I frequently get asked something to the effect of, “When I use this film simulation recipe indoors, my pictures are too yellow—how do I fix it?” I have the answer—or really answers, since there’s more than one way to tackle this common issue—but first I’ll explain why this happens. Let’s dive in!
With photographic film, with a few rare exceptions, you have two choices: Daylight Balanced and Tungsten Balanced. Daylight film is around 5500K and Tungsten film is around 3200K. If you use Daylight film indoors under artificial light you can get a strong yellow color cast, and if you use Tungsten film in sunny conditions you can get a strong blue color cast. Each film is intended for use under specific light conditions.
With digital cameras, you have so many Kelvin options to choose from, which can be fine-tuned very precisely to match the light no matter what it is. You can even let the camera do it for you with Auto White Balance. Many of my Film Simulation Recipes, especially the ones that are modeled after specific films, require specific White Balance settings, including a White Balance Shift. In the right light situations these recipes can look really good, but when the light is a mismatch for the recipe, you can get unpleasant results, such as a strong yellow color cast. It’s like using Daylight film indoors or Tungsten film outdoors.
With film, the solution is to use the right film type for the situation (such as Daylight outdoors and Tungsten indoors), and, when necessary, use Color Correction Filters (a.k.a Color Conversion Filters or Light Balancing Filters). These filters allow you to change the “white balance” to match the lighting conditions. Type 80 filters (a.k.a. Blue Filters or Cooling Filters) are for using Daylight film with artificial light. There are three of them—80A, 80B, 80C—depending on the artificial light that you are shooting in. Type 82 filters are similar—82A is meant for Daylight film in overly warm daylight while 82B is meant for Tungsten film in overly warm artificial light. Type 81 filters (a.k.a. Warming Filters) are for Daylight film in cool light. There are six of them—81, 81A, 81B, 81C, 81D, 81EF—depending on the coolness of the daylight that you are shooting in, and if a flash is used. Type 85 filters are warming filters meant for Tungsten film in daylight conditions. There are three of these—85, 85B, 85C—depending on the warmth of the daylight. There are other filters, too, like FL-B and FL-D for fluorescent light, and many more. Since you cannot change the “white balance” of the film, you use Color Correction Filters instead.
You can actually use these filters with your Fujifilm cameras. If, for example, you’re using the Kodak Portra 400 v2 recipe, which requires a 5200K white balance, yet you are shooting in artificial light, you might select a Type 80 cooling filter to screw onto the end of your lens. This will work for film simulation recipes that don’t use Auto White Balance. It’s worth noting that the recipes which use AWB are the most versatile because it matters much less what the light situation is. If you are a Fuji X Weekly App Patron, it’s easy to find these recipes—there are over 70—using Filter By White Balance. If you don’t already have it on your phone, go ahead and download the App for free (Android here, iOS here) and consider becoming a Patron to unlock the best App experience! While using Color Correction Filters was a common solution in the film era, it’s very uncommon in the digital era, and most likely you don’t have these filters sitting around somewhere. Beside, it’s inconvenient to carry 15+ filters with you whenever you go out photographing. While these filters aren’t the most practical solution, it is the most film-like solution, so some of you might appreciate trying Color Correction Filters with your Fujifilm cameras.
The most practical solution is to select a recipe that has a white balance that matches the light you are shooting in. Some recipes are made for use in artificial light, such as Jeff Davenport Night, Ektachrome 320T, Fujicolor NPL 160 Tungsten, or one of the CineStill 800T recipes (here, here, here, here and here). Most recipes are more like Daylight film, and are intended for use in sunny conditions, so if it is daytime, select any of the non-nighttime recipes, which is the vast majority of them. If the light is mixed (or something other than daylight or artificial), using an Auto White Balance recipe is a simple solution.
Even though the light isn’t a good match for a particular recipe, you might want to use that recipe anyway, but you’re disappointed with the results because of the color cast. My best advice is to simply switch to Auto White Balance or take a Custom White Balance measurement. Set the camera to a white balance that will work with the light conditions. This is the digital equivalent of using a Color Correction Filter. It’s better to make a quick adjustment and get the results that you want than to stubbornly stick with something that’s not working for you. Don’t be afraid to “season to taste” the recipe to make it work for you.
When you find yourself in a situation where the film simulation recipe is producing a strong color cast that you don’t like, you have a few options. First, consider switching recipes to one that might work better for light situation, such as a Tungsten recipe or one that utilizes Auto White Balance. Second, if you don’t want to switch recipes, you can use a Color Correction Filter to “fix” the white balance. Third, if Color Correction Filters aren’t an option, you can simply switch the white balance to Auto or something that’s a better match for the light. There’s actually a fourth potential solution, which is to artificially light the scene, and have the Kelvin temperature of the light match (or compensate for) the white balance of the recipe, but for most people this isn’t going to be a particularly practical solution to the problem. Whichever option you decide on needs to be something that works well for you. Yellow pictures are a common outcome when using a film that is mismatched with the light, and also a common outcome when using a film simulation recipe that is mismatched with the light. There are several solutions, so try whichever one makes the most sense to you.
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“Season to taste”, love it!
To add to “season to taste” in regards to white balance – in the x100v (and I’m sure other Fuji cameras), you can make the ‘Q’ menu background ‘transparent’, and if you have white balance in your ‘Q’ menu, you can scroll through the different white balance settings and see how it will affect your shot. (‘Q’ menu transparency credit goes to Joe DAgostino from one of his videos.)
That’s a pretty smart solution. I’ll have to try it. Thanks for sharing!
Now I finally understand how to manage custom film simulations in my Fuji X-T1! My all problems were described and solved in article “My White Balance Shift Solution”. Thank you!!!
Awesome! Glad to be helpful.
I keep my camera between 4900-6500K 95% of the time. The idea that our brain have ’awb’ for our vision is not very correct, and we can clearly percievr color casts in the light/environment. A sunset doesn’t look like a photo taken with awb, period.
Since most film stocks are daylight balanced, I often prefer how artificial lights look when you keep the daylight/shade white balance. The one big exception are older led/cfl type of lights. It also gives photos the right ’look’, since a lot of movies/photos we’ve seen was also daylight balanced.
The auto white and ambient options are fantastic though. Like the new Kodak Gold, the awba setting is great for getting a somewhat correct color for that recipe. (not the same shift though, have to tweak it).
Auto White Priority and Auto Ambient Priority are great additions to the WB options. I hope to make more recipes with these options. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!