Downloadable Picture Profiles Can Bring Your Camera to the Next Level

Downloadable Picture Profiles Can Bring Your Camera to the Next Level

If you’re not shooting raw images, selecting the right picture profile could be the difference between a decent image and an incredible one. I was surprised to find out that some photographers didn’t know that they can download extra picture profiles and install them. Why waste the opportunity?

A Picture Profile, or Picture Style, is how the camera treats color in your shot. Some people shoot in the standard profile, but there are others that may be better suited to the shot you’re trying to take. The problem is that the profiles that came with the camera can be limiting. Canon’s set of six profile pictures, for example, doesn’t leave you with a lot of room to experiment. However, they offer more profiles that you can download and install.

Why Use Picture Profiles?

One of the biggest reasons to divert from the standard picture style, is to flatten the image. It can increase dynamic range, allow for more control in post, and can really help with shooting video on a DSLR. I like to think that shooting with a flat profile lies somewhere between a regular image and raw. You get some extra legroom for color grading, but it’s nothing compared to shooting in raw. This is obviously subjective, and each picture profile should be used in the situation in which is suits the best.

My own trick for shooting with a flatter profile, is to expose the shot in a standard profile and then switch back to the flat profile. This way you can really see what the shot will look like after you process it. Sometimes a flat profile can be too forgiving, and even misleading.

Cinestyle Profile, graded in Photoshop with a LUT and Levels

What are the best profiles to flatten my image?

You could use the Neutral profile setting, which can be found on most cameras without fail. Neutral settings will pull out some of that contrast and saturation, which is exactly what we’re after for post work. However this isn’t as far as you can take it, we’ve only just started.

Cinestyle and Marvel are all perfectly good examples of what’s available for Canon users. Both offer the same thing, however one is flatter than the other. Personally I love Cinestyle, but that’s because I love the extra room in post. Cinestyle is like Neutral’s older brother, on steroids.
Marvel has a lot more contrast, and so you don’t need to do very much post work to get your final image. This profile is probably within the realm of possibility of people who don’t want to shoot raw, but want just a little extra. To learn how to install these, check out this video.

For Nikon users, the available selection is very large, however there’s a lot of individuals making their own take on what a flat picture style should be. Among these, Flaat is a credible suite of profiles. You can download it here, and learn to to install it here.

CineLook Profile used for a quick turn around with video content

The Fun Stuff

Beyond flattening the image, why not grade it in camera? I love testing out of these profiles, not because I use them on client’s shoots, but because I can get a stylized image without going to Lightroom or Photoshop.

For Canon users, you can check out CineLook from Vision Color. It’s a sharp profile that emulates a modern cinema look. I’ve used it a couple times when I needed a very fast turn around with a lot of video content, and it worked out great. You will completely forgo any option for post processing though, and while this profile is good fun, it isn't free.

There’s also the option to download a slew of profiles from NikonPC, if you shoot with Nikon. Here you can tweak the profiles to your liking and install them straight onto the SD card. It’s entertaining to play around with the test images here and see what effects you can create. It certainly allows for so many more options!

How to Use These

Canon: You can install picture profiles via the EOS Utility app on their computers. Relatively simple, just make sure you’re in Manual mode as some Canon cameras won’t let you otherwise.

Nikon: Users can put it straight on the SD card and install it from there. Create a folder on the SD card called NIKON (after it’s formatted), then make a folder called CUSTOMPC inside that one. Put your NPC files into that folder. In your camera's menu, select "Manage Picture Control" and choose your custom NPC.

If you want to speed up the post process with your flat images, you can read up on LUTs, which will speed up your workflow massively.

Do You Really Need All of This?

Arguably, you don’t. A lot of picture profiles are created with video in mind, and as Prolost points out, Neutral is the easier way to go. They also found similar results to the above profiles by simply changing some of the Neutral settings, taking down sharpness and contrast.

However I think it’s important to understand and have at your disposal. I can’t count how many times Cinestyle or Marvel has helped me when editing and tweaking images, but it doesn’t mean that I need to rely on it all the time. It's an extra luxury that I can afford.

It’s worth noting that installing anything I’ve spoken about is at your own risk. While there’s no issues that I’ve discovered to date, nobody is responsible for your camera but you.

I hope you all enjoy exploring the world of picture profiles!

