Set Your Picture Style In-Camera, Even if You Are Shooting RAW

Alright, today’s tip is short and sweet. Your camera likely has different “picture styles” to choose from somewhere in the image menu. This is the style that is applied to your image when shooting JPEG files. They have preset image settings like contrast, saturation, and sharpness to enhance the image for what you are shooting. These styles are typically labeled Landscape, Natural, Portrait, Vivid, B&W, and so on. However, if you shoot RAW files these settings do not get applied to the image since you will be doing the editing at the computer. So there is really no need to set a picture style in the camera if you are shooting in RAW though, right? Wrong.

The camera applies the picture style to the image it shows you on the back of the screen after taking a photo. With that in mind, I always like to set my picture style to a setting that will get me somewhere close to how I think I may edit the photo myself. If I’m shooting landscapes I’ll put the picture style in Landscape mode because it will enhance the greens and blues in the image, much like I would probably do in Lightroom. If I’m shooting something I know will be for black and white then I’ll set it for B&W. That way on the camera I can at least get an idea of how the image may look in the end, even though my final image may differ in tone or contrast or some other part. It at least gives me an idea, and I personally like the idea of seeing something close to an end result right when I take the photo. If you’re shooting a big rolling landscapes in just a natural or default picture style (because hey, you’re shooting in RAW right? Who cares about picture styles!), when you review the image there just won’t be as much excitement or instant gratification because the image displayed back to you will just be mediocre. If you at least have the camera in Vivid or Landscape mode you’re going to get bright colors and blue skys as well as some nice contrast. Seeing that right away is just far more exciting, at least in my opinion.

Another huge reason to do this is if you are shooting images for a client. Most of the time they will ask to see some of the images on the camera (in my experience anyway) and I used to hate doing the whole “just so you know, these photos are not the final product. I shoot in a format that allows me to go in and edit to add color, contrast, blah blah blah….) speech. Once I figured out this exact tip that I’m sharing right now, I felt so much more comfortable just letting the client thumb through the images knowing that at least they looked somewhat close to the end result. I still do let them know that there will be minor tweaks made, but at least they are looking at a much nicer image than just a default bland photo.

Also, remember that most picture styles are fully customizable, so if Landscape mode has a little bit too much saturation you can dial that down if you want. You can create your own styles if want to as well.

Like I said, short and sweet. There isn’t a lot to this one, but I think mentally it helps while shooting to get an idea of what the finished image could look like once you put your spin on it. Seeing a boring, flat image on the camera could be discouraging, even if you know that you’re going to be editing it later. There is just no excitement there. I like to be excited about what I’m shooting, and when I can see some resemblance to a final picture it helps do just that, and your clients will enjoy the quick looks that you show them much more as well.