“What exactly is Fuji X Weekly?”
“What is your website about?”
“What is it that you do?”
I get these questions often. People I meet ask them. Photographers just trying to understand what this thing they keep hearing about ask them. Family and friends ask them. While these are common and seemingly straightforward inquiries, giving a good answer has not been easy. I’ve struggled with this, and I’ve concluded that I haven’t considered enough what the Fuji X Weekly story is. Why did I create this website? What has it evolved into? Why do you come here? This article is my attempt at articulating answers to these questions.
In the very first post on the Fuji X Weekly blog I stated, “I love to photograph and I love to write. Those are two things that I truly enjoy. So I decided to do just that, without profit or self-promotion as a driving force. If nobody ever reads this, I’m OK with that. I’m not looking for money or attention. I’m publishing this because that’s what I want to do.” I then added, “I’ve called this blog Fuji X Weekly because I plan to publish one article per week. Sometimes I might write more than that, sometimes less. The topic of choice is Fujifilm X cameras, specifically my Fujifilm X100F that I purchased four weeks ago. I’ll be talking about one camera. I’ll be writing about my personal experiences with this one camera. And that’s it! However, I purposely left the name of this site, Fuji X Weekly, a little more ambiguous in case that I decide in the future to expand to include other cameras. I didn’t want to make something that might become too limiting or obsolete in a few years.” I did eventually change the website to be all-things-Fujifilm instead of just about the X100F.
That’s a good origin story description, even if it is a little lengthy. I would summarize it like this: “I started Fuji X Weekly because I love to photograph and write, and I desired to share my journey with whoever wanted to come along for the ride, even if that was no one. Originally it was exclusively about the Fujifilm X100F camera, but I was open to someday expand it to Fujifilm in general, which eventually did happen. I committed to publishing at least one article per week.”
That’s how it began, but what is Fuji X Weekly today? How did it get there? Where is it going?
I started Fuji X Weekly more than four years ago, and a lot has happened in the meantime. Early on I began to publish film simulation recipes—the first two were Acros and Classic Chrome. I didn’t realize the significance of this—in fact, I don’t even remember why I called them “recipes” (Did I coin it? Did I see someone else use it first? Honestly, I have no idea. However it came to be, the term has unquestionably become a part of the Fujifilm lexicon!)—by far these were the articles that people came to the website for. People wanted JPEG settings for their Fujifilm cameras. My fifth film simulation recipe, which I published nearly four years ago, was Vintage Kodachrome. To this day it is a fan-favorite—so far it is the fourth most viewed recipe in 2021, and stands as the number one most viewed recipe of all-time. It was a breakthrough for me because I realized that I could mimic specific films and aesthetics by being more bold and creative with the settings. This recipe required some settings adjustments that most people would not have dared to try on their own because they were pretty extreme, but the results were interesting, similar to the first era of Kodachrome film.
I began more-and-more to model new recipes after specific films and development processes. I’ve now published over 175 film simulation recipes, many of them modeled after film stocks. How was I able to do this?
The Fuji X Weekly story actually goes all the way back to the summer of 1998—the summer between high school and college—when I travelled to Vermont with some friends. I borrowed my dad’s 35mm Sears SLR and shot a whole bunch of rolls of film. When I returned home, I excitedly dropped off the film at a one-hour lab, and, when they were developed, the pictures were… absolutely awful! Many were blurry, most were significantly overexposed or underexposed (a difficult feat considering the exposure latitude of many films), and poorly composed. I was so disappointed. That fall, when I enrolled in college, I chose Photography 101 as an elective, because I wanted to be able to capture a decent picture. It wasn’t for a love of the camera that I enrolled, but out of determination born from failure; however, I discovered very quickly that I loved photography.
For the next year-and-a-half you’d often find me in the darkroom, with the strong scent of photographic chemicals in the air, developing and printing my pictures. I remember one day heading into the lab before sunrise and not finishing until after sunset—I had missed the entire daylight portion of the day! If I wasn’t in the darkroom, or in class, or at one of my two jobs, or doing homework, I was out with my camera, a Canon AE-1. That was my favorite part of photography: out on some adventure in search of something interesting to photograph. When I didn’t have access to a darkroom, I most often shot slides, which I could send off to a lab and get consistent results back.