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23 Comments

The Marvel proflie link is broken.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Updated! Hadn't realised that they'd updated it, since I already have it downloaded.

Robert Raymer's picture

I use profiles in quite a different way. Specifically when shooting portraits, I like to shoot RAW but have my camera set for Monochrome so that the display shows a black and white image when viewing it on the LCD screen. This allows me to easily see how light is falling on the subject without the distraction of color, and since I am shooting RAW, the monochrome profile does not carry over to the image itself, and gives me a full color image. I find this is particularly useful for portraits, and especially when shooting anything that I intend to convert to black and white, but I use it with caution when shooting anything where color reproduction itself is critical, for obvious reasons.

Pedro Pulido's picture

do you use a fujifilm ?

Robert Raymer's picture

No. When I shoot digital I use a Nikon D800.

Jeff McCollough's picture

I don't like the terms for the Marvel one.

Chris Q's picture

for the entertainment and enjoyment of the reading public, I'd like to share my vault of Canon Picture Styles. it's a Dropbox link, and I make NO promise that the link will always be live. so get these couple hundreds of free Styles while they are hot. includes the once available for free but now discontinued Technicolor CineStyle and its LUT for color grading.
for the record my favorite is the Kodachrome 25 style.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/dw9slbmlpblhfao/AABy-qoomBvsJP97zQwDHBbWa?dl=0

Pichan Cruz's picture

Thanks for this! Will give this a try on my free time Chris. Do you have examples for these picture styles?

Chris Q's picture

for the record, no examples are available. they are provided as is :-) its going to be a long day of trial and error getting thru them to find one you like. but hey, there's nothing cheaper than free.

Eric Knorpp's picture

Nice Collection!! Thanks for the share. Does anybody know if these can be loaded into CaptureOne and or if they can be loaded into a Canon 5Ds? Thanks!!

Chris Q's picture

sorry for late response. they can be loaded onto ANY canon EOS camera, and they affect they jpeg files only i believe. useless for RAW shooting.

Justin Berrington's picture

I was using this a while back shooting in RAW with the profile. My workflow for this is to take the images directly into canons digital photo professional (bundled with canon cameras). This allows the profile to transfer with the image. From there I send to photoshop as a tiff. This way I still have a 16 bit image instead of an 8 bit jpeg. Then throw on a LUT.

Kyle Medina's picture

If you like Canon's program than this doesn't apply. In the bottom tab, I think, Camera Calibration. There you can select a profile, which matches what you saw on your camera. You just Camera Standard or whatever one you use. I also shoot at 5300k, notice it gave me a better color starting point (outdoors). So I just made a preset to use on import for camera profile, remove chromatic aberration, and lens profile.

Justin Berrington's picture

Sorry, what I meant was non-native profiles like Cinestyle or VisionTech. These types of profiles don't transfer into lightroom or ACR. You have to use Canon's software for those profiles to transfer with the raw image.

Joshua McKenna's picture

I've come up with another use that I haven't seen anywhere else: by using custom profiles while you shoot in RAW, you have a semi-stylized image preview in your LCD while still retaining the RAW data for editing in post, meaning you can often show your LCD to a client at a shoot without feeling self-conscious about your super flat RAW image!

Karlis Kalnins's picture

it would be groundbreaking if there be a opportunity to export the lightroom presets to addapt them on the pictury stlyes!

Geoffrey Badner's picture

So, help me understand this... these profiles actually effect the RAW image or only the preview on the back of your camera?

Stephen Kampff's picture

They won't affect a RAW image, however they will change a JPEG and the preview. It'll also work with DSLR video which is where a flat image can be really handy.

Justin Berrington's picture

They will affect the RAW if you use the bundled Canon software. But even from there you have to export as a tiff or jpeg.

Tashi Namgyal's picture

i find the discussion impressive being here in Himalaya

Nice post. I tried to play with some of these but all I get is 'unsupported file version' when trying to upload them to Canon 5D Mark iv. Is this correct or me being dumb?

Stephen Kampff's picture

Apparently that's due to the file/folder names not having regular characters (usually ;-+&%...) but that's only one forum's solution.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?p=9608988

jessepatterson's picture

You are not the only one b r. I can't upload CineStyle to my 5D4 either however, before I updated my Canon software, I was able to upload the profile to my 6D, M3, (previously owned 7D2), and my old T1i with no problems at all.