Tag: sooc

What’s the best lens for street photography?

Right off the bat I just want to say that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In truth, the lens you choose is probably going to reflect your confidence levels as a photographer. If you like mixing it up on the street then a 28mm is probably perfect as it gets personal at that focal distance. If you are a little shy or worried about photographing strangers then a longer prime or even a short zoom is probably going to favour your style of photography. The essence of this article then is that, there is no perfect lens for the job, it’s all about you as a photographer!

All this being said, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing street with a long zoom. Candid / street photography requires you as much as possible to blend into a crowd and nothing shouts photographer like a DSLR armed with a long zoom. Equally, a 7mm fisheye is pretty much useless unless you like standing toe to toe with your subject. With that lens you are going to see more that the whites of their eyes and that means getting very personal. While some photographers also spout long and hard about the benefits of vintage glass, which is often manual focus of course, forget it. It’s not 1961 when you had no choice, it’s 2021 when you certainly do. Rely on a manual focus lens / camera combo and I guarantee you that you’ll miss that pulitzer price winning shot when the opportunity arises. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that you’ll miss a lot of really good shots. In street, great images don’t come along everyday so when they do, you need to be nimble and nimble means more often than not, nailing it on auto.

For me, the sweet spot for street and candid photography is going to fall somewhere between 28mm – 55mm in full frame terms although my favourite squeez for candid photography today is the pocket sized Canon G7X, purely because that’s what I own. I use it a lot for street because it’s small and unobrusive and easily fits in a trouser pocket. The 8.8 to 32mm lens combined with the 1″ sensor seem to capture great shots even in low light. In truth though I’d be equally happy with any good quality 1″ sensor compact nowadays, such as Sony, Lumix or Ricoh. Another good option of course is the Fujifilm x100V (or an earlier variant) and the x-Pro series ie 1 through 3. All great cameras for street and candid photography.

Another favourite of mine is my Lumix GX80 which has an M43 sensor. Again it’s small, descrete and very capable. Armed with the Lumix 12-60mm f2.8 (or even just the f3.5 if cash is tight) this is a great street combo because again, it’s small and compact. In fact it might equally be as good with the kit lens, the diminutive 12-32mm. What I certainly wouldn’t take out with me is my Nikon D600, even with a a tiny pancake lens. Way too big. And although I have used my Fuji x-T1 for street photography, especially with the 18-55 and Viltrox 23mm, I still think that this size is too big for serious street. This is because with street photography you really just want to blend into the background, not make a statement along the lines of “hey, look at me, I’m a photographer and I am photographing you!”.

Now I am a member of a couple of Fuji facebook groups and the buzz on these groups is about SOOC photography ie straight out of camera shooting. Like many, I do like the jpegs that Fuji cameras can create, especially with a filmic emulation applied in camera but I maintain that for good street photography it pays to blend in and you’ll do that best with a small, innocuose camera like the Canon G7X or something similar. Because I am as happy playing with RAW as I am with JPEG’s, I don’t worry too much about SOOC although as I mentioned, with the right light Fuji camreas can produce stunning film quality results. As mentioned above, for the serious Fuji street photographer I would suggest that they look at the X100V (or an earlier variant such as the X100F) or perhaps the X-Pro3 (or an earlier variant) if they want lens interchangeability. These two cameras for me, along with many modern compacts are about as perfect as it gets for street and both sit alongside my Lumix GX80 for this very reason.

Cull or Keep your Images – now that’s the question!

When I first created this post I called it “Don’t be afraid to Cull Bad Images”. However, as the post evolved I felt that I needed to look at keeping versus culling in the round. This article therefore discusses my take on what stays and what goes in my photography.

Now, I’m pretty good at deleting images that say nothing of interest. To me they are obvious to spot, they either suffer from poor composition, a lack of meaningful content, duplicate others that are better or just fail for some technical reason, for example poor focus, blown out highlights or over or under exposed. However, I know that many of my photographer friends struggle with this important process with the result that they fill hard drives at a frightening rate with images that really should be binned. While you may have a dozen SSD disks to play with, I prefer to work light so I rely on just two drives for my archives. As such, drive real-estate is at a premium.

The key here then is to be able to make conscious decisions about what has any real value and what is simply clogging up my drives. This basically means is it good enough to share with others. That might be in the form of a photo book, a project, a competition or even as a give away under Creative Commons. This latter option is something I have recently started to do as I know that bloggers etc often need access to images. If the image fits none of these then the axe needs to fall and fall swiftly. Having said all of this, there is one last check that I do undertake and this to ask the question – does the image have any mitigating features? For example, is there a picture within the picture or does it have merit if converted to art. That has to be done on an image by image basis and for me at least, it’s the last throw of the dice!

