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Sony Creative Look vs Picture Profiles for Film Recipes

Some of you might wonder why I don’t use Sony’s Creative Look settings to create film simulations.


The answer is simple - when I first started creating film simulations for Sony cameras, the Creative Style menu was super limited and had less options than the Picture Profile menu. Even after Sony updated and improved Creative styles into Creative Looks, I still prefer the Picture Profiles because it has more in-depth options.


And today - I'll take you through the Creative Look menu & compare it with the Picture Profile menu to show you why I really prefer the latter for creating film simulations.


The “Old” Sony Creative Style Feature


sony menu

The Creative Style menu provides a series of 6 - 13 image style presets (depending on the camera model that you own) that you can use to change the look and feel of your shots quickly.


These are all the Creative Styles modes that you can choose from.


  1. Standard

  2. Black And White

  3. Sepia

  4. Autumn Leaves

  5. Night Scene

  6. Sunset

  7. Landscape

  8. Portrait

  9. Light

  10. Deep

  11. Clear

  12. Neutral

  13. Vivid

As you can see, you get quite a few options to quickly alter the look of your shoots. However, the Creative Style feature turns out to be extremely limited, as you can only change 3 stats at most - sharpness, contrast, and saturation - by 3 points.


And if you want to get closer to a specific film look with your JPEGs, you need to change more parameters, and the Creative Style feature doesn't offer that.


But what about the Creative Look settings? Can these be used to mimic specific film stocks? Let's dive in.


The New Sony Creative Look Settings

sony new menu

A couple of years ago, Sony rebranded their Creative Styles into Creative looks. This updated version is only available for the most recent Sony Alpha models, like the Sony A7iv, a7CII, a7SIII, a7CR, a6700 and so on.


What is Sony Creative Look?


The gist of it is the same - Sony’s Creative Look feature is a set of 10 different preset looks that you can apply to stills and video to get straight out of camera footage that needs no editing. But how does Creative Look Differ from Creative Styles? Well, it comes with extra options that help you customize the look & feel of your shots.


Each preset from the Creative Look menu can be customized more broadly. You can shift the following 9 parameters:


  • Contrast

  • Highlights

  • Shadows

  • Fade

  • Saturation

  • Sharpness

  • Sharpness Range

  • Clarity


Plus, it offers a couple extra modes, such as FL - which is intended to give you an in-camera film look - and IN - which renders a matte image.


Going Through the Different Sony Creative Look Modes

For reference, I took some shots with each of Sony's Creative Look modes. Check them out ⬇️


Shot on Sony a6700


Standard

sony creative look standard mode

Portrait

sony creative look portrait mode

Neutral

sony creative look neutral mode

Vivid

sony creative look vivid mode

Vivid 2

sony creative look VV2 mode

FL a.k.a Film Look

sony FL creative look

IN

IN sony creative look

SH

Sony SH

Black and White


Sepia


What is the difference between Picture Profile and Creative Style/ Creative Look?


Creative looks are very similar to Fuji's film simulation presets. You can adjust contrast, shadows, highlights, and detail level. The main difference is that with Sony you don't get Grain or Color Chrome FX. You can certainly play around with these creative style/ creative look settings and get some cool looks. However, the Picture Profile mode still has more in-depth options which helps us refine the image even more.


And if you want to achieve a specific look, like the Fujifilm simulations or the look of a movie you like, this is where you want to look.


Sony got to the point where it truly has nice colors straight out of camera. Most color issues were fixed, and you can easily use the Creative Looks to stylize your images easily. But with the Creative Looks I would not be able to recreate the same film simulations as with Picture Profiles.


With options like Black level, Color Mode, Color Phase, Color Depth, and more in-depth Detail control than Creative Looks, the picture profile menu offers attractive advantages.


And even though the Profile Picture menu was primarily made for video, it works for photos as well.


So my question is, 'Why not enrich the picture profile menu with more features instead?' It's certainly more capable. It's still missing some options like Hue vs Hue or Hue vs Saturation, which no mirrorless camera I know has. That would enable us to create even more complex film simulations in camera, and take color grading out of the game all together. What about split toning for both shadows and highlights?


With Creative Looks, you choose one creative look preset - and then basically adjust Saturation and Shadow/Contrast. You can also play with the Kelvin and Color filter to add warmth/ coolness and shift the tint, but that's where it ends. It's exactly like FujiFilm's simulations but without the Grain or the Chroma FX. That's why the Picture Profile menu is better if you want to fine-tune your JPEGs and get a specific custom look.


Color Phase & Color Depth - Sony's powerful tools

Fujifilm Provia film simulation on Sony cameras

Provia RX film simulation


If you want to create film emulations for Sony cameras - Creative looks can be cool, but limiting. Why?


