Picture Control Yourself

syrphid fly feeding on parsley flower

Hover flies always drink straight from the bottle.

We take another dip into the archives. This shot comes to us from the glory days of the backyard parsley patch. When I opened it in my NEF (Raw) file editor today, the “Picture Control” setting was on “Vivid.” I’m not sure if I was fooling around back then or accidentally selected it, but typically I avoid the Vivid setting. While it can render striking images, I find this setting usually creates a dark and contrasty unnaturalness that is not to my tastes. I almost always use the “Neutral” setting and edit with individual controls of my post-processing software. For this hover fly shot, however, I was digging it — almost enough to use the Vivid setting. In the end, the contrast was too much, so I set the Picture Control to Neutral and brought the contrast up to a level that was higher but not too high. The other thing I really liked in the Vivid setting for this shot (owing I think to the nature of the shadows) was the super-rich colors. I rarely do more than modest color saturation adjustment, but after seeing the Vivid setting I could see how the richer colors, especially the greens of the parsley stems and the red of the eyes, enhanced the photo; I bumped them up a little extra. All told, it is still probably a conservative rendition, but the extreme view helped me figure out a version I like.

Note: “Picture Control” and the rest of the above refers to the Nikon system I use. Canon and other systems have similar features, I’m sure, but I am not familiar with those, unfortunately.


4 thoughts on “Picture Control Yourself

  1. Great post, much needed comments.
    To add to this:
    1.you get a greater dynamic range in neutral.
    2. in some Canon and Nikon cameras you can edit the ‘picture control” and add contrast or sharpening.
    It pays to shoot in neutral and not edit the control, and just deal with issues in post.

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