How to Know Which Film Simulation Recipe to Use?

Tunnel Silhouette – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm GFX-50S – “Classic Negative Industrial

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.

Grandmother & Grandson – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Fujicolor Superia 100

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.

Twisted Tree – Keystone, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 – “Acros

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.

Flying Seagull – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – “Velvia v2

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.

22 comments

  1. Dustin Dizon · December 20

    Such a timely post. I just commented this on the X-Trans IV recipes comment section last night lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 20

      Yeah, this post actually began as a reply to that comment. Glad that you found it so quickly! I was just about to reply with a link to this article. I appreciate your question!

      Like

      • Dustin · December 21

        Well, I feel honored! Lol. Always appreciate your work.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Piotr · December 20

    Hi Ritchie
    Would you recommend any specific simulation for Xmas family gatherings. You know lots of people behind a table with Xmas tree in a background not much daylight rather artificial one. Is there any simulation that is most suitable for that subject or there could be any of your simulations but with some tweaks ?
    Piotr

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Piotr · December 20

    Thanks for that Ritchie I’ll definitely try this one 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rederik75 · December 20

    Hi Ritchie! Have you ever considered adding an hashtag feature to your app? You may release the app with hashtags associated to the recipes, and searchable. They may even be added by the users.
    So should I wish to find a good recipe for portraits during a christmas party, I may search for #indoor #portrait #artificial_light, and so on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 21

      Yeah, I’ve been working on how to implement something like that for awhile. It’s a big task, for sure! There’s no easy way to do it, but I agree that it would be a great addition to the app, and I hope something like that will be included in an update in 2022. I appreciate the input!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jorge · December 21

    If I may, there are a few of us that tend to tag and/or hashtag the FujiXWeekly page with the recipe used for the photos. I think if we can come up with something unified like that, it can be of help. We don’t all shoot the same subjects, so that’s also a plus. And if we can come up with a system like the old “field notes”, documenting the light and whether it was +1, -2 stops etc. It could work

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 21

      I actually (secretly) started something like this (to see if it would work), but the problem is that people will use a hashtag just to use it, and the picture has nothing to do with it. For example, in #fujixweekly on IG, you’ll find film photos, pictures captured with Canon, Sony, iPhone, etc., etc., and not all Fujifilm, and certainly not all recipes.
      That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but you have to know that a bunch of photos that “aren’t supposed to be there” will end up in the pool, which obviously makes it less helpful. Is it better to have a pool but with turds in it, or no pool at all? I’ve hoped to find a good solution, but the solutions I’ve come up with aren’t ideal so I haven’t implemented them. At some point something will surface that will be good. I appreciate the comment!

      Like

  6. Francis.R. · December 21

    Except by hacking the Fujifilm cameras in a way your recipes would be added to the camera (especially to the bracketing option by film simulation), analogous to what I think is done in Canon or Nikon cameras were one can upload profiles from the SD card, I really don’t see a practical way to make it easier, at least not without defying the intended simplicity of shooting with Fujifilm cameras.
    Another option would be to turn the recipes into smartphone filters, to do something like third party apps, where one launch the camera (which for this case would have a kind of provia rendering of colors) and in miniatures thumbnails with an approximation of how it would look with each different recipe. But I feel this approach wrong. The person inside me tired of being always connected to the internet probably would just like a small pocket book with the recipes, the size of the cheat sheets, with a space to handwrite things like “this one was helpful in the mountains, set highlight to 0” etcetera.
    In my case I shot in raw and, this was before your generous app, applied as many recipes as I could in photos for a couple of weeks, and saw the results in the screen of my computer and my Galaxy S8 to be sure colors, contrast and white balance were accurate, and from them I stick till know to five recipes and, to not consume time, I only apply many more recipes to few special photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 21

      There’s nothing wrong at all with sticking with what you know works, and only trying others on a few special occasions. I wish there was a way to “hack the camera” to apply the recipes directly from the app. Maybe someday Fujifilm will let me….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. walker · December 22

    I only use your Kodachrome 64 recipe (a bit tweaked for my taste). It works 99% of the time.
    I would like to see a fw update on my X-T30 at least to have Chrome Effect & Color Chrome FX Blue .. it would be a great way to give my default recipe a little more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 23

      Fujifilm should definitely give the camera a nice firmware update. I truly hope they do, it’s long overdue.

      Like

  8. cristiánkuhn · December 29

    Just try ’em all out !

    Liked by 1 person

  9. oli · December 29

    I’m just missing the FUJI Filmsimulation and/or the C1-C7 Name in the JPG Meta Data to be read out in Lightroom… I switched from AGFA Porta to some other and forward to the next and now I’m lost to identify my used receipt… well. Bad luck. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · December 30

      If you still have the pictures in the camera you can probably figure it out, but otherwise… It would be very nice if Fujifilm included the preset information in the EXIF.

      Like

  10. I had this post pending to read from some time. I’m so glad that you exist, and I’m very thankful to you for this work.

    Now I have XT4 for more than a year, and I’m getting some experience with profiles, but the first time you come here and see 200 different profiles, it’s not easy to choose! So thanks a lot for this effort!

    Liked by 1 person

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