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See Like a Camera – Part-1

Don’t just pre-visualize—see the shot!

My “Re-Thinking the Raw File Workflow” post stirred up quite a storm of protest from photographers so thoroughly invested in a raw-file workflow that they missed the point of the whole post! So… consider this a clarifying post—I will be examining how using the Fuji Film Simulations in-camera helps the photographer see creatively whether they insist on shooting raw or take advantage of the high-quality jpegs offered by the Fuji camera!

Make no mistake, there is a revolution brewing in photographic technology! One that has been percolating since the introduction of digital technology in image processing. The full impact of computer image processing on image capture has yet to be revealed, but there are glimpses of the disruptive technology to come. One has only to consider the iPhone, and the ever-dwindling sales of point-and-shoot cameras to see the future of the big-glass DSLRs, and monster medium format cameras! The only question is how smoothly or how rapidly the transition will happen…

The mirrorless “revolution” is perhaps more of a transitional phase, but it is an important step in the march to the inevitable replacement of virtual image capture with computational imaging. The key element of the mirrorless revolution, or more accurately evolution ( because the mirrorless camera is still firmly in the virtual image capture camp,) is not the size and weight advantage of replacing the mirror, but the fact that the EVF (electronic viewfinder) is capable of providing a WYSIWYG experience of image capture! At the moment, nobody understands this better than Fujifilm, and the Fuji X-Pro 2 is one of the ultimate expressions of the power of the EVF to inform one’s creative vision!

Fuji X-Pro 2
The new Fuji X-Pro 2, along with the XT-2, is currently the ultimate expression of mirrorless camera technology

I’m not going to bother to sing the praises of Fuji’s in-camera jpegs—you can read my older post, and view the video to see that—instead, I’m going to look at the creative application of the Film Simulations for shaping your photographic vision. It is obvious that the way the image looks on the LCD screen, on the back of the camera, impacts your decision-making process in capturing images! Even though we’ve been advised not to fully trust that image, and instead “expose to the right,” use the histogram, etc…

Histogram
Check the histogram – shoot to the right!

Every photographer I know looks at the back of the camera, at the very least, after the first shot of a sequence, just to check and see if its close to what they had in mind! The EVF in the mirrorless camera offers a continuous experience of the “look” of that LCD without interrupting the image capture process. It is often hard for an experienced photographer to get over the habit of “chimping,” or checking the back of the camera, even though they already saw the image in more detail when they pushed the shutter release!

The mirrorless EVF offers a more or less exact preview of the “look” of the captured image with the current settings of the camera. Besides previewing exposure, most cameras can pre-set the jpeg capture to a few different picture styles like: landscape, portrait, vivid, and standard—the Fuji-X cameras provide a much wider range of Film Simulations, plus tone and contrast controls within those looks. This level of in-camera control is a tremendous aid to creative visualization because it allows you to see like the camera!

Here is a simple example: a raw, as seen by the eye, shot captured at the fish market in Dubai…

Fish market "cutter" in Dubai
Fish market “cutter” in Dubai

if I had seen this in color in the viewfinder, I might have decided that the man in the red shirt, in the background, was too distracting. I might have moved to try and eliminate those men in the background and might have missed this great un-posed moment. This is what I saw in the Fuji X-Pro 2 EVF viewfinder…

Fish cutter in B&W Acros-G
Fish cutter in B&W Acros-G Film Simulation

Previewing the image in B&W obviously, affects the creative choices you might make while taking the picture. Previewing the image as it might be creatively processed brings an important aspect of image creation into the moment of capture! This integrates image crafting with image capture—a fundamental change in the history of the photographic process! So…

Let’s take a look at those Fuji film simulations:

PROVIA/STANDARD

Fuji’s version of standard – Suited to a wide range of subjects, from portraits to landscapes. This is the default film simulation, and if you don’t change any preferences, this is what you’ll see in the EVF

Velvia/VIVID

Based on Fuji’s famous slide film emulsion – a high-contrast palette of saturated colors, suited to nature photos. This has extra saturation in greens, blues, and reds – perfect for landscapes

ASTIA/SOFT

Enhances the range of hues available for skin tones in portraits while preserving the bright blues of daylight skies. Recommended for outdoor portraits! This simulation renders very smooth color in skin, ideal for most portraits, but it also works very well for blue-hour landscape photos!

CLASSIC CHROME

Soft color and enhanced shadow contrast for a calm look. I think this is meant to simulate older professional slide film—not as saturated as Velvia, blues shift a little towards cyan, and it has more contrast (darker) in shadows.

PRO Neg Hi

Offers slightly more contrast than PRO Neg Std. Recommended for outdoor portrait photography. Less colorful than Astia, this is a good color-neutral rendering simulation that I think of as an alternative to PROVIA—just a bit less colorful with good contrast.

PRO Neg Std.

A soft-toned palette. The range of hues available for skin tones is enhanced, making this a good choice for studio portraits. A bit flatter than PRO Neg Hi, it doesn’t have the bright blues that ASTIA has, but is similar in contrast and maybe a little bit less colorful overall.

ACROS

Based on an old Fuji B&W film, takes black-and-white photos with rich gradation, and outstanding sharpness. It also has a subtle film grain simulation. Available with yellow, red, and green filters—these filters deepen shades of gray corresponding to hues complementary to the selected color. Yellow deepens purples and blues. Red deepens blues and greens. Green deepens reds and browns

MONOCHROME & SEPIA

These can be pretty much ignored—the sepia is like everyone else’s, and it just looks flat and dull brown. MONOCHROME is similar to ACROS without the sharpness and grain, so to my mind is less desirable.

All of these “looks” are different, and fairly sophisticated color and tone renderings that can be used to creatively alter the feeling in the image! In addition to these Film Simulations, there are dynamic range, highlight, and shadow tone & contrast controls that can be applied in the camera settings to alter the image rendering in the EVF and the in-camera jpegs. Adobe also supplies decent versions of these Film Simulations in the Camera Calibration settings in Lightroom and ACR, so even if you prefer to spend time in post, you can still take advantage of the “looks” while you are capturing images, as a pre-visualization aid!

Stay Tuned for Part-2

I will be examining the additional tone controls available to Fuji camera users to customize the Film Simulation “Looks” with an example, in images, to illustrate a visual journey, through film simulations, to arrive at a creative interpretation of a scene!

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