Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Picture Style" Setting in the Camera

I was giving a talk recently, going over the many setting options presented in the camera's selection menu, when the question arose as to which "picture style" setting was appropriate for clinical photography. It's a good question, but one that's hard to answer in words alone, so I thought I should try to post an illustration of the differences between them.

I tend to think of it as something similar to choosing the right kind of film for a particular image quality we're looking to get. It's a quick way to select for a set level of sharpness, contrast, color saturation, and color tone, as you can see in the menu. You can go with the default settings in the camera (which I think works fine for our intraoral imaging) or make slight adjustments within them. Digital technology gives us a lot more control over these factors than we ever had before.

The Standard setting, as seen here on the left, has some sharpness applied and usually has a nice, crisp look to it. It's not over-sharpened or over-saturated for most imaging, and is appropriate for clinical applications. I generally use this setting for my dental photography.

The Portrait setting reduces the level of sharpening somewhat, and tone and saturation are thought to be more complimentary to skin tones in general portrait photography. You can experiment with it, but I never use this setting in my clinical work.

The Landscape setting increases the level of sharpening, tone, and saturation. This usually is seen in more vivid blues and greens in the image, which landscape photographers sometimes prefer, but I think is too much for general clinical imaging.

The Neutral setting doesn't have any sharpening applied, and can look a little flat. The idea is that you're going to apply some processing yourself in imaging software, but not such a good idea if you're shooting jpeg files.

The Faithful setting is almost the same as Neutral, but can achieve somewhat better color results when you're shooting under ideal daylight (approx. 5200 degrees K) conditions.

And, of course, you can choose to shoot a black & white image by selecting the Monochrome setting. You can even control for filter effects in this setting, so it's fun to play around with, but remember that an image shot in Monochrome has no color information at all and can't be converted into a color file later on, so don't use this in the clinic!

There are further selection options in the Picture Style menu that let you create your own custom-made style. Like everything else with your digital camera, it can be fun to experiment with these. But when you just need to get some work done, go ahead and set it on Standard. You'll get fine results.

And now that we're getting some nice Spring weather, take that camera out this weekend and have fun!

Later amigos (oh, and Feliz Cinco de Mayo!)