Many Fujifilm photographers use Film Simulation Recipes, which are JPEG camera settings that produce a specific look (often based on classic film stocks) straight-out-of-camera, no editing required. I have published over 250 Film Simulation Recipes on this website, which can also be found on the Fuji X Weekly App for easy access on the go. Using recipes on Fujifilm cameras is a great way to streamline your workflow while still getting great results that appear as though you post-processed or perhaps even shot with film.
Some advantages of using recipes on Fujifilm cameras are simplicity (quickly and easily achieve a desired aesthetic with little or no editing), authenticity (film-like quality that doesn’t appear heavily manipulated), consistency (a single recipe over a series of pictures produces a cohesive visual style), and productivity (not editing pictures saves a lot of time). Because there are so many recipes to choose from, it can be difficult to know which recipe to use when; perhaps none of them are precisely what you are looking for, or you are just feeling adventurous, so you want try your hand at crafting your very own Film Simulation Recipe.
A lot of people don’t have an interest in creating recipes; instead, they want one that’s already been perfected and matches their style. For most people, a Film Simulation Recipe currently exists that works well for them, it’s just a matter of figuring out which one (or ones, as it could be several, situationally dependent). Or maybe you enjoy trying them all! There’s no singular approach to using recipes with your Fujifilm camera.
Those who do want to try to make their very own recipe—because they haven’t found “the one” yet, or because they want a look that’s unique to them, or because they’re feeling creative and adventurous—might not know how to do it or even where to start. This article is intended to help with that. I will walk you through the process of crafting a Film Simulation Recipe, so that you know how to make your own.
Each Film Simulation Recipe has its own origin story. Very rarely did two come about the exact same way. Most, however, begin with an aesthetic idea—what look do I want the recipe to resemble? A lot of times it’s a specific film stock, usually specific images from a certain film. One film can usually produce many different looks depending on a whole host of factors, including (but not limited to) how it was shot, developed and scanned. I study pictures to get a good sense of what the aesthetic is, so that I can recreate it as closely as possible on my Fujifilm camera. It’s never a perfect facsimile because the tools on the camera are limited, film and digital behave divergently, and one film can produce many looks; however, I surprise myself sometimes just how close one recipe can come to the aesthetic I was trying to mimic. There’s a lot of trial-and-error involved. A lot of testing. But the beginning is almost always an idea or inspiration. For the Film Simulation Recipe example in this article—Emulsion ’86—the origin was the pilot episode of Little House on the Prairie. I was really attracted to the cinematography, and wanted to recreate the look.
Once you know the aesthetic that you want to achieve, the next step is figuring out a base starting point—the Film Simulation. I decided the film simulation that most closely matched the cinematography was Nostalgic Neg., which is only found on the newest cameras, including the Fujifilm X-T5. Eterna is similar, too, but I felt not vibrant enough or warm enough in the shadows—it could also be a good starting point, and I considered using it, but opted for Nostalgic Neg. instead. Each film simulation produces a different look, so you want to find the best base film simulation for your recipe. If you want to learn more about the various film simulations, there is a video by Vistek that’s definitely worth watching (click here).
Once you have the base figured out, it’s time to fine-tune it to achieve your desired look. There are a lot of different settings, some of which are only available on the newer models. We’ll only briefly discuss each, because I don’t want to get bogged down in the details. I’ll link to an article or video for the settings, in case you need further explanations. You can find these settings in the IQ Menu subset and in Edit/Save Custom Settings. If you are unsure of how to program a Film Simulation Recipe into your Fujifilm camera, click here and here.
– Dynamic Range. Choose either DR-Auto (the camera will choose either DR100 or DR200), DR100, DR200, or DR400 (note: D-Range Priority or HDR can be used in lieu of a DR setting, and can also be considered). The Dynamic Range settings are primarily for protecting highlights, but affect the luminosity curve. DR100 protects highlights from clipping the least, while DR400 protects the highlights from clipping the most; however, DR400 requires a higher ISO and produces a lower-contrast image. Click here, here, here, here, and here to learn more. For my recipe, I wanted to protect highlights the most because I planned to expose the image more, so I chose DR400.
– Grain. Only X-Trans III and newer cameras have a faux Grain option (Off, Weak, or Strong), and only the X-Pro3 and newer have the option for Grain Size (Small or Large). The Acros film simulation is the only one with built-in grain (the faux Grain options can be used in addition to the built-in Acros grain). High-ISO digital noise on Fujifilm cameras can produce a film-grain-like effect, too, and is something else to be considered. Click here, here, here, and here to learn more. For this recipe, I decided I like Grain set to Strong/Small after testing a couple options.