Now, the first of these tests is obvious. I will know immediately if I like an image enough to consider it suitable for books, projects or competitions. If you are a club photographer then you will know that this doesn’t necessary mean that someone else will like it, just that I like it sufficiently to use it in one or more of the contexts mentioned.

Starting with The Good

So let’s start with something I do like. This example, from a fairground shoot at the weekend, combines a lot of elements that I like. For example, here we have the juxtaposition of static and dynamic items within the frame, the inclusion of people (one of my favourite subjects) and muted colours rather just B&W. That being said, I really don’t think that this image is going to win any competitions, judges with their strict guidlines just won’t get it, but I can see it in a photobook or perhaps as a future project. It’s also the type of image that could be post-processed in a mirriad of ways so again, it has merit.

Now the Bad

Now let’s take a look at an image, which apart from being shown here, has been discarded. Timing as they say is everything and this image demonstrates a complete lack of timing alongside really poor composition and, I hate to say it, poor technical skills. The content is OK, perhaps a little busy and if I had panned left to include the leading lines of the path along with the fairground items to the left of this ride, then perhaps things might have turned out better. However I didn’t and so alongside the blown out sky, which is unforgiveable, the overly busy composition and poor subject matter really didn’t help this one. RIP. By the way, on the issue of the blown out sky, you might like to take a look at my article on highlight roll-off as this is one way to combat digital burnout from bright lights, sun etc.

Of course, bad photos aren’t limited to tricky locations. You can take a bad photo anywhere – I often do! So let’s look at some more images where to be honest, nothing really works. In the first image below there’s plenty of potential and some technical skill in freezing the water. Sadly though, there’s nothing of interest beyond this but fortunately, I did shoot better on the day. The second image fares pretty much the same, nice but bland and unexceptional and again, I certainly have better in my archives. The seaweed image could perhaps be saved – I often photograph objects – but once again, on that particular day, and from other days I had much better beach dendritus shots. The last two images simply lack good composition even though the subject matter, especially of the first of this pair, has some merit. As they are they though, they are simply fails.

Let’s Finish on a High Note – Some Examples I Enjoy

In this next shot I think I have nailed what makes a good photo. Here, we have an almost perfectly symmetrical image, which the eye loves, great colours, an analogue feel plus movement in the chairs which creates an excitement and a contrast to the perfectly still framework. The other thing I like is that I can dive into this image and take out snippets, for example some the riders on their chairs. It just depends on the resolution of the camera being used and the IQ of the RAW file.

This next image is something that I really liked when I shot it, but was not so happy when I viewed it. The colours really detracted from the subject which is clearly the guy in the middle playing with his mobile phone. I couldn’t however bring myself to delete it, too good for that so I decided to try B&W as a way of removing some of the complexity created by the colours in the shot. My go-to favourite for this type of work is Nik Silver Efex and while I don’t think Nik saves it as a competition photo, it works really well for a photo book or for use on the web. Well, to my mind anyway.

In this next set of images the composition is good, the content is good but it’s not quite working for me. I feel, as I so often do, that the colour is making it difficult to see the story. I am so focused on the bright greens and yellows so as to forget that the piano player is the star of this shot. Again then, B&W, with a little brightening of the face, saves the day by forcing attention on the piano player and away from the bright background. An easy but effective fix.

Earlier I talked about how the seaweed image for me just didn’t work. Well, on the same day I captured that shot, I also captured a few others which I have kept and which form part of my archive. Here are those images for reference. Hopefully you’ll agree that these are somewhat better shots.

A Note On Post-Processing

All of the images shown above, except the B&W versions which were edited in Nik Silver Efex, were created using On1 film presets. I personally love analogue film and when shooting digital, I strive to achive this look both in the SOOC jpegs out of my trusty Fuji x-T1, or by converting the RAW images to something less digital as here. For those seeking to do the same or similar, these images were all post-processed using a Classic Chrome in-camera film simulation that I created for SOOC shots. IN some cases here however I chose to use RAW images passing these through a Classic Chrome preset.

That’s it for now, I hope that you found the meanderings of my mind of interest. Either way, drop me a comment below and let’s create a dialog on how you guys deal with the images you take.

