Canon Picture Styles: how to use in-camera effects on your EOS DSLR

Canon Picture Styles: a complete guide

Get the most from your Canon Picture Style presets


Using Canon Picture Styles

The default Canon Picture Style setting for all current EOS models apart from the 600D, which uses Auto to optimise the image instead. Both modes provides vivid, crisp pictures that are ready for printing straight out of the camera.

Using Canon Picture Styles

Contrast, colour and saturation are balanced for warmer skin tones. Exposure is maintained by the camera, but brightness is added and, compared to Standard, the sharpness setting is reduced to give softer skin textures.

Using Canon Picture Styles

Saturation and sharpness are boosted to add a vivid quality. Blue skies are boosted, as are lush greens, and the sharpness setting is one step higher than in the Standard Picture Style, to ensure the edges of trees, hills and buildings have bite.

Using Canon Picture Styles

Low saturation and low contrast helps reduce the possibility of overexposure and over-saturation so you’ll have more detail to work with when you run the image through Photoshop. It’s similar to the default setting of earlier EOS-1 bodies.

Using Canon Picture Styles

Provides realistic colour rendition for subjects shot in standard daylight with a colour temperature of 5200K. Saturation isn’t as strong as Standard Picture Style and sharpness is reduced, to give you a ‘clean’ image file to work on.

Using Canon Picture Styles

This does more than give you an instant black-and-white image. You can recreate mono filter effects (yellow, orange, red and green) and add toning effects (sepia, blue, purple and green), then combine them: for instance a red filter and sepia toning.

Tone it down
Two further in-camera effects worth noting are Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO), which you’ll find in the shooting menu of your EOS DSLR, and Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) – tucked away in the ‘Image’ Custom Functions bank. Both affect tonal range, as opposed to colour.

First introduced in the EOS 40D, ALO acts a little like Shadows/Highlights in Photoshop, lightening dark areas and pulling back highlights through tone curve adjustments. It’s designed to retain detail in both areas in high-contrast situations, such as backlit portraits.

However, ALO in the 40D is rather limited compared with current EOS cameras, which now gives control over the strength of the effect in four steps: Disable, Low, Standard and Strong, with Standard being applied as the default.

Highlight Tone Priority is a custom function that will capture more subtle qualities in highlights at the expense of a little shadow detail. The effect is indeed subtle, but it’s very useful for situations when highlights are likely to blow – think a wedding dress on a summer’s day. HTP doesn’t have any effect on the dynamic range of your camera’s sensor, it’s merely tweaking the image processing to retain more highlight detail without significantly affecting shadows and midtones.

Unlike ALO, HTP can only be applied to a limited ISO range, starting at ISO 200. There’s also a risk of an increase in noise appearing in shadow areas, which probably explains why HTP is a custom function rather than a shooting menu feature. Helpfully, a ‘D+’ icon appears in the viewfinder and screen to warn you when the function is active, so you won’t leave it on accidentally.

Create expectations
A more recent addition to the Canon EOS arsenal of in-camera effects is the set of Creative Filters you’ll find in the 60D and 600D. These fun picture treatments are similar to the kind of thing you get in a PowerShot compact camera, and the effects are applied retrospectively during playback.

Using Canon Picture Styles

Simply select the RAW or JPEG file you want to use the filter on, adjust the strength of the effect, and then save it as a new JPEG on the memory card. The current collection includes the popular tilt-shift simulating Miniature mode, Toy Camera, Grainy Black and White and Soft Focus (see above). The Canon EOS 600D also gets an additional simulated Fisheye effect, which even we admit is a bit of a novelty!


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