Sepia: The Forgotten Film Simulation

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No Credit Tires – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2 – Sepia

Sepia is Fujifilm’s forgotten film simulation. Despite being included on every X camera since the original X100, very few people use it. Some photographers mock the Sepia film simulation, calling it gimmicky or amateurish. It’s even been the butt of jokes. There seems to be no love for it. I believe that the Sepia film simulation is misunderstood and underappreciated, and it deserves more respect.

You might be surprised to learn that actual sepia is a byproduct of cuttlefish, and it’s been a part of photography for over 150 years. Sepia is used for its archival properties. When black-and-white photographic prints are given a sepia bath, it stabilizes the silver, which slows the aging process. It also stains the paper, producing a brownish-red tone. The longer the paper sits in a sepia bath, the stronger the sepia tone will be. Some photographers would leave their prints in the bath for a long time, producing a pronounced tint. Many years ago when I printed my own black-and-white pictures in a darkroom, I would only give my pictures a quick dip in sepia, which would produce a very subtle warm tone. Sepia has both form and function in the photographic process.

The majority of black-and-white photographers used sepia, although many preferred a short bath for subtle effect; however, some wanted the full sepia aesthetic with it’s pronounced warm tones. There have been different eras in photography when a strong sepia stain was in vogue. You can change the emotion of a black-and-white photograph by toning it, so it’s no surprise that a warm tone would be popular. Even when it wasn’t popular, there were still some photographers who would purposefully use sepia for artistic effect.

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Snow on Rudy Drain – Salt Lake City, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm f/2 – Sepia

Even though film photography is much less prevalent now, sepia is still being used today in analog black-and-white printing. It’s unnecessary in digital photography, but Fujifilm has provided an easy solution for simulating the effect: the Sepia film simulation. Specifically, it mimics the look of a black-and-white print that’s spent some time in a sepia bath. Some might call it “old timey” in appearance; yes, sepia has been used in photography for a very long time, yet it is still being used today. Maybe it’s not so gimmicky and amateurish after all.

You know that I love to create film simulation recipes that produce straight-out-of-camera results which mimic analog aesthetics. I have created many different color and black-and-white recipes for Fujifilm cameras, and in the process used all of the different film simulation options that Fujifilm provides on their cameras, except for one: Sepia. This is the first time that I’ve used the Sepia film simulation as the basis for a recipe. I love the feeling that these settings produce in an image; there’s a certain emotional response to Sepia that’s not found in the Acros or Monochrome film simulations. I invite you to try these settings for yourself, and perhaps you’ll discover a newfound respect for the lowly Sepia film simulation.

Sepia film simulation recipe for the X100V, X-Pro3 and X-T4:

Sepia
Dynamic Range DR400
Highlight & Shadow: +3
Grain: Strong, Large
Color Chrome Effect & Color Chrome Effect Blue: Off
Clarity: +2
Sharpening: -2
Noise Reduction: -4

Example photographs:

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Sepia Sun – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V

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Broken Barrier – Kaysville, UT – Fujifilm X100V

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Espresso Yourself – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100V

Sepia film simulation recipe for X-Trans III plus X-T3 and X-T30 cameras:

Sepia
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight & Shadow: +3
Grain: Strong
Color Chrome: Off or N/A
Sharpening: -2
Noise Reduction: -4

Example photographs:

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Lens in the Window Light – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 90mm f/2

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Chair Light & Shadow Abstract – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Night Pump – Centerville, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5

Sepia film simulation recipe for X-Trans I & II plus Bayer cameras:

Sepia
Dynamic Range DR200
Highlight & Shadow: +2
Sharpening: -1
Noise Reduction: -2

Example photographs:

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Cup of Beans – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Selfie – Uintah, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

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Suburban Pond in Winter – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 & Fujinon 35mm f/2

See also:
Film Simulation Recipes
Review: Fujifilm X-T30
Review: Fujinon 35mm f/2
Review: Fujinon 90mm f/2
Asahi Super-Takumar 28mm f/3.5

Fujifilm X100F Review Blog

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26 comments

  1. Tim Matson · July 1

    Look forward to reading about fuji sepia!

    FYI,

    my new site

    https://www.timmatson.com/

    cheers

    tim

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rajeshmohanty · 29 Days Ago

    Wow. Just found your site and work. Amazing work you got here! With such an immense and deep understanding of the settings and its environment, you are really a very helpful gem in this community. Like an alchemist and cook, you are turning the cameras to an ultimate photo producing machine. But XT-30 allows just SEVEN recipes to be saved. Now I am in such a dilemma to choose. I am looking for a recipe which allows me for some good off-camera editing, some good colour production, and some good film looks. I mostly shoot street and nature. Hoping for your suggestions, and excited to see how each of them turn out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • raj · 28 Days Ago

      Also is there any recipe similar to Cyberpunk style?

