I am not the type to cast concepts and opinions forever. I keep telling people everything evolves with time, the only certain thing being constant change.
Everything I do I try to keep an open mind and be ready to accept change. Things ought to be assessed objectively, free from any preconceptions that may interfere with our best judgement.
The good ol‘ RAW vs JPEG discussion
I’ve been shooting with Fuji cameras for many years now. But, since day 1, I never cared to spend time understanding the Film Simulations. The reason being that I’m primarily a RAW shooter.
I shoot RAW not because I enjoy spending time in Photoshop or Lightroom post-processing the files. In fact, I dislike post-processing because, as a photographer, I believe in getting it right from the very beginning. I come from film. I press the shutter button when everything looks right to me, as opposed to shooting lazily with the hope of fixing it later with software.
I shoot RAW because ever since I bought the Leica M-E (M9 generation) I realised the camera’s JPEGs omitted considerable information compared to the RAW files. While the JPEGs showed higher contrast and an overall punchier look, the shadow areas were turned to black, losing all the details available in the RAW files.
Some people shoot RAW + JPEG to get the best of both worlds. I was never into this because it adds a layer of complication to the process. I prefer to keep things simple and further down the line you have to decide which file to use anyway. When you are asked “tea or coffee?” you never say “both please”, right?
Things had gone a long way though. Fuji’s JPEGs, for one, are universally known for their excellent quality.
So why am I still shooting RAW? Time to revisit my working process and accept change?
Fuji Film Simulations
There is a lot of hype surrounding Fuji Film Simulations nowadays. Every time a new simulation is released people get excited and positive reviews are abundant. With the X-Pro3, Fuji took things to the next level with that little square screen showing the cardbox logo.
I assume photographers that use Fuji Film Simulations know what they are doing. I’m not arrogant and definitely don’t think of them as fanboys, like some reviewers. Instead, I decided to take a closer look and start my own research on this. Ultimately, I want to understand what I’m missing by not using Fuji Film Simulations.
This was also triggered by the photo below, shot with the GFX 50R and the Laowa 17mm f/4 ultra wide lens. Shot in RAW with all settings set to standard.
This photo was taken early in the morning – hence the orange glow. While on location everything looked stunning, upon uploading the file to my iMac I started questioning the accuracy of the colours. Everything looks over-saturated to me and not that pleasant at all.
So I thought perhaps here is a good opportunity to apply Fuji Film Simulation and see the magic? In case you are unaware, in Adobe Camera RAW, which comes with Photoshop and Lightroom, you can actually apply Fuji Film Simulations while converting from RAW to JPEG.
Anyway, let’s jump to the results:
And now an overview to help with the comparison. You can mouse over the photos to identify the film simulation:
There is, of course, the black & white ACROS film simulation as well. But I’m not applying it here because this photo was never meant to be B&W. So let’s put it aside.
Looking at the results, either CLASSIC CHROME or PRO NEG STD would be my preferred interpretations. They are quite close, with CLASSIC CHROME having higher contrast and a punchier look at the expense of details lost in dark areas.
So… does it mean before shooting this photo I should have loaded CLASSIC CHROME to my camera? Because I guess while using Fuji Film Simulations you are not supposed to keep changing the simulations on location, right? This would kill the flow.
Instead, I believe you have to take the romantic approach of choosing what kind of film you are shooting on a given day before stepping out of your door. Because you are loading a roll of film in your camera.
I’m still not sure about this. Yes, Fuji Film Simulations are technically interesting per se, and likewise it’s interesting to see Fuji keeping an emotional connection to their past as a photographic film manufacturer.
But I tend to think they can somehow limit my work. As said, RAW + JPEG is not an option for me so using Fuji Film Simulation means trusting the camera’s processor, accepting that whatever the chosen simulation meets my expectations before I shoot.
I don’t have a problem with this – but I just think I don’t have to take this constraint. Why use a prescribed recipe when digital actually gives me the convenience to post-process to taste? Mind me, this is coming from someone who does not like to spend time in front of the screen tweaking the photos.
However, I can see the convenience of the Film Simulations when, for instance, you are shooting for a project or a specific assignment. Say, you are spending a day shooting flowers and you decide to use VELVIA to take advantage of its vivid colours because you know in advance that’s what you are looking for. Or you are shooting black & white portraits in a studio and you load ACROS to your camera. And so on.
Talking of which, I can see myself using ACROS on a given day when the weather is shitty and I’m in the mood to shoot black & white. This seems realistic and feasible to me. In fact, I’ve done it in the past with my Leica M-E: I’ve always found its in-camera Vintage Black & White JPEG setting particularly pleasant.
On the contrary, I’m probably never going to use the colour Film Simulations because when I’m out shooting, the variety of subjects I encounter may not necessarily fit one particular simulation. I prefer RAW and the flexibility it offers in post-processing.
While I’m still not as excited as other photographers on Fuji’s Film Simulations, I don’t deny its usefulness. But not for me and I’ll keep shooting RAW for the time being.
But soon, weather in Macau is going to turn shitty. From February onward we will be treated with long periods of highly depressing cloudy days. Months long without seeing the blue sky – no joke.
I can see myself loading black & white ACROS to my Fuji camera during this period. Or VELVIA to boost my morale… And it may change my mind towards everything I’ve written so far.