How to Get Instantly Better Skin Tones on Sony Cameras

In today's video, we discuss EOSHD Pro Color, and how to use it with Sony Alpha cameras to achieve a more Canon-like look straight out of the camera.

Now, I’m going to to be talking specifically about the Sony a7S II as that’s the camera I shoot on, but this also applies to the a7R II, a7S, the a7 II, the a6300 and a6500, and even non-Alpha cameras like the RX 10 2 and 3, the RX100 4 and 5, and the Sony FS5.

Don't get me wrong: the Sony a7S II is an amazing camera. In the last few years, I myself, along with plenty of other wedding filmmakers, have jumped ship and sold all of my Canon gear and invested 100% in the Sony system. And, so far, I haven’t regretted it an ounce. The low light performance is outstanding, the lenses Sony have been releasing are the best in their class, and the dynamic range is fantastic. All around, it’s a magnificent camera system. 

The Problem

However, it’s not perfect. Have you ever been shooting on your Sony, maybe using auto white balance setting - and there's nothing to be ashamed of there, we all do it - and you notice that your skin tones just don’t look quite…right? 

You’re not alone. It’s a well-known fact that Sony’s color science just isn’t quite there in terms of skin tones. Even if you dial in the white balance using a custom Kelvin temperature, sometimes it can still look a bit off, especially if you’re in a setting that has mixed lighting and multiple color temperatures and mixed lighting.

Sony cameras approach color science from a much more technical standpoint. And sometimes, that just doesn’t produce the most flattering results.

Canon’s cameras have a green and blue channel optimized for landscape photography, but a red channel optimized for skin tones. There is greater separation in the greens and blues leading to more realistic foliage and greenery, along with vivid blues in the sky, while still retaining less separation in the red channel. And that’s important.

Canon 5d Mark. IV / Sony a7S II

Too much separation of the reds is bad for skin tones. In a Sony camera, while it’s technically more “correct” - it’s much less flattering. You get to see every color in a skin tone on a Sony camera. This can lead to some nasty dark reds in the skin as well as some grey-yellows under the eyes. 

Not only are there issues with Sony’s color science, its white balance also has some issues. 

Not only are there issues with Sony’s color science, but their auto white balance has some issues as well. I joke that the "AW" in "AWB" is short for "always wrong." The auto white balance setting on Sony’s current cameras has a hard time distinguishing between giving a technically “correct” white balance and removing whatever color cast coming from the lights in the room, and maintaining the ambience of the shot.

Sometimes when you’re shooting under artificial light, you don’t want to just correct for it, but you want to maintain the mood and the vibe that the light is giving off. And if you’re intentionally using mixed lighting for effect, the auto white balance is going to have NO idea what to do. Now, newer models such as the a6500 have added an “Ambience priority” setting, but if you’re shooting on an older model, like an a7S II, you’re not going to have that option, like you would on most Canon cameras.

The Solution

Alright, enough talk about the problems. What’s the solution? Enter Andrew Reid. Andrew is a British filmmaker who runs a site called eoshd.com and blogs about all sorts of camera-related topics. And he has developed something called EOS HD Pro Color. 

Canon 5d Mark IV / Sony a7S II

So, as you can see, while they don’t look totally identical, EOS HD Pro Color does bring the Sony closer in line with the Canon, even though the Sony shifts slightly more magenta.

So what is EOS HD Pro Color? At first, I thought it might be a custom picture profile that you install onto your camera from an SD card, but, as it turns out, EOS HD Pro Color is simply a set of settings and tweaks that you receive from Andrew in the form of a PDF.

You go into one of your Picture Profiles, dial everything in as Andrew recommends, and boom, you’re getting instantly better skin tones, resembling that of a Canon DSLR. 

Now, EOS HD Pro Color costs $14.99 for the download and I know what your next question is going to be: no, I’m not going to give away Andrew’s secret sauce, because that would be dishonest and diminish the hard work he put into developing and testing these various settings, but if you'd like to check it out for yourself, follow the link here.

Now, you guys may recall a post I wrote about S-Log3 and how it’s my favorite color profile for my Sony a7S II, and how I would never shoot using anything but. And while that’s still mostly true, and I still shoot all of my weddings in S-Log3, if I ever want to shoot something that’s not meant to look cinematic, anything I want to look great right out of the camera and anything that I’m not going to spend a ton of time color grading, I now shoot it in EOS HD Pro Color. And it’s even improved my white balance when shooting in S-Log 3, so it’s a win-win.

Canon 5d Mark IV / Sony a7S II

So there you have it guys. If you guys have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below. And be sure to let me know what you think of EOS HD Pro Color.!