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How to get the Best Skin Tones on the Nikon Z6

How to shoot cinematic videos with the Nikon Z6. Use my favorite picture control!

Shooting in N-Log 10-bit 4:2:2 is the best option right now for the Nikon Z6 (AmazonB&H) – at least until RAW comes out.

However, sometimes you don’t want to grade. There’s no time, or maybe you’re just not good at it. In this video I share my favorite picture control, how I’ve tweaked it, and how I’ve used it to shoot video:

My favorite picture control

My favorite picture control is the Portrait Style. Here are the settings for you to use:

  • Quick Sharp – 0
  • Sharpnening – 0 (or -3 for a more filmic look)
  • Clarity – o
  • Contrast – -3
  • Brightness – 0
  • Saturation – 0
  • Hue – 0

How to shoot cinematic videos with the Nikon Z6

For best results, use this method:

  1. Record via an external recorder. I recommend DNxHR HQX or Prores 4444. You get better color and control for tweaks in post.
  2. Select the following settings in HDMI:
    • 10-bit 4:2:2
    • Full Range – If your recorder shows negative blacks, switch to Limited Range (only for direct-to-YouTube videos, otherwise you can bring them back up in post).
    • N-log: Off
    • View Assist: Off
  3. Native ISO of 100 (you can go to ISO 12800 without much penalty)
  4. Middle grey is 45 IRE, similar to Rec. 709. However, the Portrait control is greater than Rec. 709, so your colors will not line up on a vectorscope.
  5. Expose normally. You can do this because of the great low light ability of this camera.
  6. Use Zebras to help you with highlight clipping and skin tone clipping.
  7. Use the False Color tool and Waveform for perfect skin tone exposure.
  8. The maximum dynamic range I’ve tested here is about 10.7 stops internally, and possibly 11 stops via HDMI.

Why not Neutral or Flat?

With both Neutral and Flat picture controls, you still need to grade. In that case, N-log is definitely the better option.

If you’re recording internally, the 8-bit 4:2:0 compressed footage falls apart even on simple grading. So there’s no point in shooting Neutral or Flat if you even need to grade even a little bit. Neutral is still okay, but avoid Flat completely – there’s just no benefit.

For me, skin tones are the most important thing – everything else is secondary. And, after testing all the styles, I’ve decided Portrait is the best setting overall, for my work. You can see the results for yourself.

Can you use this on the Nikon Z7?

Yes, no problem!

Exclusive Bonus: Download my camera settings and 7 cinematic custom picture controls for the Nikon Z6. Setup your camera for cinematography, ready to shoot.

And, get bonus videos - How to expose and grade N-log, and How I have tweaked my favorite picture control for video - delivered to your inbox!


8 replies on “How to get the Best Skin Tones on the Nikon Z6”

Hi Sareesh, thanks for al the helpfull tips and tricks!
Is there any change to explain some settings/tips and tricks for shooting Real Estate?

I got no external recorder, and not that good in post.
What are the best results for shooting RE straight out of camera?

Thx a lot!

You’re welcome. You can try using the Neutral setting for Real Estate.

Hi Sareesh,
These articles are most helpful.
Any thoughts on the Nikon Z6 Filmmaker’s Kit package sold in the US. Components quality. Value. Etc.

I’ll have to try Portrait but I’ve been happy using Flat and find that it matches my RED footage the best. The others seem way to contrasty. Love these posts by the way. Going from RAW back to baked in ISO and color temp has been quite the adjustment.

I set my Z6 up like you said and the results were excellent. Minimal tweaking and publish. Great.
I just wish the audio were good enough so I wouldn’t be forced to record youtube vids. externally.

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