Why White Balance, Colour & Highlight Roll-off matter in film simulations

Putting aside for a moment the really important requirements for a good photo, that is content and composition, without either of which your photos will immediately fail, if your photo is trying to mimic a particular film stock then to be truly believable it has to provide a believable colour pallet. While there are many photographers out there that think that because you label a photograph as Kodak 64 or Superia 100 or Portra 160 that this is what it is, in truth, this is purely what the author of the recipe thinks it is and that means for you that this is purely a leap of faith in many circumstances. Even if you have researched film, and you do understand about white balance it does’nt mean to say that your photo exhibits all of the correct characteristics of film. You have to work hard to make a good film simulation and for this reason, understanding how white balance and highlight roll-off affect your image is one of the keys to success, although not the only ones, when trying to emulate film.

Now, I’m a member of a good many Facebook groups which focus on Fujifilm jpeg simulation as a creative tool. While many posts get close to vintage colourisation and tones, far too many, in my opinion at least, fail to nail a film look because they simply don’t manage their colour profiles and tones properly. This can result in images which are unrealistic in terms of white balance, overall colour and sometimes even the tone of the image. Working with film is like alchemy, it’s a truly magic process which makes creating exact digital facsimilies practically impossible. You can get close, but it’s really rather difficult to be exact. So with this being said, let’s examine a fact of life. When you look at the world, white is white. Even if it’s a dull grey day, white still looks white. If it’s a sunny day and the sun is blazing, white still looks white. So if white things dont look white in your photos, then your white balance is off and you need to resolve that problem before shooting tons of images which all look off. Now, I’m not a master of colour science, indeed I have no specific skills in colour management or indeed film processing. What I do have though is a good pair of eyes, a good understanding of content, composition and colour and an enquiring mind. I know that if you don’t start with the right basics, nothing else is going to look right. Sure, a lot of facebook photographers will praise your work but these people are often equally colour challanged and who know surprising little about photography! The key is to stop relying on others to tell you that you’ve nailed it and start believing in yourself. Once you can create beautifully compositions with stimulating subjects and great colour and tone, who cares what anyone else thinks.

So, the first step in achieving this enlightenment, other than to study some of the work of inspiring photographers throughout history, is to start nailing your white balance? Nominally, your camera can already do this for you as every modern digital camera today has an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting and this should give good results as lighting conditions change. However, another favoured method, one borrowed from the studio and one which I tend to use, is to use a grey card to set your white balance before you shoot. This is my first tip. Although they come in a variety of forms, the ones I use are 18% grey coloured fabric, about 12 inches in diamer (30 cm) with a white reverse – see image below. These can be folded and stored in your camera bag ready for use. You can buy these from many outlets including Amazon. When you need to use it you simply select a custom white balance setting, for example C1, and then, under ambient lighting conditions, you take a photo of your grey card and store it to C1. Once the photo has been taken you will be offered the opportunity to set colour shifts for red and blue  eg +2B, +3R. Once done whenever you select that particular custom white balance setting will be hard baked into your jpeg. Now be careful, if the light changes dramatically, ie it becomes cloudy when previously there was bright sun, you will need to recalibrate your custom white balance for the new lighting conditions. Don’t worry though, since the whole process takes just a few seconds it’s really no problem to change your white balance when needed.

Typical Grey Card used for White Balance settings

The second of my tips is equally as important. In order to be able to mimic film, you really need to look at photos taken with a film camera. Now, if you are lucky enough to have a film camera, as I do, then this is relatively simple as the photos you take with your preferred film stock are perfect for comparing to your digital simlations. If you don’t have a film camera, or the film you aspire to emulate is no longer available then you you still have an opportunity to fine tune your digital simulations albeit at arms length. Because of the internet, sites such as Google Images, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram allow you to research 1000’s of scanned and digitised film images. These can help you understand about the colour and tone associated with your preferred film stock as well as allow you to study focus issues, image sharpness and IQ and the way shadows, midtones and highlights are handled. Personally my favourite is Pinterest but I’m sure you’ll find a place you really love too. Now of course, in order to get film into the digital domain someone somewhere has had to digitise the image but hopefully if you look at enough examples you will be able to build up a firm understanding of how to achieve the best simulation for your camera and preferred film recipe as well as what additional post-processing support you may need. Although the aim of most photographers taking images with FujiFilm cameras is to achieve film-like results straight out of camera (SOOC) the truth is that not all Fuji cameras are created equal in this respect so some light post-processing is often required. For example, the Fuji x-T1 that I use doesn’t have a grain option and it also has much less control over sharpness, highlights and shadows. To balance this, a simple preset helps move the resulting jpeg’s a little closer to the desired look. It’s not ideal but it does help achieve the desired look you want.

