Fujifilm cameras have a unique and much-beloved feature — film simulations based on classic film stock for in-camera RAW to JPEG conversion. ClassicChrome for color and Acros for black and white are my favorites. You can apply these film simulations in camera while shooting in JPEGs, or afterwards to RAW files by connecting the camera to the computer and using Fujifilm’s X Raw Studio conversion software, which uses the camera’s processor for the conversion.
Fuji also offers the functionality to create upto seven custom profiles for shooting JPEGs in camera — a combination of film simulations plus a number of modifications like white balance, color, clarity, sharpness, tone curve, dynamic range, noise reduction, grain effect and color chrome effect. These custom profiles can emphasize the special characteristics of each film simulation and produce beautiful close-to-final JPEGs straight out of camera. You can create these custom profiles in camera and apply them in X Raw Studio or create the profiles while editing photos in X Raw Studio and save them in camera.
I discovered recently that Fujifilm-X users like Fuji X Weekly have created dozens of JPEG recipes to be used as custom profiles, and there’s a vibrant subculture around co-creating, sharing and testing such recipes. Some users create recipes to replicate the look of classic film stock from other brands like Kodak, while others try to replicate the look of specific photographers or particular moods.
I have been playing with some JPEG recipes from FujiX Weekly and, so far, the Kodak Portra 400 recipe based on Classic Chrome is my favorite. Here are two very different photographs in three different JPEG recipes: Kodak Portra 400, Kodachrome 64, and my own recipe using Velvia. In both situations, I prefer Kodak Portra 400.
Kodak Portra 400 is one of the most beloved films for portraits and is known for its “smooth and natural color palette that is balanced with vivid saturation and low contrast for accurate skin tones”. I am not really shooting portraits in quarantine, but I have discovered I like it for photographing cats and birds, taking photographs around the house and even street photography.
The Classic Chrome film simulations shifts the reds towards orange and the blues towards cyan, deepens the brown and cools down the color palette, resulting in a soft, somewhat desaturated look. The Kodak Portra 400 JPEG recipe tones down both the highlights and the shadows, reducing the contrast, and further softening the look. I like my black and white photos high contrast, but I am discovering that I have come to love Kodak Portra 400’s soft look for color photographs.
I expected to like the Kodachrome64 JPEG recipe, but I almost always find myself using Kodak Portra 400 as my default. I need to play with Fuji X Raw Studio and Lightroom a little more and really decode why Portra 400 appeals to me so much, and try to replicate it in a Lightroom profile. Toning down the shadows and highlights for a low contrast soft look is definitely part of it, the desaturated colors for a soft muted look is also part of it, figuring out the color and white balance shifts is the tricky part.
So far, I have been really focused on getting the exposure, the depth of field and the composition right. For a while, I even shot mostly in black and white to focus on composing the frame and capturing contrasting tones. I have recently started playing more with white balance and colors, and it opens up an entirely new way of seeing the world; I can’t wait to explore more.