Fuji X Weekly reader Luis Costa asked me if I could create a Kodak Portra 400 film simulation recipe for the Fujifilm X100F. I liked the idea and thought it would be a fun challenge, so I agreed. What I didn’t realize is that challenge was the keyword, as this was extremely difficult to figure out. I gave up a couple of times, but then some inspiration pushed me forward, and eventually I got it right. Or, at least, very close to right.
Portra 400 is a daylight balanced color negative film made by Kodak. There have been four different versions made since it was introduced in 1998: the original film (1998-2000), 400NC and 400VC (2000-2011), and the current version (2011 to present). I’ve used Portra 400NC (“neutral color”) and 400VC (“vivid color”) in the past, but I’ve not shot on Portra film for at least a decade, and I’ve never used the current one. There isn’t a huge difference between the different Portra 400 films, but there are small distinctions as they each have a slightly varied look.
As the name implies, this film is designed for portraits, and has a warm tint in order to enhance skin tones. Being daylight balanced means if you use it on a cloudy day, indoors, under artificial light, etc., it will look different. It’s designed for use in daylight, and using it in other circumstances will skew the white balance (which could be good or bad, depending on the image).
White balance became both the key to this film simulation recipe and the problem. I first tried auto-white-balance (with a white balance shift of +2 Red and -5 Blue), and I got good results a few times and not good results a bunch of times. Next I set it to Daylight (using the same shift) but it wasn’t quite right. Then I tried setting the Kelvin value, starting with 5600K, but couldn’t find one that was correct. Finally, I used Custom White Balance, but it took seven or eight different measurements before I got it right. I did get it right, though.
The measurement that worked was out the back door of my house midday, slightly back-lit, partly cloudy with a lot of green in the scene. Interestingly enough, once I got it right I then tried to get the same custom white balance on my X-Pro2, but it measured slightly different. My suggestion is to use auto-white-balance, and once you capture an image that looks right, use custom white balance to make a measurement of the scene and set it. I think that should work, anyway. Otherwise, just keep trying to get the custom white balance right by taking different measurements until you find one that looks good.
Nailing down an exact Portra 400 look is tricky business because it depends on which version of Portra 400 film you are talking about, plus whether it was scanned (and which scanner) or printed (and which chemicals and paper). To verify that I was close, I put a couple of images through the RNI Films app on my phone using their Portra 400 preset, and compared it to my Portra 400 film simulation recipe. It was very close, but who knows how accurate their Portra preset is and what exactly it is supposed to be simulating (which film version and process). It was good verification that my recipe is at least in the ballpark, as I’m sure their preset is in the ballpark. I also examined images captured with actual Portra 400 film. I don’t think any film simulation is going to be an exact match because there are too many variables, but I think it’s perfectly alright to not be 100% spot on, as long as it gives the right impression, and this recipe does just that.
There are a few of the settings that I’ve debated, going back-and-forth over what’s most accurate. I think that the white balance shift gives the right color cast, but perhaps a bit too strongly. I’ve tried changing it, but, to me, this is what looks most correct. I’ve tried the shadows at +3 but think +2 is better. I’m still not completely convinced that highlights should be at -1 as sometimes 0 looks better, but more often -1 looks right to me. Sometimes I think that color should be at -2 and not -3, but -2 almost looks too saturated. There is certainly room to play around with the settings if one doesn’t completely agree with what I’ve chosen.
The most difficult part of my Kodak Portra 400 Film Simulation recipe will be getting the white balance correct. I didn’t find an easy way to achieve it. It’s going to take trial-and-error. With any luck you’ll get it on the first try. There are three custom white balance settings, and you can make three different ones and see which gives the best results. Just remember that Portra is a daylight balanced film, so measuring a daylight scene will give you a better chance of getting it right.
Here’s the recipe:
Dynamic Range: DR400
Noise Reduction: -3
White Balance: Custom, +2 Red & -5 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +1 to +1-1/3 (typically)
The photographs labelled “Portra 400” (which are all of them except for the two RNI Films examples) are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I did slightly crop a couple of them, but no other adjustments were made, just minor cropping.
Click here for my complete list of Fujifilm X100F film simulation recipes!
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Hi there! thanks for the recipe! i will try it on my xt20! Do you have any aproximate recipe for non classic chrome models? i really enjoy shooting with xpro1 so i would really benefit from one! thanks again! great job! keep them coming!
I’m not sure how you would accomplish this look without Classic Chrome. Maybe start with PRO Neg. Std and figure it out from there, I’m sure there will be other adjustments to make it work. Thank you for the comment!
thank you ! you are genius….
Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but thanks!
Amazing thank you for doing this! Any thoughts on how to get the look of the portra 800? I thought simply more grain but to me the greens look deeper!
Thank you! As far as Portra 800, perhaps change shadow +3, highlight 0 and keep the ISO at 1600 and higher. The color shift might need to be adjusted but I’m not sure exactly to what.
please do gold 200!
Thanks for all the work you put into these posts 🙂
But i have one problem: the photos you post are soooo small…. i cant see any of the nice organic grain you talk about all the time 😉
I agree with that, and I apologize. I’ve had my photos stolen many times, and using low resolution copies on this site helps to deter that. I would love to post full resolution, unfortunately people will just copy my work illegally. Maybe I can makes some crops to show just how nice some of these images look close up. Thanks for commenting!