So, let’s look at some examples of white balance and highlight roll-off in actual film. In the first of these next two images, these are digitised Superia 200 film emulsions, we can see how the emulsion and processing of the film has handled the bright areas in the image. Here we have a very good example of highlight roll-off that is associated with film emulsions, i.e. the transition from bright white to extreme white is generally well controlled. Typically in film, this is really well handled and it is normally quite difficult to completely blow out the emulsion i.e lose all the details in the highlights or create that hard edge we see so often in digital photos pasted to facebook etc. This is because this type of control simply doesn’t exist to the same degree in digital processing and as such we are very likely to see burnt out sections of our image, especially associated with the sun or very bright light sources.  In the film image here the emulsion has provided a much softer transition in the highlights, although I would agree that because this image is digitised at a low resolution, it does to a certain extent look like it’s heading towards being blown out.  In the actual high resolution Tiff file it doesn’t look quite as harsh as this but you’ll have to take me word for this. This look is much sought after by photographers, especially FujiFilm users who are chasing film looks from their digital sensors. Having taken a great many digitial photos of this beach I know that under similar lighting conditions, it is very likely that my digital cameras will have burnt out the right hand side of this image (ie creating a hard transition from whito to blown out) if no action was taken to expose for the highlights.

Superia 200 film
Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

In this second image, again where the digital camera would have had difficulty iin handling the very bright white of the surfboard, or perhaps even burned a hole in it, film has easily managed to control the highlights. This is the beauty and wonder of film.

Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

Finally, let’s have a look at a film example with respect to colour, tone and white balance. Again, this image is Superia 200 film stock and conditions on the day were pretty bright ie it was a partially sunny day but with some cloud cover. The rendition of the colours is good in the film version, pretty much as you would expect with a quality film such as Fujifilm Superia They are just as I see them every day so this image as a good guide image when fine tuning my digital recipes. With regards metering, although I have a Minolta light meter I suspect for this image I just relied on the metering in the Nikon FE which I know to be pretty accurate.

Superia 200 film image shot using a Nikon FE

So, let’s now take a look at some digital images where I have made some modifications to the tone curve in camera to help achieve a “similar look” for the jpeg’s to what I might see on film.

This next image, in this case a digital image taken with the Lumix GX-80, which proves the point that you don’t need to shoot Fuji to create filmic looks, is taken from pretty much from the same spot as the previous image. The lighting is slightly different, it’s a different day but so close as to enable us to look at the two images comparitively. Before we go further, the image below is not a jpeg SOOC. That would be impossible as Lumix hard-bake their jpegs using their own technology. Since I have zero control over how shadows, highlights, sharpness etc are handled, I had to create a RAW to Superia 200 preset that takes the RAW file and add’s a little grain, drops the stucture, rolls-off the highlights and very slightly warms up the image. I also tweaked the blues and browns to get them a little closer what I was seeing in film. Overall the effects applied were fairly minor but just enough to make the two images converge. What I will do is to revisit this scene on a day similar to the days here and retake with the Fuji x-T1 using a recipe for Superia 200. That will allow me to compare the jpeg SOOC from the x-T1 directly with the film version. I will share the recipe once done.

In looking at the two images side by side I think that the most notible difference between the two is in the softness of the film image as opposed to the slightly harder digital image although to be fair, it’s pretty close. This is probably because the Lumix GX-80 has a 16MP sensor rather than something bigger like 24MP as found routinely on many newer cameras now on the market. I think that this helps to create a softness which is approaching what we see in our film examples. There is a very slight shift in the colours, the film version is definately a tad warmer than the digital version but again, it’s pretty close. What this means is that the white balance on the Lumix is very slightly off when compared to the film version but in all honesty, small adjustments would help to reduce the differences still further. All in all I think that this is a good example of how digital can get very close to film!!

Lumix GX-80 digital image through a RAW preset I created in On1

This next image is a Superia 100 emulation using the Fuji x-T1. Here I have set the highlights to -2 on the simulation to attempt to achieve a filmic highlight roll-off i.e. a soft transition from bright white to extreme white without loosing any detail in the highlights. This image also has the shadows set to +2 ie hard which in hindsight, could / should have been relaxed to +1. Even so, I feel that the image works really well as a film image despite the fact that it was taken using a digital camera.

