When SOOC Digital Looks Like Film

Evening Charge – Santa Rosa, NM – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodak Portra 400 v2

Note: I wrote this article, which I stumbled across today, over two years ago, but for some reason never published it. I replaced many of the original pictures and corrected some words and grammar, but otherwise I kept it the same.

I love film photography, but digital is so much more convenient. The cost of digital photography is paid upfront, while with film there’s a per-frame cost with each exposure, which is just getting more and more expensive. I rarely shoot film anymore, but I like the look of film. The best of both worlds is when I can get a film aesthetic straight out of a digital camera. That might sound pie-in-the-sky or even pretentious; if I like the look of film, why not just shoot film? If I shoot digital, why not just edit like everyone else?

Fujifilm cameras can create something film-like while delivering digital advantages, and that’s incredible! With digital you don’t have to send off your exposures to a lab or have your own lab set up somewhere in your home. You can know immediately if your frame is any good or not—no need to wait hours or days or sometimes longer. And you are not limited to 12, 24, or 36 exposures. There’s a reason why most photographers shoot digital, yet there’s a reason why some still go through the hassle of shooting film. I think Fujifilm is kind of a bridge between the two.

Rainbow in the Woods – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T1 – “Kodak Portra 160

Using software, such as Alien Skin Exposure or any of the many preset filter packs that are available, it’s very easy to turn a RAW file into something that looks analog. I’ve done that for many years, and I appreciate the results. If I can skip the software step and have a finished image straight-out-of-camera, that’s even better. That saves me some serious time! For many people, editing a picture is half the fun, but for me it’s not. I much prefer to not sit at a computer manipulating photographs. That’s just my preference, and it may or may not be yours, and that’s perfectly fine—there’s no right or wrong way, only what works for you. Shooting Fujifilm cameras using recipes to get film-like pictures straight-out-of-camera is what works for me.

I’m amazed at all the different looks that I can get out of my camera using my different Film Simulation Recipes on Fujifilm cameras. Fuji only gives so much control in-camera— they’re constantly providing more customization options with each new generation, but it’s still limited. Despite that, there’s a lot that you can do to create many different looks. It’s possible to mimic various film aesthetics without using any software. Thanks to Fujifilm’s vast experience with film, they’ve been able to infuse into their camera-made-JPEGs an analog soul that’s frankly missing from most digital pictures.

The photographs in this article are all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs that weren’t edited, with the exception of some minor cropping in some circumstances. They’re all from Fujifilm cameras, including an X-E4, X100V, X-T30, X-T20, X-Pro2, X100F and X-T1. In my opinion, in one way or another, they resemble film—an analog look from a digital camera. That’s nothing short of amazing!

10 example pictures, just to illustrate the point:

Classic Mirror – Fort Worth, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Fujicolor Natura 1600
Welcome to Ogden – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 – “Kodachrome II
Denny’s Days – Beaver, UT – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64
Coastal Blooms – San Simeon, CA – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Pacific Blues
Train Crossing – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X100V – “Nostalgia Color
Working – Salt Lake City, UT – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodak Vision3 250D
Tail of a Whale – Morro Bay, CA – Fujifilm X100V – “Kodak Tri-X 400
Dark Cloud Over The Dark Mountain – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 – “Ilford HP5 Plus 400 Push Process
Leather Gloves – Antelope Island SP, UT – Fujifilm X100F – “Kodak Tri-X Push Process
Twisted Tree – Keystone, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 – “Acros

Find these Film Simulation Recipes and nearly 250 more on the Fuji X Weekly — Film Recipes App!

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  1. theleshall · September 14, 2022

    I get using film sims, but the penchant these days for shooting actual color film boggles my mind.

    Is it the 36 exp thing? i.e. you have to concentrate on THE shot? Or is it the process? But who the hell processes or prints their own color? B&W I get – there was a look I used to get that I still can’t fully emulate with digital.

    And, to be honest, a lot of the results (of real film) look to me pretty crappy. Flat, underexposed, colorless, oof, boring. I’m talking about stuff I see on Instagram and the like.

    Grumpy Lez – “Get off my lawn!”

    • Alan Millar · September 15, 2022

      I think it’s easy to confabulate the photographs with the medium. Unfortunately a lot of film shooters are clearly so enamoured by film that they not only seek to emphasise some of its worst qualities (unconsciously making sure it isn’t mistaken for digital) but don’t worry too much whether or not they are making a good image.

      I’m not trying to humiliate anyone here, but the world has all of the decontextualised pictures of corners of cars that it’ll ever need.

      But when colour film is used to its fullest – beautiful portraits in soft light using colour negative or landscapes/cityscapes on Velvia 50 – it still offers a very beautiful aesthetic which, combined with the conceptual benefits of considering shots carefully and having a physical original, make it extremely satisfying.