      Like

      • georgesimpsonart · 25 Days Ago

        I tried some cyberpunk style things on my xe1.
        If you mean the very saturated, often pink+blue.
        Use velvia, max colour, lowest kelvin then boost up the red near max. Definitely boost the colour. It’s meant to be overdone like Neon lights or comic books.
        I prefer other colours (blade runner orange? Film noir with red?) but much the same, select extreme white balance and boost as needed.
        Can even set a strange ‘custom white balance’ it by taking pics of saturated objects.
        I’d noticed doing that it naturally fell to a pink+blue look is all.

        Then you just have to take some decent subject matter! Exposing for highlights. And then even more underexposed probably

        Liked by 2 people

      • raj · 25 Days Ago

        Oh, Thanks for sharing the trick, George. Really loved the look.

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · 19 Days Ago

        I’m not familiar with Cyberpunk. Do you have any examples?

        Liked by 1 person

      • raj · 19 Days Ago

        Cyberpunk and Blade Runner and neo-noir, are mostly similar. It gives futuristic vibes to neon lights and busy wet roads. This style of editing is mostly new.

        Ritchie Roesch, I am looking for jpegs with maximum room for post-editing. Any suggestion? Also, have you thought of setting up a Patreon page?

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · 18 Days Ago

        I’m thinking Velvia with Color turned up would be a good starting point. I’ll look into it.
        For JPEGs with the most editing room, I would set DR to 400 or use D-Range Priority. Set Grain to Off. Maybe set Sharpness and NR to-4. Shoot low ISO. If you are heavily editing JPEGs, you might consider editing RAW instead. Maybe consider this:
        https://fujixweekly.com/2019/10/12/exposure-x5-my-top-5-favorite-features-for-fujifilm-photographers/
        I have thought of a Patreon page. Is that something you’d be interested in? What type of content would make it “worth it” to you?

        Liked by 1 person

      • raj · 18 Days Ago

        Thanks for explaining. Ya, Patreon would be a good thing to do. It will make your goals more achievable and support you over the months. Maybe the Patreon users can get access to more features. Features like reviews of the recipes etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 18 Days Ago

        I’ve considered possibly doing Patreon, or I could have “premium” content right on this blog that requires a subscription to view, I just wasn’t sure the interest. I appreciate the input! It’s definitely helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • raj · 18 Days Ago

        Also, Patreon users can get XT-4 recipes in their XT-3. You can add features that will be unique for patreons.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 18 Days Ago

        That’s an interesting idea. I think there are some possibilities for quality content, for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jimmy · 18 Days Ago

        I don’t think it’s possible to get X-T4 recipes on the X-T3, the jpeg features just aren’t on it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • raj · 18 Days Ago

        Another idea for Patreon. Initially, for me, it was hard to select recipes in this site. Because there a lot of recipes, a simplified table or list arranged with labels could be helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 18 Days Ago

        Yes, that’s something I have wanted to do. I’ve been working towards the practical application of the recipes.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · 19 Days Ago

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! It’s really appreciated! The seven presets (only having seven) is a bit limiting. I like Kodachrome II and 64. If you haven’t tried those, be sure to do so. Velvia can be a good option for landscapes. Mostly, just try different recipes that look interesting to you and see what you like.

      Liked by 1 person

    • raj · 18 Days Ago

      That sucks. I hope Ritchie, somehow finds a way to get XT-4 recipes on XT-3. I absolutely loved Reala and Superia 100. Nice work Ritchie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 18 Days Ago

        Thank you! It’s possible that Fujifilm will update the X-T3 and give it the new features, but I don’t know if it when that might happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. georgesimpsonart · 28 Days Ago

    I wonder how it compares with toning options! I don’t have those, except for post on PC.
    Great photos but I always think, now if it were just 40% as much sepia. Maybe adding blue tone to it to counter.
    What would really be cool is if fuji had the toner but split between light/dark for a subtle colour contrast.

    I’m also a fan of cyanotype colours more. Why did sepia get the trend? It reminds me a little to much of early-2000s digital compact options for old time effect… But of course despite that cliche it still is legitimate

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · 19 Days Ago

      You know, I’ve wanted to do a comparison. It’s a great suggestion!
      I’ve also thought that Sepia can be, well, too much Sepia. I never let my B&W prints sit in a Sepia bath long enough to get as stained as the film simulation looks, but I knew a couple people who did.
      The new toning option on the X100V, X-T4 and X-Pro4 is very good for precise color, it’s really quite amazing. I would like a split-tone option. You can get a split-tone look by double-exposure, but only if there’s no movement.
      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

      • georgesimpsonart · 17 Days Ago

        That’s a good idea with split tone! I’ve recently been trying complimentary colours, using the hue/saturation on my phone! I found making a ‘cyanotype’ looked good if I gave the highlights an off – white orange paper look, which may be common in the actual process (or I’m looking at old faded ones) . But multiple exposure, will try it out for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · 15 Days Ago

        Yes, definitely give that a try! I think it’s possible to do, but will take some playing around to figure out.

        Like

  4. tokyoinpics · 22 Days Ago

    I’ve never used Sepia, not once. But after reading this and seeing the pics I think I should give it a try.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Film Simulation Recipe Compatibility: Bayer, X-Trans I & II | Fuji X Weekly

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