Image Variations – Film Emulation

The death of film was not really exaggerated – that much. Many many films are no longer made. Companies that made classic film stocks are no longer in business. I really started in photography at the twilight of the classical darkroom era. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most of my work in alternative processes is done with digital capture to a digital negative. I’ve become nostalgic for a past that I was never really a part of. I used file, but never thought about film. I never had a favourite film developer combo (except I played with Fuji Neon Acros 100 and Kodak Xtol for a spell) and never had a go to paper.

During this pandemic, I’ve been playing with some shoots and considering mood in color palette. Digital techniques allow you to quickly change image properties. I learned many advanced techniques and reasons for choices of color through the set of classes I took to get my BFA in Fine Art Photography from the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

I’m going to present the images with a brief description of the film emulation/process I followed to show the 10 variations on a single image I made. The creation of the ten variations took much less time than what I spent writing this post.

Here is the unmodified original captured on a Canon 1Ds Mk II on August 8, 2020, and its touched up version in Lightroom.

The model was capture in water with a sheer orange silk fabric floating above her. The orange fabric acted somewhat like an orange filter to the figure and background. The image on the left is unretouched out of camera. The image on right has been lens corrected, sharpened, and spot healed (bubbles in fabric). This retouched image is my starting point.

Here we are playing with Lightroom presets. The image on the left was processed in Lightroom to emulate Ilford HP5 at 400 ISO using the Lightroom plug in. The image on the right was treated with a Kodak Tri–X Punch preset. I now have to remember where I bought these presets.

Let’s continue with Lightroom presets. While not particularly interesting for this image, this is the best Kodachrome 25 film emulation that I have found. It was Kodachrome film emulation that got me started looking at presets for Lightroom. Gavin Gough‘s preset works on the raw file from the camera. Since he did not support the latest Sony mirror-less camera I have, I had to modify the binary preset camera profile to change the Sony camera designation from a7R III to a7R IV. On the assumption that the Sony renderings between the two models had little difference. Again, this variation is of little interest, a monochrome orange image is not Kodachrome’s rendering sweet spot.

Now we come to the more interesting renderings, which were done by editing the images in the latest DxO Film Pack 5 software, which I was really wanting to take for a spin. The external editing process from Lightroom seems to force a copy of the raw image to a 16 bit TIFF file which is then handed off to the external editor. Once the file is saved from the external editor, Lightroom updates its view of the image.

This first image above emulates cross-processed Fuji Superia 200 film. To quote the blurb that pops up in DxO Film Pack 5 when you select the emulation:

When developed with E6 chemistry intended for reversal films instead of the traditional C41 chemistry, the Superia 200 experiences a coordinations swing into the blue.

For the above image, I find the effect both pleasing and superior in mood to the monochromatic orange original.

The next two images are color film treatments treatments of the original image done by DxO Film Pack 5.


I guess “color” is a bit of a stretch for the second image. The first image is an emulation of Agfa Ultra Color 100. Like Kodachrome, it is a lost film – the film ceased production in 2005. This is a very high saturation film and it has a pronounced red shift. I have no basis by which to judge whether this is an accurate film emulation of the subject. The second image is not a film emulation but a sepia-toned generic black and white treatment. It has its charm.

Now we come to two black and white film treatments. The first is Adox CMS 20, a film still in production today. The DxO software claims it is known for its fine grain at a rated ISO 20. The second image above is emulating Kodak TMAX 400 film. It is important to note that for all the film emulations in DxO Film Pack 5 I set the film size to large format which minimizes the grain. I shot mostly large format film anyway. The second image is my favourite of the black and white treatments.

The image above was made using the Kodak TMAX 400 version and editing it in Photoshop to place a solid layer of pure red above the image and changing the layer’s blending mode to Multiply. I somewhat like the effect.

I’m keeping this post necessarily short and simple, to show the variations different film emulations can produce for a single image. I’m going to follow up on a deeper discussion about a couple of the film treatments above, and return to the Kodachrome preset with a different image. Realize these were the ten best variations from my experimentation. I tried at least 20 more film emulations during my playing around. I wanted to get a feel for mood driven by tone and color palette.

As an aside, I coincidentally chose an image to play around with that I shot exactly 15 years before on August 8, 2005. I sent the variations over to the model that I keep in touch with and it afforded us an opportunity to catch up during these strange times. And muse at where we are now 15 years later.

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