Picture Controls on Nikon’s digital cameras have been available for a long time, and they are used to give JPEGs a certain look that is appropriate for the subject matter or the photographer’s disposition. In the beginning, the list of settings consisted of Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, and Landscape. Later on, Auto was added to the list so that the user could let the camera decide which setting was most suited, and Flat was added so that it could be used for recording video. 

More recently, a set of 20 Creative Picture Controls have been added, and you can find them on cameras like as the Nikon D780, Nikon Z5, Nikon Z6 II, and Nikon Z7 II. These controls may be found on other Nikon cameras as well. They go beyond the typical small adjustments of sharpness, saturation, and contrast to generate more creative photos that can be radically different from the ordinary outcome. Their names include Dream, Morning, Pop, Sunday, Silence, and Bleached.

Even while you may still alter the photographs to some amount, the effect generated by a Picture Control is “baked” into a Jpeg, whereas the raw files still have all of the color data intact. In addition to applying the Picture Controls to JPEGs during the shooting stage, it is also possible to apply them using the NEF (RAW) processing controls in the Retouch Menu of the Nikon camera, or using the controls in Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw. Both of these options are available.

It is natural that not everyone will like all of the effects that are created by Nikon’s Creative Picture Controls, and they do not work with every scene, but they can be a great way of enhancing the mood of a scene or creating an interesting image even when conditions are not ideal. This is because Nikon’s Creative Picture Controls were designed to be used in conjunction with the Scene Modes. The procedure is as follows:

The in-camera Picture Controls of Nikon and how to utilize them during the shooting stage

01 Capture both raw and Jpeg images.

It is a good idea to shoot raw and Jpeg files concurrently since the impact of the Picture Controls is baked into Jpegs. This provides you additional freedom to adjust the look of your photographs.

To access the Shooting Menu, press the button labeled “Menu” and then browse to the “Image Quality” option. Then, to view the available customization choices, either select “Image quality” from the menu or hit the “OK” button. Select “NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine,” and then hit the “OK” button a second time, to obtain the highest possible image quality.

Then, in the menu, locate the option labeled “Image size” directly below the option labeled “Image quality,” and make sure that you have Jpeg and raw files configured to be recorded at the large (L) size.

02 Navigate to the Picture Settings menu.

Picture Controls can be reached on Nikon cameras by pressing the I button, but if you’ve customized that menu and deleted the choice, you’ll find it in the main menu instead. Picture Controls can be accessed on Nikon cameras by hitting the I button.

Find the option that says “Set Picture Control” in any of the menus, then either hit the “OK” button on your keyboard or tap it on the screen. Then, navigate through the available choices till you locate the one that you wish to employ (or try). 08 Bleached is one of my personal favorites.

03 Modify the parameters as necessary.

You are free to utilize any of the Creative Picture Controls with their default configurations, but just like the other Picture Controls, you may change the settings of any of the Creative Picture Controls. To accomplish this, browse to the Picture Control in the same way as in step 2, and then press the down navigation key on the camera while the Picture Control that you intend to utilize is highlighted.

This brings up a list of settings that may be adjusted, one of which is the option to decrease the intensity of the effect that is being applied.

You may either pick the parameter that you want to alter by using the up/down controls or by tapping on the screen. After that, you can either adjust the value by using the left/right buttons or by tapping on the scale that is displayed on the screen. When you are satisfied with everything, click the “OK” button.

04 Shoot

If you are using a Nikon mirrorless camera, you will be able to see the effect of the Picture Control that you have chosen both in the viewfinder and on the screen. If you want to view the scene as it will appear once the Picture Control has been applied, you will need to switch your DSLR to Live View mode.

Utilizing a Picture Control after the image has been captured in-camera

01 Navigate to the Editing Submenu.

When you’re done shooting, hit the ‘Menu’ button, then scroll to the ‘Retouch Menu’ symbol and either tap on it or scroll to it using the directional arrows. Find the option labeled “NEF (RAW) processing” at the very top of the screen, and then pick it. After that, choose the desired picture or pictures from the menu, and then hit the “OK” button.

