Getting the most from Nikon Picture Control settings

Getting the most from Nikon Picture Control settings

The Nikon Picture Control system enables you to easily control the appearance of your images. It is a powerful setting, and once you have experimented with it and are able to observe how using it can influence the atmosphere of your pictures and movies, you will see that there are endless opportunities to create your own personal image styles to suit your taste.

If you want, you can even replicate the look of specific film emulsions. For those of us old enough to remember the days of film, this opens up a world of creative opportunities. We are now in a position to ‘load’ a picture control setting and take control of the colour hues, saturation, sharpness and contrast to create a particular ‘film’ look in any image.

Picture control is not just limited to still images, you can also customise the look of the movies you shoot with your Nikon DSLR.

You can also name and save custom picture control settings as new menu items and then quickly call them up via the menu system when you need that particular look.

Choosing the ‘look’ you want

Depending on which Nikon digital camera you own, you will have a number of picture controls settings. These include Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome. Some Nikon DSLRs also have an expanded range of picture controls which add Flat, Portrait and Landscape, too.

The different picture control settings give you the choice to change the look of your image and, if you want to go further, Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Portrait and Landscape allow for further adjustments to sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue (coloration). Monochrome allows for adjustments to sharpening, contrast, brightness, filter effects and toning.

To change the picture controls, press Menu and then under the shooting menu, highlight Set Picture Control and press OK. Then you simply choose a picture control from the selection available on the menu, and press OK

Basic picture controls and what they do


Suitable for portraits, landscapes and just about any other type of photograph. As expected, Standard picture control givesyou normal-looking, balanced images. This is the default setting for picture control.


Delivers images that are closest to the original scene. To reproduce the subject’s unique colours and gradations with authenticity, avoiding extreme enhancements. Gives a smoother overall impression than Standard.


For distinct, colourful, fresh-looking images with just the right emphasis on your subject’s contrast and sharpening. Compared with Standard, Vivid gives a more ‘punchy’ overall impression. It’s ideal for situations where you wish to emphasise primary colours, such as colourful fashions, city streets, fresh fruits and floral arrangements.


Gives you monochromatic shadings, such as black-and-white or sepia. You can also select Filter Effects, to create the kind of results you get when shooting with a colour filter for black-and-white photographs. You can then further ‘tone’ the images to adjust the overall look of images in a way that formerly required working in a darkroom with photographic paper.

Additional picture controls

Flat, Portrait and Landscape are additional picture controls that may be available on your Nikon DSLR. These give you further opportunities to customise the appearance of your image.

Customising picture control settings

Whichever picture control you choose, you can further customise the look and atmosphere of the setting in order to create your own bespoke control. To do this, under the shooting menu, highlight Set Picture Control and press OK. Now, from the selection on the menu, choose a picture control and press the right arrow on the multiselector. This now enables you to customise any of the following settings to create your own personal look to your images.


Sharpening enables you to alter the strength of your subject’s contours, starting from 0 (no sharpening) to 9 (maximum sharpness). 
You can also set the camera to A (auto), where it makes adjustments automatically to match shooting conditions.
The lower the number, the softer your image will be; the higher the number, the sharper the image.
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