Classic Negative (Superia 100) Simulation on a Fujifilm x-T1

The next image is another example of a jpeg SOOC in order to try to deliver a film experience. Again, this image is loosely based on Classic Negative (Superia 100) as I really like the tones and colours in this film stock.

Fuji x-T1 image based on Superia 100 recipe

In summary, the really noticeable thing about digital images is that they can often be overly hard (contrasty) and I think that this has a detrimental effect on the results when trying to emulate film. When cameras were manual and or used vintage lenses, often the results obtained where a little softer because of the lens design, optics and often, coatings. For this reason vintage lenses are often sought out when trying to deliever a true film simulation. So when I see photographers talking about using pin sharp lenses on a film simulation site I tend to smile as this is perhaps the most detrimental thing that I can think of when it comes to taking vintage images. A little softness in your lens can add bags of character to an image. My advice, when you get the opportunity to buy an old vintage lens give it some serious thought because armed with a good vintage lens, plus real film examples to base your recipes on, and a really good understanding of white balance and highlight roll-off you are truly on the way to creating vintage film simulations using any digital camera.

An Image from the Archive

An Image from the Archive

You know what it’s like. You keep coming back to an image that you shouldn’t like but you just do. The image above is that image for me. Believe me, I have a ton of images I really love and I am so grateful to have shot. However it’s this one that figures a lot in my thoughts and that I keep coming back to. Sure, I should enhance it, make it pop. It’s a bit bland and maybe one-day I’ll do just that. But for the moment I just like it because it’s what I saw and what I captured. It doesn’t much matter to me whether you like it, although I hope you see something of what I see. More importantly is that you are trying to see what I saw. It’s an art shot for all intent and purpose, there’s no documentary value in it. You can’t recognise the place and it’s timeless. It could be 1920 or it could be 2021, who knows. It’s just restful and I think I’m going to look at it some more. Enjoy your day.

Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS | A low cost lens for everyday usage

Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS | A low cost lens for everyday usage

Capture more of the world with this portable 12mm extra-wide-angle lens

The Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS is an extra-wide-angle manual focus lens designed for APS-C crop sensor mirrorless cameras. With low distortion and wide angle, photographers who want wide-angle photos such as landscape and architectural images can create great images with very little effort. At F2.0 this lens is very bright so it captures clear and vivid images even in relatively dark environment.

For the first time in Samyang Optics history, NCS (Nano Coating System) technology was used. It creates even lower reflection rates than the original UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) together with higher contrast. Also, the light penetration rate is very high to minimize flare and ghost. Optical construction of Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS features 12 elements in 10 groups – among the lenses, there are 1 aspherical lens(AS), 1 hybrid aspherical lens (H-ASP) and 3 extra-low dispersion lenses(ED) to provide high image quality. H-ASP minimizes color aberration to realize exceptional image quality and high contrast for center and corner of the image even when its aperture is fully opened. ED lowers unnecessary light dispersion to drop color aberration effectively. With such optical construction, it has 0.2m of minimum focal length.

There are 6 aperture blades designed to be almost as a full circle when aperture is closed which expresses starlike ray clearly and deep depth of field images. The body of the Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS is compact and solid since it is made of high-strength aluminum alloy. Amazing images can be captured even under the most difficult environments and the provided petal-shaped lens hood helps protect the lens from unnecessary light reducing flaring.

The Samyang 12mm f2 NMC CS is available for 5 camera mounts: Canon M, Sony E, MFT, Samsung NX, Fujifilm X 

DSCF1368 samyang12mm

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All images taken using the Fujifilm x-t1 with Samyang 12mm f2. Images are straight out of camera (SOOC) with no additional processing. Recipe used was based on Classic Negative.

Samyang 12mm F2.0 – Black Gold

Samyang 12mm F2.0 – Black Gold


I bought the Samyang 12mm f2.0 specifically to photograph my apartment as I wanted something wide, sharp and above all, cheap to help me create some marketing buzz. From everything I had read, the Samyang (or Rokinon as it also known) ticked all the boxes, both from it’s reviews and perhaps even more importantly the amount I had to pay to own one. From everything I found out, this was clearly a very good lens despite it’s low cost and while I am not generally known for my interest in ultrawide shots, I assumed that it could serve a purpose beyond interior photography. A few minutes walkabout with this lens confirmed that this was indeed the case, particularly the fact that at f8, everything was practically in focus from 1m to infinity. That makes it an invaluable street lens as you can simple set the focus on something within say, 2 metres away and everything closer and further away will be in focus too.