– Color Chrome Effect and Color Chrome FX Blue. These settings deepen the tonality of certain colors (renders them darker) so that they retain more details when they are especially vibrant. For each, the options are Off, Weak, or Strong. For more information, click here, here, and here. I chose Color Chrome Effect set to Strong (for darker reds) and Color Chrome FX Blue set to Off (for lighter blues).
– White Balance and Shift. This is an important tool for altering the aesthetic of the base film simulation. First, it’s important to understand that most color films were either Daylight balanced (around 5500K) or Tungsten balanced (around 3200K), so if you want to mimic film, choosing a similar white balance is a good option. You can significantly manipulate the cast using white balance and shift together. Unfortunately, cameras older than the X-Pro3 cannot save a WB Shift within C1-C7 Custom Settings Presets. Click here, here, and here to learn more. After much experimenting, I landed on Daylight White Balance with a Shift of +2 Red & -1 Blue.
– Highlight and Shadow. This is found within Tone Curve on newer cameras. Highlight and Shadow is what adjusts the luminosity curve. -2 is the least (least highlight, least shadows), and +4 (or +2 on older models) is the most (strongest highlights, deepest shadows). This also highly affects contrast. To learn more, click here and here. I set Highlight to -2 to soften them and protect them from clipping, and I set Shadow to +2 to deepen shadows and increase contrast.
– Color. This sets the vibrancy, from -4 (least vibrant) to +4 (most vibrant). For more information, click here. I wanted more highly saturated colors, so I went with +4.
– Sharpness and Noise Reduction. Choose between -4 and +4 (-2 and +2 on older models). On newer cameras, Noise Reduction is renamed High ISO NR, but it’s the same thing. I typically (but not always) stay within -2 and +2 Sharpness (-1 and +1 on older models). I feel that Fujifilm’s Noise Reduction is too strong, so I like to use a minus setting. Click here, here, and here to learn more. I set Sharpness to -2 and Noise Reduction to -4 for this new recipe.
– Clarity. This is a micro-contrast adjustment, either more (+1 to +5) or less (-1 to -5), with 0 being Off. Using a minus Clarity setting is similar to using a diffusion filter. Clarity does slow down the camera, as there is a “Storing” pause after each exposure, and continuous shooting modes (CL and CH) disable this setting. Only the X-Pro3 and newer models have Clarity. Click here and here for more information. I wanted a softer look, so I set Clarity to -3.
There are two other important parts of a recipe. First, you have to decide the maximum (and maybe minimum) ISO. I like to use Auto-ISO the majority of the time. For color photography, I feel most Fujifilm cameras do well up to ISO 6400, but that’s just my personal tolerance. You might want to top it out at ISO 3200 or ISO 12800, or whatever you prefer. To learn more, click here, here, and here. For this recipe I set Auto-ISO to be up to ISO 6400. Finally, you have to decide how much Exposure Compensation you typically want. Do you want brighter or darker results? This works hand-in-hand with the luminosity curve you’ve created with DR, Highlight, and Shadow. A word of caution is that each exposure should be judged individually, and typical exposure compensation is merely a starting point, and not a rule. Click here and here to learn more. For my recipe, I wanted a brighter picture, so I usually increase the exposure over what the meter says, typically by +2/3 to +1-1/3 stop.
The very last step is to give your new Film Simulation Recipe a name. Even though the pilot episode of Little House on the Prairie was the initial inspiration for my recipe, after visiting Balboa Park in San Diego, I had a change of perspective. You see, Balboa Park has hosted two different World Expositions (in 1915 and 1935)—remnants of which are still prominent to this day—which reminded me of my own World’s Fair experience: when I was six years old, my family and I went to Expo ’86 in Vancouver, Canada. I found many old pictures of that event—personal, in books, and online—and this recipe was highly reminiscent of some of those photographs. This Film Simulation Recipe produces a nostalgic analog aesthetic that is similar to some pictures from the mid-1980’s (presumably primarily Kodak emulsions, but I’m not certain), so I named it Emulsion ’86.
If you like your recipe creation, consider sharing it with the Fujifilm community so that others can use it, too. If you don’t have a place to share it, the Fuji X Weekly Community Recipes page is for you!
This Emulsion ’86 Film Simulation Recipe is only compatible with (as of this writing) the Fujifilm X-T5, X-H2, and X-H2S. I assume that the GFX100S and GFX50S II can also use this recipe, but that it will render slightly different—I don’t have either of those cameras to test it to know for certain. This recipe does well for both sunny daylight and rainy overcast photography.
Film Simulation: Nostalgic Neg.
Grain Effect: Strong, Small
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome FX Blue: Off
White Balance: Daylight, +2 Red & -1 Blue
Dynamic Range: DR400
High ISO NR: -4
ISO: Auto, up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: +2/3 to +1-1/3 (typically)
Example photographs, all camera-made JPEGs using this “Emulsion ’86” Film Simulation Recipe on my Fujifilm X-T5:
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