      And I say this as someone who hasn’t shot colour film in a few years due to the costs and other difficulties. In fact, I fully agree with this piece that my Fujifilm shooting experience has decreased the gap between shooting digital and film to a great extent in my mind.

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 15, 2022

      I learned photography in the film era, and the description of “flat, underexposed, colorless, oof, boring” doesn’t describe the pictures that were found in magazines, books, art exhibits, etc., during that time. But, of course, if you looked in grandma’s photo album, that’s exactly what you found. Maybe it’s the style now, or maybe some of the art of it has been lost to time. Or maybe you’re just looking in the wrong places (for example, Kyle McDougall’s current film work is quite nice). I’m not really sure.

      For me, having shot film for so long, I’m happy to no longer be dealing with the negative (pun unintended) aspects of it, but sometimes I do miss the positive (pun also unintended) aspects of it; however, I can get quite close to many of those positive aspects with Fujifilm cameras while avoiding many of the negative, so I’m quite satisfied with it.

      Thanks for the input!

  2. Francis.R. · September 14, 2022

    I like much shooting 35mm, a Fujifilm DL SuperMini with a fixed 28mm Fujinon lens, and a Canon EOS 7 with eye control, which I use with a Canon EF 135mm f2.8 Soft Focus lens. With modern consumer films I have the qualities of film, with some of the atributes of digital, like accurate while vibrant colors. without the expense of purchasing a digital full frame camera, which in my country still are quite expensive. I treat my Fujifilm a bit like a film camera, and with your recipes I am happy to get an expressive rendering : )

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 15, 2022

      It used to be that I would suggest to people who couldn’t afford a full-frame camera to shoot 35mm film instead; however, film has gotten so expensive! It’s insane how much it costs nowadays. I still believe that a high-quality scan of 35mm negative film is (a little) “better than” the quality of full-frame digital, but after a thousand frames that expensive full-frame camera will have been significantly cheaper, unfortunately.

  3. Randy Pollock (@randypollock) · September 15, 2022

    Why use a hand planer, or hitch a team of draft horses to a wagon, why shoot a Kentucky Long Rifle or make fire with flint, why hunt your food or grow a garden. Why take a train when a plane gets you there faster…to answer these questions for myself, a lot of the pleasure is in the making or doing…as you get older anything that seems to make time go slower is something to pursue.

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 15, 2022

      I watched a lecture recently that was sooo boring, time seemed to stand still.

      Joking aside, if there is something that one enjoys, by all means it is worth pursuing. I have a friend who thoroughly enjoys restoring old cars. That’s not my cup of tea, personally, but a lot of people enjoy it, so it’s great that he can do something that he really likes to do (especially since he’s now retired from his career). There’s a Japanese philosophy called Ikigai that is along those lines. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Leanne Staples · September 15, 2022

    I am a huge fan of SOOC shooting since I’ve purchased your Fuji X Weekly app. Absolutely love it. The funny thing is that I still continue to shoot Raw and Jpg.

    The majority of the time I shoot monochrome with the Ilford Ortho Plus 80 recipe. I like to have the ability to get the color version when it looks good.

    The unintended result is that with the White Balance changes from the recipe, I am really liking some of the Raw color files. With either the Raw or Jpg, I’m doing minimal tweaks in processing. Thanks!

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 17, 2022

      I’m so glad that you have found what works for you—that’s what’s important. Recipe for SOOC B&W. RAW for color, using the recipe to get you part-way there. That’s great! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Yannct · September 16, 2022

    hi! i really like the look of vintage film, however and as you say, vintage film is getting more and more expensive… That’s why I really like Fujifilm! With your site, there is a lot of simulation which makes it really nice! But, I find it hard to get a clean rendering directly from my camera, when I see your pictures straight of your camera, it makes me crazy haha! Do you have any tips to help me ? thanks for all the work you do !

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 17, 2022

      I’m not sure what you mean by “clean rendering”—low digital-noise/grain? Perhaps you can try using a low ISO (although I don’t restrict myself to that). Can clarify your question for me?

      I appreciate your kind words!

      • Yannct · September 18, 2022

        Thank you for your answer! By “clean rendering” I meant an image with a good rendering directly from the camera. As you show in your pictures! I think that there is something that I do wrong, because my photos always come out overexposed or under exposed in some places of the image and I can’t get this film look right out of my camera 🙂 I hope to have clarified my question Haha

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 19, 2022

        I would pay closest attention to the highlights. You want to correctly expose the highlights (brightly expose them, but not overexpose them). Of course, some recipes are better to underexpose, so there are always exceptions. I think also consider which recipe might fit the scene best—for example, a high contrast recipe in a high contrast scene will produce a super-high-contrast image, so maybe a low contrast recipe would be better. I hope this somehow helps!

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