With regards my marketing shots, the images below are straight out of camera (SOOC) with no post-processing so what I saw through the lens is exactly what you are seeing now . For the record, the camera was a Fujifilm x-t1. Once lockdown is over and we are more freely able to move around I’ll take the lens out again soon and grab some shots, both landscape and local street shots. In the meantime, make you’re own mind up how good or otherwise this lens is from the images above.

Bad composition ruins good photos

Bad composition ruins good photos

The big problem with documentary photography is not so much catching the moment, it’s catching the right moment. I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen a great photo and simply missed the moment because I acted too quickly. Counter intuitive? Yes, in some ways, but with documentary shots i.e. street and candid you often feel like you have just a split second to act when in reality, your subjects aren’t going anywhere soon. Take this young couple sat on a wall enjoying the sunshine. They were so engrossed in their mobile phones that I could have danced naked in front of them and they probably wouldn’t have noticed. I literally had all the time in the world to compose the shot and fire off a few images. Stepping left and right to change my perspective and point of view would have undoubtadly paid dividends here. Fortunately, I didn’t screw things up completely and one of the three shots I took was marginly acceptable, see a little lower in the page, but the other two, dreadful.

So, what exactly went wrong? Well, in the example image shown above, I inadvertently placed my subjects exactly in front of two of the liners anchored in the bay.  All that space and I muddied an image I really wanted by not taking a few moments to look up, move left or right, and capture the perfect shot. This error is not alone though, another big boo-boo is that I was using the wrong focal length. The reason, I’d just taken a couple of close up shots where I wanted the subjects sharp against a blurry background. For these shots I’d set the 35mm lens to f1.4. That’s great for street portraiture but a real no-no for general street shots where typically you need to have a reasonable DOF for your images. For this reason I might choose anything between f2.8 and f8 depending on the light, shutter speed and what’s going on around me. Typically I settle on f4 as I feel it’s a good compromise but often I will walk around with the camera on f2.8 as I feel that if this was good enough for street photographers 40 – 50 years ago, Vivian Maier for example, it’s probably good enough for me today.

Sadly. I don’t have a good alternative to this shot as I didn’t check the image before walking on, at least not closely enough to spot my compositiona error. The only shot of the three that I felt was usable was the one below, which although at a different angle, kinda works for what I was trying to capture. Personally though, it’s not on par with the one I lost!

Finally, I just want to highlight, excuse the pun, the problem with shadows. Many a good shot has been ruined because we don’t check carefully enough for shadows encrouching on the image. This is especially true of our own shadows as we are often so engrossed in taking the photo that we forget to check on exactly how we are impacting on the image!! The golden rule of sun over the shoulder introduces a lot of shadow if you aren’t careful. Now, sometimes shadows can be awesome, even our own shadows but in many cases they are a distraction and they spoil an otherwise interesting image. Here’s an example of one such ruined shot through carelessness and poor composition as a lesson to us all!!

A Single Image | Feb 27th

A Single Image | Feb 27th

Gorgeously clear skies today so yet more opportunity to put the Fujifilm x-t1 and Viltrox 23mm f1.4 through it’s paces. This image, taken in the Geopark in Paignton, caught my eye purely for the colourful paintings on the sculpture against the bright blue of the sky. As usual, this image is a jpeg SOOC so no post-processing needed. It is based on my Superia 100 (Classic Negative) film simulation. The falloff at the top corners is not something I have noticed in other shots but here it is very apparent. I’m not too bothered by this as it’s quite reminiscent of the effect I have seen on film.

A Single Image | Feb 26th

A Single Image | Feb 26th

My mate Paul is a budding musician who’s been playing the saxaphone now for a couple of years. He’s been a great friend so I was really pleased to give him his first saxaphone, a student something or other, that I had from when I closed down my music shop a few years earlier. He’d mentioned his interest in learning the clarinet on several occasions and while I knew I had a clarinet knocking around somewhere, I couldn’t lay my hands on it at the time so I persuaded him to take the alto sax instead. Paul was somewhat reluctant but my way of thinking was, it’s free and you blow in to it so how different could it be!! Persuaded, he took on the challange.

Two years and a huge amount of practice later, Paul has without any doubt mastered the saxaphone, so much so that he recently asked if I would take a few photos for his facebook profile. Of course I said yes. Social distancing when taking photos is not paricularly difficult and current rules mean that we are allowed to meet one friend socially for some exercise and unusally, the sun was out so I felt that some nice colour shots might help him out.

