Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I was reading again the manual of my camera (Canon 50D, but I am sure that each DSLR offer the same kind of functionality, albeit I don't know the exact names adopted) and noticed the issue of Picture styles which I had overlooked in my first reading.

In short I think that they are a collection of various calibration settings (more or less enhanced colours, things like that...). Those that are available on my camera are:

  • Standard
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Neutral
  • Faithful
  • Monochrome
  • 3 user definable modes.

These styles are so important to deserve a direct button just under the LCD screen of the camera (I guess this is useful for simplifying the use of the camera in the basic modes as opposed to manual / less automated ones).

And now for the question:

  • These settings obviously affect the appearance of the picture "as it comes out of the camera". But given the raw file I assume that they are all equivalent, a style is not applying a destructive transformation to the raw data, isn't it?
  • Shooting raw, is there a reason to favor one of these styles (Neutral?) over the other? Up to now I have been using Standard.

As a bonus (don't know if it deserves a separate question, in which case I will ask it again), what is the difference between Neutral and Faithful?

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I know that the question are actually 2 questions + a bonus question but I hope you'll forgive me :) – Francesco Jun 21 '11 at 4:55
+1 for reading your manual again ;) – AJ Finch Jun 21 '11 at 14:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Styles are indeed an information layer on top of the RAW image data. As you wrote, setting a style is a non destructive operation when you shoot RAW, and the RAW processor (DPP, for example) lets you change styles while developing the image.

If there is a reason to select a style, it is to take out yet another step in the development process. If you know beforehand what style you prefer, setting it on shoot-time will save you changing it in post (same logic applies to the other settable presets, like white balance, etc.).

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Monochrome styles can be useful for seeing if a shot you plan to make black and white works. – ElendilTheTall Jun 21 '11 at 8:09
@ElendilTheTall - this is correct, and adds to what @Jerry Coffin mentions in his #2 answer. – ysap Jun 21 '11 at 12:57
A further point: on some cameras, the style shows in Live View, so you can preview in black and white without even taking a shot. – ElendilTheTall Jun 21 '11 at 13:47
The preview jpeg thumbnail generated with the RAW file is what displays on your camera's screen, so setting the style even when shooting RAW will affect the appearance of the preview. – Michael Clark Apr 20 '13 at 22:45
  1. Most cameras will encode the selected appearance into the raw file, but the raw data itself will not be affected.
  2. The setting probably does affect the image you can preview on the camera and the histogram (which is normally created from the JPEG preview, not directly from the raw data).
  3. Faithful uses a white balance of 5200K, whereas Neutral apparently uses automatic white balance. Otherwise, Canon describes the two similarly.
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I cannot accept both answers but I found yours useful, too! – Francesco Jun 22 '11 at 5:16
When processing using Canon's Digital Photo Professional, you can set the preferences to either show the histogram based on the in camera settings when the image was shot or to display the histogram based on the current adjustments you have made. – Michael Clark Feb 4 '13 at 7:01
Faithful uses perceptual rendering, Neutral uses colormatric rendering. – Michael Clark Apr 20 '13 at 22:46

The image information in the RAW file will not be affected by which Picture Style is used. Which style is selected will be included in the shooting information appended to the image data. If you open the file in Canon's Digital Photo Professional the Picture Style selected when the photo was shot will be used to render the picture on your monitor, but you can select another Picture Style and the image on your monitor will change to reflect this.

The Picture Style selected when the image is shot will be applied to the preview JPEG thumbnail that is displayed on your camera's screen.

Faithful uses perceptual rendering, Neutral uses colorimetric rendering. The main difference will be how out-of-gamut colors are translated into the chosen color space (sRGB or Adobe RGB). A perceptual rendering will adjust all colors to "squish" the scene's color gamut into the chosen color space, while a colorimetric rendering will "chop off" out-of-gamut colors by rendering them as the nearest in-gamut color.

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