No Editing Needed! How to Use Canon Picture Styles to Your Advantage

Do you love the look of post-processed photos but hate the process of editing them? Maybe you want that post-processed look but aren’t quite ready to make the investment in the software. Adjusting images in Photoshop and Lightroom can eat up a lot of time, and neither software is cheap. However, if you shoot with a Canon camera, there’s one trick you can use to avoid post-processing altogether and still achieve the style you’re after: picture styles.

The LCD on a Canon 5D MkIII showing the selection of Picture Styles available.

Choosing a different picture style can alter the look of your photograph without any additional processing.

What are they and how do I use them?

Canon Picture Styles are customizable presets built into the camera that apply in-camera processing to your photos. Think of Picture Styles as in-camera Photoshopping of your photos.

Each Canon DSLR comes with either six or seven picture styles installed from the factory plus space for three user-defined picture styles. Depending on the age of your camera, you’ll find these options:

  • Standard
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Neutral
  • Faithful
  • Monochrome
  • Automatic (this will depend on the age of your camera)

Let’s take a look at the same scene — Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s South End — taken in each style.



Portsmouth, NH South End using the Standard picture style

According to Canon, the Standard Picture Style “provides crisp, vivid images with increased saturation, contrast and sharpening.” The Standard Picture Style is also the default on EOS DSLRs.


Portsmouth's South End photographed using the Portrait Picture Style

The Portrait Picture Style “optimizes skin color tones and saturation. Reduces edge sharpening for smoother skin texture.” As the name might suggest, this is ideal for portrait situations and had fairly little effect on my image.


Portsmouth's South End photographed using the Landscape picture style

The Landscape Picture Style “produces punchier greens and blues with stronger sharpening for crisper-edged mountain, tree and building outlines.” This is one of my favorite picture styles, as it often provides all the enhancement I’m looking for in landscape photography.


Portsmouth South End using the Neutral picture style

The Neutral Picture Style is the one I personally call the “Blah” Picture Style. With Neutral, saturation and contrast are reduced, sometimes giving the photo a washed-out look. However, this makes the Neutral Picture Style a great starting point for photos you intend to color correct or otherwise enhance.

Since I shoot in RAW, this is the picture style I always use on my camera. I’ve found it displays the most accurate histogram for judging exposure. 


Portsmouth South End using the Faithful picture style

Very similar to Neutral, the Faithful Picture Style provide colors nearly identical to those you’d see when shooting under average daylight (color temperature of 5,200° Kelvin). If you’re a photographer who professes to “never Photoshop my photos,” this is likely the picture style you’d like to use.


Portsmouth south end using monochrome picture style

It’s pretty obvious what this one is all about! What might not be so obvious, though, is that for RAW shooters, the Monochrome Picture Style is great for helping you see what makes a good black and white photograph

More and more of us didn’t grow up with a film camera in our hands. I readily admit that I don’t “see” in black and white. I know that not all scenes make for a good black and white photo, but I don’t immediately recognize which ones do. The image preview on the LCD after taking a shot in Monochrome Picture Style will show you right away if you’ve got the makings of a good photo. Plus, if you’re shooting in RAW, you still have the full-color image file. 


This setting is available on every Canon DSLR since the T3i. I didn’t get a shot of Portsmouth’s South End using the Automatic Picture Style because, to be honest, I had no idea what it did until researching this article!

The Automatic Picture Style uses the Scene Detection Technology along with the Intelligent Auto Mode on newer Canon DSLRs. Based on what the camera sees (such as faces, distance, motion or color) it decides on the picture style that best fits the scene.

Picture Styles and RAW

The downside to the use of Picture Styles is that they’re only applied in-camera if you are shooting JPEG files. Sadly, if you’re a RAW shooter, the only way to apply these picture styles to your RAW files is through Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP for short), the software that came with your camera.

If you use Lightroom or another image editing software, you’re out of luck…sort of.

Lightroom's camera calibration tab

In the develop module in Lightroom, under the Camera Calibration you’ll see a dropdown next to “Adobe Standard.” There, you’ll find Adobe’s best approximation of the Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral and Faithful Picture Styles. Monochrome is missing from this list — my best guess is that since Lightroom already has its own black and white conversion feature, it was left off to avoid redundancy. 

User-defined Picture Styles

I briefly mentioned the three available spaces on the Picture Style list in your camera’s menu. Here, you can alter the settings for sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone and save it as your own picture style.

On the Canon Picture Style website, you’ll find several additional Picture Styles such as Clear, Twilight, Autumn Hues and more. Each has instructions for how to download them and install them on your camera as one of the three user-defined styles.

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