The above shot is a one of a handful I took using the Fuji x-t1 with what I tend to call, a Superia 100 feel. Actually, looking at some old photos from the 90’s, I think it’s a cross between Fuji Pro 400H and Fuji Superia 100 but I’m quite happy with that. The Fuji x-t1 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of let’s say an x-t4 or x-pro3 so achieving something as “film like” as this is a real bonus for me.

For the most part, this image is SOOC but for those pixel peepers out there, I did add a small amount of grain using On1 PhotoRaw 2021. Sadly, there is no way to add grain in the x-t1 which to my mind and experience is what makes film look so uniquely different to digital. Anyway, here’s the Fuji recipe for anyone who’s interested in recreating or improving on this look.

  • Camera: Fujifilm x-t1
  • Lens: Viltrox 23mm f1.4
  • Target Film Look: Fujifilm Superia 100
  • Film Type: Pro Neg Hi
  • Custom White Balance: Grey card -1B -1R
  • EV: +1/3
  • DR: 400
  • ISO 800
  • Shadows: +2
  • Highlights: -2
  • Colour: -2
  • Sharpness: +2
  • Noise reduction: 0

I have to say that part way through the shoot I did reduce the ISO to 400 which results in the dynamic range being reset to 200 in camera and I also reduced the EV from +1/3rd to 0. This was because it was an incredibly bright day and the camera was shooting at such high shutter speeds that the electronic shutter was kicking in. No problem with this but I just felt I was pushing the envelope a little and backing off on the amount of light entering the sensor might yield a bonus. I cannot in all honesty say then that the shot shown above was at the exact settings I have outlined, it could have been at ISO 400, DR200 and EV 0.

Before I finish, a word on the Viltrox 23mm f1.4. This lens is crazy good for the money. Fast, sharp and colourful and a great addon to the Fuji x-t1. I have shot this lens with a few film simulations now, for example classic chrome, astia and pro neg but I come back mostly to the custom settings shown above.

SOOC – What, Why & How?

SOOC – What, Why & How?

Torquay Pier, February 2021
Torquay Pier, February 2021 SOOC Image

Spolier alert, this article is about using customised settings in your Fujifilm camera to create unique and interesting jpeg’s straight out of camera (SOOC). RAW shooters may want to turn away now 🙂

My interests in photography are coloured by the work of others, especially those involved in documentary, candid and so called street.  Photography of people doing everyday things in particular move me in a way that landscapes and formal portraits never have, despite the fact that I value them for the techical and aesthetic value they often bring to the table. This love of history and the photographers that trudged around the the streets 40, 50 and more years ago, push me inexorably to explore ways in which I can create my own style. This article looks at one such way.

While for the most part I’ve only been shooting digital for the past few years, my interests in photography go back to the 1970’s. My first serious camera was a Pentax KM complete with 50mm f1.8 kit lens although I also loved to play with Polaroid’s and instant film. Like most then I shot mainly in B&W, primarily because this afforded the opportunity to sit in dark cupboards and develop film but also because B&W was, and remains, enigmatic. It is as if by stripping away colour we are able to better see and enjoy the subject for what it is, rather than be confused by everything going on around it. Of course, I also shot in colour, why wouldn’t you, and although I preferred B&W as a medium for my photography, colour images of the day always offered a different take on the world primarily because of the limitations of the technology at that time and the vageries of the various emulsions on offer.

My first serious digital camera, apart from an old Nikon Coolpix from the mid 2000’s, was the Panasonic Lumix GX85 with a 12-32mm f3.5 kit lens. I updated the lens fairly quickly to the 12-60mm f3.5 although I have to say, that kit lens is a cracker. In fact, the GX85 was a great buy, technically capable of producing some great images despite its diminutive 16MP micro four thirds sensor. I still have that camera today but laterly, it’s been a little overshadowed by a move towards Fujifilm technology. It wasn’t supposed to be like this though, up until I bought my Fujifilm x-t1 I was looking to buy the Nikon Z6, newly released and getting excellent reviews. It was a chance article online where I learned about Fujifilm simulations, or so called straight out of camera (SOOC) jpegs that made me rethink that purchase. Although my GX85, and indeed my Nikon D600 and Canon G7 mkII all offered some interesting in-camera effects such as bleached bypass, monochrome, sepia, toy camera, vivid, subdued etc, none provided the tools to allow me to create my own unique style. Fujifilm did and that was a game changer for me because the one thing that I really wanted to do was to get closer to the tones and colours of my photography from the 1970’s. Fujifilm seemed the way forward to achieving that.