As is common in life, I was thrown a couple of curve balls, and I didn’t pursue photography as a career. I had an opportunity to work for JCPenney as a catalog photographer, which I turned down because I lacked the confidence in my own abilities and didn’t have the courage to take the risk. I went a whole different direction with my career, and photography was “just a hobby” for a long time. I continued to shoot film, resisting the move to digital because I didn’t like how digital photographs looked. I remember very proudly being able to tell if a picture was captured on film or digitally just by looking at it. Slowly it became harder and harder to tell, but I could still tell. It wasn’t until 2009 that I got my first digital camera, and I felt like I had to learn photography all over again because it was so much different.
I shot both film and digital for awhile. I preferred how film looked, but digital was more consistent, convenient, and cheaper (at least once the initial investment was made). I jumped from brand-to-brand, trying to find one that I liked, but was never completely happy with any. First I tried Pentax (because by this time I was shooting with a Pentax film camera, and those lenses were compatible with the digital camera), then Samsung (remember when they made interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras?), then Sigma (oh, the much loved and hated Foveon sensor!), then Nikon, then Sony (with a Panasonic briefly thrown in for good measure), and finally Fujifilm. My first Fujifilm camera was an X-E1, which I loved, although a year later it was replaced by an X100F, which I loved even more!
When I setup my Fujifilm X-E1, I chose RAW+JPEG, but mostly used the RAW files. Occasionally I preferred the camera-made JPEGs. My JPEG settings were the factory defaults (I didn’t bother to adjust them), yet the results were sometimes quite nice. In those cases I’d use the JPEG over the RAW, and not bother with post-processing, or (perhaps more commonly) I would lightly edit the JPEGs. I began to realize during this time that Fujifilm’s JPEGs were higher quality than the other brands that I’d used, although I wasn’t completely convinced yet that I could rely on out-of-camera JPEGs. When I setup my X100F, I also chose RAW+JPEG, and I quickly discovered that the JPEGs were even better than those from the X-E1. The epiphany that I could rely on JPEGs (and not fiddle with RAW anymore) came after I edited some RAW files, and when I compared them to the straight-out-of-camera JPEGs they were very similar. My first thought was, “Why am I spending all this time editing RAW files only to get the same look as the JPEGs?” My second thought was, “If I adjust the JPEG settings, can I get even closer to my edited RAW files?” The first two recipes, Acros and Classic Chrome, came from this. They were my attempts to get my out-of-camera JPEGs to more closely match my edited RAW files.
The advantages of shooting JPEGs are time, simplicity, and enjoyment. Because I was no longer editing RAW pictures, I suddenly had a lot more time. My rule-of-thumb was that every hour of photographing would require two-to-three hours of post-processing. With JPEGs I could “post-process” hours of photography in minutes. My workflow suddenly evolved into uploading the pictures from the camera to my iPhone, cropping and/or making very minor adjustments if needed (not usually needed) using the Photos App, and uploading the pictures to the Cloud for storage. That’s it. My production noticeably increased while simultaneously I had more time to spend with family and friends. It’s amazing how many hours and hours I had been spending for years in front of a computer monitor fiddling with pictures, and now I didn’t need to. This had a profound impact on my life, and that’s not hyperbole. The simplicity of this approach was freeing! I no longer needed RAW editing software, or any photo editing software, or even a computer if I didn’t want to have one. The process was more analog-like—more reminiscent of my film days—and I found it to be more enjoyable. Photography became even more fun for me! I began to realize that these JPEG settings were helping a lot of other people in the same ways that they were helping me. My recipes allowed them to save time, simplify their process, and make photography more enjoyable for them.
I would summarize this (very long) portion of the Fuji X Weekly story like this: “I used my experience as a film photographer to create JPEG settings, called film simulation recipes, that often mimic film stocks. These settings save time, simplify the photographic process, and make capturing pictures even more enjoyable.”
Photographers who were using these recipes began to spread the word—the popularity of Fuji X Weekly grew very organically. Experts would probably tell you that, from the very beginning, I did everything wrong to grow the audience. I did almost nothing—barely anything at all—for the first three years to promote the website. It was others, on their own accord, spreading the word to the photography community, because these recipes made a difference to their photography. There were just over one million page-views over the first two years combined, which I thought was a lot. Then Fujirumors picked up on the website, followed by Andrew & Denae, Vuhlandes, Omar Gonzalez, and many others, and traffic significantly jumped. The Fuji X Weekly audience continues to grow and grow, and much of that is still organic—just photographers telling other photographers about film simulation recipes, and how they’ve made a difference to their photography.
