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Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?

GaryPk

Bailey, US
537 posts

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GaryPk Silver Member Nikonian since 01st May 2012
Fri 01-Feb-13 09:13 PM | edited Fri 01-Feb-13 10:05 PM by GaryPk

I read recently that Landscape Photographers who shoot RAW should set Picture Control to Neutral in order to minimize Contrast in the jpeg/Histogram LCD image. Does anybody actually do that or should I just set the Picture Control to Landscape?

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JonK

New York, US
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#1. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 0

JonK Moderator Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 03rd Jul 2004
Fri 01-Feb-13 11:54 PM

It actually does that. The LCD displays the JPG embedded in the RAW file ± and that JPG was processed using the in-camera settings. Neutral yields a flatter RAW file, less prone to clipping, captures the most data and gives you the most to work with in post.

Jon Kandel
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GaryPk

Bailey, US
537 posts

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#2. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 1

GaryPk Silver Member Nikonian since 30th Apr 2012
Sat 02-Feb-13 12:04 AM

Excellent ... Thank you !

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phil711

Williams, US
144 posts

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#3. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 1

phil711 Silver Member Nikonian since 08th Jun 2008
Sat 02-Feb-13 12:05 AM

Hi Jon,

Are you sure about "yields a flatter RAW file"?

Phil

JosephK

Seattle, WA, US
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#4. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 0

JosephK Silver Member Fellow Ribbon awarded for his excellent and frequent contributions and sharing his in-depth knowledge and experience with the community in the Nikonians spirit. Nikonian since 17th Apr 2006
Sat 02-Feb-13 12:07 AM

When shooting raw files, the picture control settings are just extra data fields in the NEF file, unlike JPGs. Nikon's software will initially honor the settings in the display of the picture while everyone else ignores them.

What might be more helpful to you is to figure out which picture control most closely matches what you will do in post-processing. That way the LCD and histogram will give you a better indication of potential problems later.

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Joseph K
Seattle, WA, USA

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GaryPk

Bailey, US
537 posts

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#5. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 4

GaryPk Silver Member Nikonian since 30th Apr 2012
Sat 02-Feb-13 12:17 AM

Apparently the intent of shooting in RAW-Neutral is to have the jpeg/histogram more closely represent the contrast of the RAW exposure, making fine tuning the histogram (shutter speed, ISO, etc.) more accurate. I find that shooting in live view/manual mode, for example, I have to expose a little farther to the left than I normally would. This change might let me nudge the histogram back to the right a little. I will find out ...

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JonK

New York, US
6323 posts

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#6. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 0

JonK Moderator Awarded for his high level skills and in-depth knowledge in various areas, such as Wildlife, Landscape and Stage Photography Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 03rd Jul 2004
Sat 02-Feb-13 12:52 AM

Exactly right. By shooting with a setting of, say, Vivid, the JPG and its histogram are markedly changed. If you adjust exposure based on that histogram, you may end up with a data capture less optimal than the flat file captured with Neutral. The biggest danger uis the increased possibility of clipping.

The point is to capture as much data as possible with minimal or no clipping. Then in post you are free to manipulate that data as you see fit.

Jon Kandel
A New York City Nikonian and Team Member
Please visit my website and critique the images!

phil711

Williams, US
144 posts

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#7. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 6

phil711 Silver Member Nikonian since 08th Jun 2008
Sat 02-Feb-13 02:07 AM

"The point is to capture as much data as possible with minimal or no clipping. Then in post, you are free to manipulate that data as you see fit."

That is exactly correct. If you have NX2 you can easily demonstrate this. Load a nicely exposed NEF file and play with the various Picture Controls in the Develop section. You will see that Neutral yields a histogram that is rather bunched up as compared to Landscape which yields a histogram that is more spread out.

Furthermore, as you compare Neutral to Landscape, you will notice the histogram data moves slightly to the left. You can also see this by clicking Double Threshold and noticing items at the white points do not change as much as those at the black points.

What does this mean to me? (I almost always set Picture Control to Neutral.) After an exposure, I first check the "Blinkies" and then the left side of the histogram. If I have blown out any important detail and I have some room on the left side of the histogram, I will shoot again with less exposure. If there is no room on the left side of the histogram, then it is time to consider HDR processing.

I am confident during post processing that I can properly display (print) all unclipped data from a raw file displayed by Neutral Picture control. However, with Landscape Picture Control, for example, there MAY be clipped data that can be recovered, but I can't see it and cannot be sure because it has been pushed off the left side of the histogram.

In any case, your selection of Picture Control options available in the camera does not change the raw data. It only provides options for displaying the data.

Hope this helps.

Phil

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ericbowles

Atlanta, US
10532 posts

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#8. "RE: Picture Control for Landscapes to Neutral?" | In response to Reply # 7

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Sat 02-Feb-13 10:26 AM | edited Sat 02-Feb-13 10:28 AM by ericbowles

Phil and Jon provided a good description of the issues.

The actual RAW file is the same regardless of which picture control is used, but the picture controls apply some global enhancements to the image for the small embedded JPEG that is viewed in the LCD and in thumbnails. If you are using a Nikon editing program, the picture controls are honored in the final image - and they can be changed. If you use a program that does not honor the camera picture controls - like Lightroom - the picture control only is used for the LCD and initial thumbnail.

Most picture controls have some positive value for saturation and contrast. Vivid applies a relatively high level of saturation and contrast which can cause the small JPEG to show clipped highlights and shadows that might not be in the image with the Neutral setting. This might cause you to make inaccurate decisions about exposure which is the real problem.

I use the Standard picture control and understand that I may occasionally need to change the picture control in post processing since I use Capture NX2. I have a picture control called Neutral No Sharp that not only applies the Neutral setting with minimal contrast and saturation, but also removes all sharpening.

LR and PS ignore the picture control settings and apply their own versions - depending on your selection - but the RAW data is unchanged.

The information captured in the NEF is the same regardless of which picture control is used UNLESS you adjust exposure because of the LCD. What you want to avoid is making unnecessary adjustments to exposure, and the Neutral setting helps to better show what is in the RAW file. But the Neutral setting also does not have the "hidden" latitude for adjustment inherent with Standard or other settings.

If you choose to use Neutral, you will have an LCD view that most closely reflects the RAW file, but it also means there is less margin for recovery (since there is no contrast or saturation to be removed). Also keep in mind that any contrast or saturation applied as part of your ingest routine may also hinder recovery of highlights and shadows, so you need to be careful with images that have a wide dynamic range.

Eric Bowles
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