Although I could have waded in and bought the Fujifilm x-t3 or x-pro2, I decided to play safe and buy the older but very competent Fujifilm x-t1. My purchase, a 2016 model bought on Ebay, came boxed and still wrapped with all the extras for just £180. It looked brand new although how much use it had actually had I’ll never know. I also bought the 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens and a motor drive, to complete the setup figuring this would offer the perfect opportunity to explore SOOC without breaking the bank. If it was a success, I could always trade up or buy a second body, perhaps the x-t4 which was about to launch or even the x-pro3 which was an even better fit to my documentary interests.

So, what exactly is SOOC and why does it create so much interest? I don’t know about others but the attraction of SOOC to me is the ability to flavour what I capture through manipulating some of the key sensor parameters available to me. In the case of the x-t1 you start by choosing a base film emulation eg Classic Chrome, Pro Neg, Astia, Provia etc and then further modify this to provide a unique and interesting film intepretation. Factors you can control in the x-t1 include dynamic range (which is controlled by ISO), shadows, highlights, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction. Additionally, custom white balance with micro adjustments can be created to push or pull blues, push or pull reds. Changing any of these settings creates a new result SOOC giving the photographer access to literally an infinte number of looks to their jpegs.  

Of course to some people, especially those used to shooting RAW, why bother.  Jpegs after all have their colour and tone baked in and offer little scope for further processing without detriment to the original image. True. Fortunately, and like other systems, the Fuji is able to shoot both RAW and JPEG so you get the best of both worlds by choosing this option if you feel that the resulting output needs soem post-processing later. The primary difference to say Nikon or Sony is that, based on the ambient lighting and  your custom white balance, you are able to create a unique film-like jpeg SOOC plus you still have your RAW image to fall back on in post should you need it. The result of these manipulations to the jpeg is that they tend to have a milky, film like quality rather than the super sharpness you often associate with modern digital sensors. The image at the top of the page is an example of an unprocessed jpeg taken straight out of camera (SOOC) which uses various modifications to the tone curve as described above. I have also included a gallery of images at the end of this post that are created in a similar way, all SOOC from the Fuji x-t1. Later Fuji cameras BTW, such as the x-pro3 and x-t4 have even more features which provide for even better filmic experiences, for example the ability to add film grain.

The final part of this article is to look at the how in more detail. I mentioned that all of the images on this page have been created using a particular recipe. So that you better understand what this recipe looks like, I am going to outline the various parts in a little more detail. Importantly, this recipe is based on Pro Neg Hi, which pushes my jpegs towards Classic Negative or Fujifilm Superia 100 as it is better known. Superia 100 is a relatively unsaturated film stock pushed slightly towards blue and red. It has a harder tonality than say Pro Neg Hi which is can be achieved by adjusting the tone curve. Unfortunately, the natural start point for Superia 100 would be to start with a Classic Negative film emulation but this not an option on the x-t1 hence the reason I started with Pro Neg Hi and then modified the various parameters as explained above. So, here are the changes I made to the custom settings:

  • Film Type: Pro Neg Hi
  • White Balance: Grey card / B+1 R+1
  • Dynamic Range: 400
  • ISO: 800
  • Saturation: -2
  • Shadows: +2
  • Highlights: -2
  • Sharpness: -2
  • Noise Reduction: 0
  • EV: +1/3 – 2/3

This recipe is the base for all of the images on this page and as you can see, the ambient light conditions play a big part in what the final image looks like. Many photographers fall into the trap of labelling their images as Pro 400H, Superia 100, Portra 160 etc but in reallity I don’t feel that it’s possible to label a set of images in this way purely because as the light changes, so does the look of the image. I prefer to call my sets “like” Superia 100 as this is more appropriate in my eyes.

Fuji have in my eyes nailed the ability to take photography away from the pixel peepers into a whole new and exciting realm where the subject and composition matters much more that the sharpness of the image. Of course, my Sony shooting pals think I’m nuts but to me, it’s the imperfections in what I capture that make the image perfect for me.

The next phase of this particular “let’s get back to an analogue world” is to use my film results from the expired Superia 100 and Reala 100 films I have to help me fine tune my recipe. Although I love the Fuji x-t1 I fear that eventually I am going to have to upgrade to a later version in order to have access to some of the newer tweaks those cameras have with regards recipe formulation.