The main reasons why I stick with the Picture Profiles are the Color Phase and Color Depth tools, which make creating these film simulations possible. These two options offer Sony users an advantage in getting more interesting looks straight out of the camera.


Color Phase enables us to shift all color globally, which is helpful in remapping and fixing color, when for example skin tones or skies are not looking right. Fuji doesn't have this.


Color depth lets us decide how deep we want each individual color channel. Fuji has something similar called Color Chrome effect and Color Chrome FX Blue, but they are limited compared to Sony's Color Depth.


With Color Chrome and Color Chrome FX Blue, you can choose to either deepen all colors or only the blue channel, with three levels: Off, Weak, and Strong.


In contrast, Sony allows control over each individual channel (Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) with increments from -7 (bright colors) to +7 (deep, film-like colors). This flexibility helps achieve better skin tones and an overall more captivating color rendition.


While these features are appreciated across the board, they are not nearly as powerful as Sony's tools. Meanwhile, Sony users crave Fujifilm's simulations, without realizing they might have more powerful tools in their own cameras.


Why I Choose Sony Picture Profiles over Creative Looks to Customize my JPEGs/video footage?


  1. Picture Profiles give you the flexibility to choose any desired contrast mode from the 13-14 available Gammas, and combine it with almost all 7-10 color modes, including one of the community's favorites - S-Cinetone. HLG has 2 color modes (BT.2020 and Rec709) which are only available with the HLG gammas.

  2. Picture Profiles provide a higher degree of customization than Creative Looks. For instance, the Vivid Creative Look has fixed contrast and color settings. In comparison, Picture Profiles allow you to mix and match contrast and color settings independently, giving you more control in creating a unique visual style. Maybe you like the film colors of S-Sinetone, but you want the full dynamic range of S-log3. You can combine those in the picture profile menu, but not in Creative Looks.

  3. By using the Black Level, you can increase the contrast of the Gammas or fade them more than you can with the Creative Looks.

  4. By using the Color Depth you can enrich colors and tones in your images, enhancing skin tones, creating unique images, a task which normally had to be done in post-processing. With Color depth you can produce lighter or deeper colors just like film and this option will also slightly enhance the dynamic range of the image, which helps to avoid color clipping, a dominant problem with digital sensors. Color depth is great for color profiles, but it is essential for Black and White film simulations, which rely mostly on these adjustments to create complex looks. With the help of the Color depth tool, we can create more complex B 'n W film simulations than with Fujifilm cameras.

  5. The Detail menu has a list of options to work with, compared to the simplistic Menu of the Creative Looks. At first, it might look very complicated, but after you get used to it, it is much easier to navigate. It has more options to help you define how soft or crisp you want your image to be and where you want the most detail.

  6. Lastly, in my experience, right off the bat the picture profiles handle highlight roll-off better than Creative Looks, especially in skin tones. And with the help of the Color Phase and Color Depth options we can make skin tones even better looking.

  7. More Dynamic Range compared to Creative Looks. With picture profile you can choose from an array of gammas (simply translated into contrast options) , and these will offer more dynamic range than the Creative Looks.

 

All these options are enhanced even more when used in combination with custom white balance settings, especially temperature settings. Like Kelvin and the color filter.


With Creative Looks, you are mostly just adding color to the image, but you cannot fine-tune the color hues, or the color brightness like with Sony's picture profiles.


Picture Profiles also have a broader saturation range, extending from -32 (near monochrome) to +32 (the maximum legal saturation limit). This range is super useful when you want to create specific looks - as it provides granular control over the final image.

 

Cons of Picture Profiles


The only downfall with Picture profiles compared to Creative Looks: you are limited in how much contrast you can push into your image, and the FL creative look is not achievable from the picture profile menu, and that is my favorite creative look.


Using VV2 creative look at max contrast value, for example, will give you the most contrast the camera can offer, more than the picture profile menu can offer. I believe there will be very few ocassions where I would use such a high contrast profile and sometimes it will work, but for the rest of the time I might just use the picture profile instead. As a final note, Picture profiles will generate softer tones in shadows and mid-tones, offering subtle and natural transitions between shadow and highlight, and overall more dynamic range that Creative looks.


I think Creative Looks are great for starters, and for easily adjusting the image without much hassle, but if you want more control and better results, you might want to get into the picture profile menu.


Here's a blog post to help you master the Picture Profile menu!


Do Creative Styles Affect RAW footage?

No. They can be applied in post.


Do Sony’s Picture Profiles affect RAW footage?

Yes, the gamma will affect the RAW image and sometimes it will appear brighter or darker compared to a no picture profile raw file.


Combine Sony's Precision with the Creative Control of Picture Profiles


Sooo - If you want these in-camera film simulations, the Picture Profile menu is your best bet. You will get some nice, interesting looks by using Creative Looks settings, but it will be waay harder to accurately match a specific look or to create complex looks.


Wanna get your JPEGs to look more like film?



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