checker, generate the DNG via LR, then import into Canon’s Picture Profile Editor, which can export an LR profile to apply, and can also export a PP to install into the camera. That way, the rear screen preview is matched to how the RAW files look when the LR profile is applied. It’s very precise and predictable. WYSIWYG

    Because I shoot RAW though, I can depart from that at any time, but I don’t. It’s about fast consistent workflow. My LR processing times on 100 files are less then 15 minutes, and that’s taking into account that I shoot in sets of 4, using 4 different LR profiles to process. I rarely need to make use of shot 2 or 4, but they are “insurance shots” for extreme conditions. In PS, the average group of 4 can be dealt with in 2 minutes or less with no masking. So, 25 final shots, x2minutes, is roughly a predictable 1 hour edit (+ the 15 minute LR RAW conversion).

  • If I was still shooting video on a dslr I would ABSOLUTELY set up a profile. DSLR video is pretty much shooting jpgs which means it’s over-saturated, over-sharpened and over-contrasty. IIRC Phillip Bloom has a tutorial for setting up a profile to level all that crap out.

  • Interesting… seems as though no one does anything remotely similar.

    That’s the beauty of true artists!

  • It’s a great point that you make the screen look good to show the client.

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