While I like to use Capture One to get a variety of looks and moods in post processing I always appreciate that my camera produces jpegs that can be shared “instantly”. With Nikon’s Picture Controls one can change the tone curve, but not tweak the hues of colors of the jpeg-files. And all Nikon Picture Controls have same colors but with different intensity (saturation and lightness) so you really aren’t getting variety of colorscapes by choosing different Picture Control.
With Fuji cameras there is available a lot of “Recipes” that are supposed to give many kind of moods and looks to the in-camera jpegs. Many of them rely heavily to a white balance setting that kind of “sets the mood”. You cannot tweak the colors individually and while certain colors might look good with these recipes, you end up having strong color casts to the whole image.
Available only with Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II -models came the Portrait Impression Balance setting. As this setting is not available with newer Z9 -model (at least to my knowledge), one could think that either the setting was seen useless by Nikon, after all, or the Z-series’ II-models had problems with skin tones and Nikon saw it important that one could correct the jpeg colors with this offered setting. Portrait Impression Balance is quite difficult to tune as it is not tunable after the shot was taken, not in-camera or with Nikon’s raw-processing programs. So you have to tune the Portrait Impression Balance while shooting relying on either the camera monitor or viewfinder. Funny thing is that there is loud silence about this setting among pros that work with Nikon. To me it seems like Nikon India tried to promote this through some pros, but they all failed showing the advantages of the setting in real life giving only some extreme setting examples and that’s it.
But why do I talk about this setting here? Well, I think it opens new possibilities to tweak the jpeg colors if someone wants to play with color balance to achieve new looks from his/her Nikon. The Portrait Impression Balance affects skin color range of the color wheel separately from the overall white balance setting. Theoretically one could, for example, give the image a warm look tweaking the white balance, but tune the skin colors cooler. Or do the opposite.
I tried to find a combination of white balance and Portrait Impression Balance that I would like. In the end I found that I really wasn’t after such looks that were achieved giving mixed warmth between overall white balance and skin tones. But still I have tweaked my white balance and Portrait Impression Balance to my liking in combination of my preferred Picture Control tone-curves. I know we all have our own preferences, but I decided to share my settings just because one might be curious to see how others set up their jpeg-output in-camera.
At the moment I have two Picture Control -settings in color and two in black&white. My color Picture Controls both use the same white balance setting and Portrait Impression Balance setting. I aim with my settings to a slightly warm color balance. So, my auto white balance is set at “Keep white (reduce warm colors)” and A2.0, MG0.0. My Portrait Impression Balance is set at Y1.0 and lightness of +0.5.
My color Picture Controls are based on Vivid and Portrait Picture Controls. The one based on Vivid is quite light and basically don’t need Active D-lighting to raise shadows. This gives a useful all-around look that can be shared as is. The one based on Portrait Picture Control is tuned to look as contrasty as Portra films do. While I like the look myself, I acknowledge the contrast does not work in every image and might not appeal everyone. For me, I can better predict the look of Portra film emulations I use with Capture One when I use this Picture Control.
The B&W Picture Controls follow the same pattern as my color settings as one of them is light and one is very contrasty. The light one mimics the tone curve I have created to my Ilford Delta 3200 Capture One -style (available here). The contrasty Picture Control is not mimicking any certain look but is my own idea of how I would want my B&W images look like.
You can download these four Picture Controls here.