About one year ago Sahand Nayebaziz, an app developer and photographer who shoots Fujifilm cameras and uses Fuji X Weekly recipes, reached out to me with a proposal: let’s make an app together. My wife, Amanda, had been telling me for awhile that these recipes needed to be in an app, but I didn’t have the knowledge, experience, or resources to do it. Sahand did, and he wanted to partner with me to make it happen. We worked very hard for a couple of months, and on December 1, 2020, the Fuji X Weekly App launched on iOS, and we continued to work hard, and on March 1, 2021 the app launched on Android. These were major accomplishments that just wouldn’t have happened without Sahand—frankly, there would be no Fuji X Weekly App without him.
There have been, of course, many other people who have helped Fuji X Weekly along the way: Thomas Schwab, Anders Lindborg, Daniele Petrarolo, Nathalie Boucry, Immanuel Sander, Luis Costa, Ryan, Piotr Skrzypek, K. Adam Christensen, George Coady, Manuel Sechi, Julien Jarry, and many, many others. My apologies for not including your name if you contributed something—I know that I’m forgetting several, as there have been so many over the years. This really has become a community, where we’re all helping each other, because we’re all journeying down this same path together. It’s a team effort, and you, the Fuji X Weekly reader, are a part of that team!
I would summarize this portion of the Fuji X Weekly story like this: “Fuji X Weekly grew in popularity very organically, largely spreading by word of mouth. A lot of people have helped in various ways, and, because of that, this has become much more than a website—it is a community of photographers journeying down the same path.”
Over the summer I secretly worked on another project: recipes for Ricoh cameras. I made JPEG recipes for the Ricoh GR, GR II, GR III, and GR IIIx cameras, and just last month I lunched a new website, Ritchie’s Ricoh Recipes, and published a new App for Ricoh GR. My wife told me that I needed an overarching website to link Fuji X Weekly and Ritchie’s Ricoh Recipes together, so I created RitchieRoesch.com. The very first words on this website are: “Custom JPEG settings for cameras. Get the look you want straight-out-of-camera without the need to edit. Easy to use. Free.” That’s what I do. That’s what my websites are about. That’s my contribution to the photography continuum. Right now this is for Fujifilm X and Ricoh GR cameras, but perhaps someday it will expand beyond those brands—it’s hard to know what the future holds. Fujifilm is my preferred choice—no doubt about it—and I will continue to create recipes for X-series cameras for as long as I can. I immensely enjoy what I do, and I know for certain that I will continue to do it.
I would summarize this portion of the Fuji X Weekly story like this: “I immensely enjoy creating recipes, and I will continue to do so as long as I can.”
That’s a pretty long story (which, by the way, could have been much longer, but I didn’t want to bore you too much), and I’m glad that you found it entertaining enough to get this far. Really, I’m honored and humbled that you would be this interested in what I do, and that you’re journeying with me on this adventure. If you did find it to be a little too wordy, here’s the Cliffs Notes version:
I started Fuji X Weekly because I love to photograph and write, and I desired to share my journey with whoever wanted to come along for the ride, even if that was no one. Originally it was exclusively about the Fujifilm X100F camera, but I was open to someday expand it to Fujifilm in general, which eventually did happen. I committed to publishing at least one article per week. I used my experience as a film photographer to create JPEG settings, called film simulation recipes, that often mimic film stocks. These settings save time, simplify the photographic process, and make capturing pictures even more enjoyable. Fuji X Weekly grew in popularity very organically, largely spreading by word of mouth. A lot of people have helped in various ways, and, because of that, this has become much more than a website—it is a community of photographers journeying down the same path. I immensely enjoy creating recipes, and I will continue to do so as long as I can.
Or, even more simply:
I create free and easy-to-use custom JPEG settings to achieve looks straight-out-of-camera without the need to edit.
Whether it’s the long version, short version, or super short version, this is the Fuji X Weekly story; however, this isn’t the end, it’s really just the beginning. I hope this is Chapter 1 of a much longer tale, and that you join me on this journey, wherever it leads.