In Praise of Nikon Picture Control

I confess, I rarely read my camera manuals unless there’s something specific I need to know. For instance, I knew that you could change the default output picture style on a Nikon DSLR – everyone knows that, right? – and I knew that you could adjust those default styles. But then I had never taken the next step of going down 1 spot further on the menu to discover an action that said ‘Load’ and I had never gone one page further down in the styles menu to discover the 9 C – Custom – slots.

TMAX Picture Control

When I bought my mirrorless camera I had to decide between going Fujifilm or Olympus. Sony wasn’t the option then that it would have been now. I went with Fuji primarily because, all other things being relatively equal, they have these fantastic film emulations – Velvia, Provia, Neopan and Classic Chrome – which groups of colour scientists labour to produce in the Fuji labs. And they’re very good. Yes, I know that there are a ton of emulations out there, including the very excellent VSCO and superb Nik Silver Efex, both of which I use, but there is something about being able to produce the adjusted shot straight out of the camera without having to go through editing that appeals to me.

Niagara Falls – TMAX Picture Control

Every day I read photography news and sites such as Petapixel, Light Stalking, The Phoblographer, 35mmc, Emulsive, just to name a few. And it was on one of these that I discovered Nikon Picture Control and custom, yes custom, picture controls for my Nikons. Now I can shoot my TMAX, Velvia or Portra straight out of the camera by loading a control into a custom slot and shooting with it. And of course, you probably realise this but I’ll say it anyway, these controls affect only the JPG. If you’re shooting RAW+JPG then you will still have the RAW file to process as you wish._D617459-editedx

Now I don’t know if these controls are anywhere nearly as accurate as the emulations produced by VSCO or the Fujifilm scientists, and I don’t know how often I’ll use them. But to have up to 9 on camera and a possible 99 on an SD card immediately accessible opens up a range of possibilities for in-camera shooting and reducing the amount of time spent editing later, and I’m all for that.


A quick note on how I load these control files.
1. Format a normal SD card in my camera
2. Create the following path at the top level of the card NIKON/CUSTOMPC
3. Go to the Nikon Picture Control site
4. Download the controls I want from the NPC website
5. Load them into the CUSTOMPC folder
6. Load the SD card and go to the Manage Picture Control menu option on the camera
7. Select Load/Save then Load from Camera
8. Store the control in one of the 9 custom slots
9. Select the control and shoot.
10. That’s it.

The pictures above were all taken on a Nikon D610 with the Kodak TMAX picture control. I subsequently edited them slightly in Nik Silver Efex to add a little grain as straight out of the camera the images were a little too clean for the look I wanted.

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