02 Choose the picture to open

Navigate through the photographs, and when you find the one (or more) that you wish to change, put a checkmark next to its thumbnail by clicking the zoom-out button. Another option is to press the picture once to select it, and then tap it again to add the checkmark.

After you have chosen the picture or images that you wish to alter, you may go to the next step by pressing the “OK” button.

03 Make the necessary changes.

You will now be presented with a screen that displays one of the photos along with a brief description of the parameters that are open for customization. The Picture Control may be found on the very first page of the list, at the very bottom. You may view a list of all of the available Picture Controls by tapping on it or by using the right navigation key on your keyboard.

You’ll notice a change in the picture as soon as you touch on any of the different Picture Controls or use the navigation controls to go up and down. This is because the new effect is being applied as you do so. When you have found the one that you like, you have the option of either pressing the ‘OK’ button to apply it or using the right navigation button to have access to the same adjustment controls that are provided for tweaking the image when utilizing the Picture Controls during the shooting stage.

You can make any necessary changes to the picture before clicking the “OK” button and then scrolling up to the “EXE” option to save it as a Jpeg.

Utilization of Nikon Picture Controls with raw file formats

Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw, which is the raw file editor that is included with Adobe Photoshop, both have profiles that replicate the effect of using Nikon’s Picture Controls with Nikon camera raw files during the processing stage. This effect can be achieved by using Adobe Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera Raw. They can be implemented in either of the software packages with very little effort, and you are able to utilize them in conjunction with the standard editing controls. The following is the procedure:

01 Launch the picture.

If you are going to use Adobe Photoshop, all you have to do is choose the file (or files) that you want to work on and then open it or them. However, if you are going to use Adobe Lightroom, you will first need to import the photographs into the program. When you attempt to access a suitable raw file in Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw comes up automatically in the background.

02 Navigate to the profile you want to use in Adobe Camera Raw.

After opening the image in Adobe Camera Raw, click the ‘Edit’ icon that is located at the very top of the adjustment icons. Next, locate the ‘Profile’ option at the top of the adjustment panel; it is located directly under the ‘Edit’ option. It will display the word “Camera” along with the name of the Picture Control that you were utilizing in the beginning.

To view the available customization choices, locate the arrow with a dropdown menu to the right of the user profile’s name. You will first get a brief list of Adobe alternatives, and then the option to “Browse.” Click the “Browse” button, and then, if required, click the “Camera Matching” button. When you do this, thumbnails of all of the available Picture Controls will be displayed. Simply scroll through the images until you locate the one you want; the primary picture on the screen will transform into a preview of any of the thumbnails if you move your mouse pointer over it.

After you have chosen the Picture Control that you desire, you will see a sliding control that allows you to adjust the amount of the effect that is applied. After you have adjusted the level to your liking, select ‘Back’ from the menu that appears towards the top of the panel to access all of the standard Adobe Camera Raw Controls and continue processing your image as you normally would.

02 Choose the appropriate profile within Lightroom CC.

After importing your photos into Lightroom CC, navigate to the library and click the “Develop” button next to the one you want to alter. Ensure that the Basic adjustment panel is visible on the screen, then click on the arrow next to the profile dropdown menu. This is to the right of where it reads ‘Profile,’ and it is followed by the word ‘Camera,’ as well as the name of the Picture Control that was employed throughout the stage of the shooting process.

To view the Picture Control choices that are available, enlarge the “Camera Matching” area if necessary after clicking on the “Browse” button that is located below the Adobe options. When you move your mouse over the thumbnails representing each Picture Control setting, the effect will be previewed on the main picture. Simply select the one that you wish to utilize by clicking on it.

You may then lower the intensity of the effect by using the setting that is located at the very top of the panel. When you are finished, you can return to the standard editing panel in Lightroom by clicking the “Close” button, and then you can finish your image as you would normally.

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