I posted last week that the Fuji X Weekly App contains 200 film simulation recipes for Fujifilm cameras! A question that I frequently get asked is, “How do I know which film simulation recipe to use in a specific situation?”
If you crossed out the words “simulation recipe” from that question, you’d have a very common inquiry from the film era. Back then, at any given time, there were just as many (if not more) film choices as there are film simulation recipe choices today—especially at the height of film in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s. Over the years there have been hundreds and hundreds of emulsions, maybe over a thousand. How does one know which film to use?
It’s a little easier today because there are far fewer film choices (but there’s still a lot!). Do you want color or black-and-white? That’s where I always started. What’s the lighting going to be? That helps decide the ISO that will be needed. Also, if color, will I need daylight or tungsten balanced? What filters might I need? Those are important factors to consider. Do I want low contrast or high (although how I shoot and develop factors significantly into this)? If color, low saturation or high? These questions and more, which are asked before the camera is even loaded, helps determine the film choice.
The two biggest factors, however, for my film choice decision were usually these: availability and experience. While there were hundreds to choose from, I might only have five or six different emulsions in the refrigerator at any given time. If I was going to buy some film before heading out or in preparation for it, I would be limited by the availability of the store, and that might be 10 emulsions or 100, depending on the place. A lot of times it would come down to what I’d used in the past and had success with. After awhile you figure out which options work for you. I liked to try different films just to see what I might get, but I often found myself returning to the ones that I really liked, which explains those five or six in the fridge.
With film simulation recipes, some of the same factors that determined which film to use can also help to determine which recipe to use. Color or black-and-white? Daylight or tungsten? High contrast or low contrast? High saturation or low saturation? A big difference is that you are not limited to “the stock in your fridge” or what a store might carry. And maybe you don’t have a lot of experience with them to know which recipes might work well in a specific scenario. The more experience you get, the more you’ll know, but that takes time, perhaps years, of using different recipes in various situations.
My hope in the coming year is to do a lot more to help with this. I want to make it easier for people to determine which recipes might be good options in whichever photographic situations that they find themselves in. This, of course, is a pretty monumental challenge, not only because there are so many recipes (and always more in the works!), but because there are more potential photographic situations than there are recipes. This is something that books could be written about. Even so, I will do my best with this project, because I want it to be easier for you to determine which recipes to use when.
That’s great for the future, but what about now? What resources are available today to determine which recipe to program into your Fujifilm camera for whatever it is that you’re about to shoot?
The Fuji X Weekly App is a good starting point. If you are not already, become an App Patron so that you can unlock the ability to filter. Select your camera or sensor, then choose color or black-and-white, or a specific film simulation if you know that you want an aesthetic a certain film simulation produces. You can also filter by White Balance, which can potentially be helpful if you have an idea of the lighting conditions you’ll encounter, or Dynamic Range, which can potentially be helpful if you know how harsh the light will be. These tools help to determine which recipe to use by filtering out the ones that might not be good options.
Otherwise, my Film Simulation Reviews page and the SOOC video series are two other resources that might be helpful. Film Simulation Reviews are articles that show specific recipes in specific situations, so if you find yourself in a similar situation you can know how that recipe will do (whether good or bad). It’s not nearly as robust of a library as I’d like it to be, but it might be helpful nonetheless. In the SOOC videos, not only is a specific recipe discussed and used, but, in the “Special Occasions” segment, recipes for specific scenarios are suggested. Be sure to visit YouTube.com/c/FujiXWeekly to find those videos.
Of course, the sample pictures within the recipes are intended to give you a clue if it might be a good choice or not. I can’t provide sample pictures captured in every photographic genre and every lighting condition, but I try to provide a good mix to help you know whether it might work well for you or not. If you haven’t spent much time viewing the sample images, it might be worth your time to look longer at them. If you are a Fuji X Weekly App Patron, when you encounter a recipe that you think might work for you based on the sample pictures, use one of the Star colors to mark it, so that you can revisit it whenever you’re ready to program a recipe into your camera.
Much like with film, perhaps the best way to know whether a recipe will work well for your specific photographic situation is with experience. If you try it and it does well, now you know. And if it doesn’t, now you know. Program seven recipes into your C1-C7 Custom Presets, and see how they do. You can use the colored Stars in the App to help you keep track of which ones you especially like (maybe use green stars) and which ones you especially don’t (perhaps use red stars). After that, try another seven recipes.
I wish that I had a more helpful response to, “How do I know which film simulation recipe to use in a specific situation?” There are as many potential photographic situations as there are film simulation recipes to choose from, and it’s not always easy to determine which ones are best for what. The Fuji X Weekly App has some great tools that can help, and there are other resources, too, but the best answer is that it takes experience, which you’ll get as you try them out in various scenarios. The more you shoot with them, the more you’ll know which ones are good options for whatever situation you’re in. In the coming year I want to do more to help with this, so that there’s a little less trial-and-error involved on your part, and those with little or no experience don’t have quite as steep of a learning curve to climb. I have a long ways to go, but I am determined to make this website a better resource for those trying to figure out which recipes to program into their Fujifilm camera.