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May 18, 2011 / arthill

Canon Picture Styles

Canon DSLR’s have a feature called Picture Styles.  The ones built into the camera are:

  • Standard
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Neutral
  • Faithful
  • Monochrome

You can download more at

  • Studio Portrait
  • Snapshot Portrait
  • Nostalgia
  • Clear
  • Twilight
  • Emerald
  • Autumn Hues

What do these do?  Well, Canon makes the analogy that it’s just like choosing a film type in the old days.  Let’s take the built-in ones first.  I generally shoot Standard but sometimes switch to Portrait.  Canon describes the Portrait effects as:

People are one of the most difficult subject to reproduce photographically because skin color can vary significantly depending on lighting conditions and exposure balance. The “Portrait” Picture Style adjusts the color tone magenta-to-yellow close to red range and adds brightness. Skin color is reproduced light pink with still the correct exposure. It is particularly well-suited for shooting women and children. To keep the soft and natural feeling of skin, sharpness is set modestly.

I’m of a mixed mind on this one.  Sometimes I like people pictures better with Standard and sometimes with Portrait.  You’ll have to experiment and see what you like.

Before we go further I should explain that if you’re shooting JPEG then you select one of these on the camera menu and that’s what you get.  If you’re shooting RAW then you can open the RAW file in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional and choose any Picture Style.  For me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to shoot RAW (or as I do, RAW + JPEG). Another important point – you can actually download some of the new styles into your camera and use them from the menu.  But, at least on my camera I can only add 3 of the new ones. So you’ll need to shoot RAW and apply them later if you want to use ones that you haven’t installed into your camera.

Now I’m not going to cut and paste the Canon explanations of all these styles since you can read them on the Canon site.  I do try to use Landscape for, well landscapes, and I use Monochrome from time to time.  I think the names of the others are pretty self explanatory so let’s get to some examples.

Here’s a Grand Canyon shot with Standard Picture Style

Let’s see what it looks like with other Picture Styles applied


Emerald                                                                                                                                     Faithful


Clear                                                                                                                                     Nostalgia


None of these pictures have any other adjustments made to them – just the Picture Style has been changed.

I want to say a few more things about Clear and Nostalgia.  For me, neither or them works very well with this particular picture.  But Clear can have dramatic effects in cutting through reflections and haze.  Look at this picture I shot from an airplane in Standard and Clear style


Or these two in Standard and Clear

And check out these two shots I took on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills



The last one I’m going to talk about is Nostalgia.  I don’t use it much but you might like it if you are trying to achieve that old photo look.  Consider these two shots of Crystal Cove State Park near Laguna Beach.

Apologies to my readers that don’t have Canon cameras or have ones that don’t support this feature.  I would be interested to hear from you Nikon owners what the corresponding feature is for Nikon.


Leave a Comment
  1. Susan Wilde / May 18 2011 3:42 pm

    On my Sony A55, the creative styles are Std., Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, and B/W. Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness settings are available for all. On a few occassions I’ve even used these to help correct color balance when shooting.

  2. Maryann Goldman / May 19 2011 6:18 pm

    Clear is the style I was thinking of when I was working on pp your Santa face shot this past Christmas. I just couldn’t remember what it was called. I kindof like the drama clear added to the Grand Canyon shot too.

  3. rdungan / Nov 18 2011 3:56 pm

    I always considered these settings fluff, using only the sports setting as a lazy mans way to up the shutter speed quickly. We were recently eating out with friends in a dim restaurant. I pulled out the S95 and changed the setting to the candle light icon (lazy mans way) and took a few pictures. The images looked good. Imagine my surprise when I downloaded them and found the images were very small and only in jpg (it is set for raw + jpg). Another lesson learned the hard way. Always try these things out before you use them.

  4. ursa / Feb 5 2013 9:28 pm

    Has anyone else tried the canon picture styles from Milk Studios? They are specially designed for skin tones. I find them easier to use than flat picture styles. Here is some more information about them

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