Weeellll, post them full resolution then and register them with copytrack.com and earn a nice amount of cash everytime they get stolen and used somewhere in the web 😁
If it was only that easy. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with thieves in foreign countries there’s not much that one can do, especially depending on the country. And, besides, not all stolen pictures get used on the web, in fact a lot aren’t. One day a few years ago I was flipping through the newspaper and realized that an image in an ad was mine! I have in the past made money from stolen pictures, but it was never a pleasant experience. Thank you for the tip, though.
Have a look at copytrack. They operate in 140 countries and you don’t have any work or costs. They’ll find the photos on the web, notify you, you decide if it’s a case or if it’s legal. Lean back and wait for your money.
Hi! Is there any way to get Portra 400 simulation (or similar results) on X-Trans II sensor camera? I have X-T1.
Ps. Great site, wonderful shots!
The tricky thing about Portra is getting the white balance correct. Beyond that, you can try the settings here, and adjust until it looks right. I’m guessing that you might have to bring up the shadow by one and probably color, too. I appreciate your kind words.
I am embarrassed to say that I am still not 100% on how to program these custom film simulations into the X100F.
You have to go into the menu and edit/save custom settings. Once saved, you can find them in the Q menu. The one caveat is that the white balance shift cannot be saved with the presets.
Sure, you can:
1) Define a custom white balance in the menu (you have 3 “slots” for it). I created a CWB#3 with +2R, -5B.
2) In the I.Q. menu, go to edit customer settings, then choose one of the seven slots to define a setting. Therein, choose your customized WB (in my case CWB#3) under “white balance setting”.
When you now change the custom settings C1 … C7 in the Q menu with the back side thumb wheel, also WB changes accordingly.
Custom white balance is a custom measurement. For things like “Daylight” it might be feasible to use Custom WB (simply measure a typical daylight lightening situation), but for AWB or a specific Kelvin value, it seems to me that Custom WB wouldn’t work. I guess for AWB, if you are constantly remeasuring the WB every time the light changes, that might also work, but is perhaps more effort than it’s worth?
Just want to say a huge thanks for taking the time to share these recipes – I shoot Portra 400 on my old Nikon F3 and have failed miserably to emulate the effect on my Fuji 100xf. All the best – Andrew
You are welcome! I hope you found something that works for you.
Hi! I have x-t30. Can I use the same recipe? Give me some advice. thank you.
You can. The tricky thing with this recipe is getting the custom white balance measurement correct, and there’s not an easy answer for that. You have to keep taking custom measurements until it looks right.
When I emulate these setting my shadows almost always clip and leave me with a very contrasty image. To combat this I follow your advice and use exposure comp but then my high lights clip or leave me with unflattering skin tones. Any advice? Thank you regardless for getting me a step closer to a perfect all situation color preset! 🙂
Thank you for asking. My advice is to season the recipe to taste, so perhaps reduce the highlight or shadow by one and see if it works better for you.
This is excellent work! This is probably an off the mark question, but have you ever tried to replicate the look of these settings on a RAW file? How would you suggest applying the principals to editing RAW? Just curious as I tend to like to shoot RAW because my tastes can be fickle and I like to be able to change things up.
Thank you! I don’t shoot much RAW anymore, so I haven’t played around enough with software to figure it out. However, Exposure X5 has some great presets, such as Portra 400, so the wheel doesn’t necessarily have to be reinvented.
Thank you very much for sharing your precious recipes. It really changed my way of looking to the CC Simulation. I really like the Portra recipe for portrait as an alternative to pro-neg. Kindest Regards.
You are very welcome! Thank you for the feedback.
Would this work on a XF10?
No, unfortunately; however, look for some recipes in the coming weeks that will work on the XF10, so stay tuned!
You’re the best. Thank you
Hi , you think this will work in XF10? I like your chrome recipe but this one seems less contrasted
If I have to adjust the dynamic range to 400, the ISO have to change to 800? Is that correct?
Portra 400 for Bayer please or something from Provia/Velvia/Astia recipe to make Portra 400. Thanks.
I appreciate the suggestion!
I’m a new fujifilm user. 😀 this is my very first camera and I’m loving it so far. I learn new things everyday. Now I found your site too, I look forward to learn more. I’m sorry if I cannot support you financially yet I’m jobless at the moment but planning to start photography business eventually. Once I can, I will! Thank you for the hardwork!
You are welcome! I’m sorry about your job situation, I hope that things improve soon. Take care!
I have a Fuji x100 orginal with Bayer wish I could use this on it.
Unfortunately it’s not compatible. The X100 is very limited. My X-M1 is similarly limited.
You can try this:
Because the X-Trans II sensor is warmer, you likely have to change the WB Shift. Maybe try +1 Red & -6 Blue. That might be too much, but give it a try. If it’s too warm, you can try 0 Red and/or -5 Blue.
Since “Custom” is not an Auto WB, do you have to take WB measurements for each scene?
You take one measurement, and if you got it “right” you’re set. The trick is getting it “right” because that’s not always easy. That’s why I never made another recipe with Custom WB: it’s not easy to replicate.
Been playing around with X100F for couple last months and by far this recipe is my favorite!
Awesome! So glad to hear it! 😀