Fujifilm X100V Hack: Turn Daylight Into Blue Hour

Duskflower – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V – captured during daylight.

I love photographing during the “blue hour” of dusk and dawn. The time right before sunrise and just after sunset, called twilight, is great for photography. While it’s called the blue hour, twilight is technically closer to an hour-and-a-half, but for practical photographic purposes, you have around 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening where the light is great for capturing pictures, so an hour total each day. That’s a small window of opportunity that’s easy to miss.

There are challenges to blue hour photography because the available light is limited and constantly changing. You’re using slow shutter speeds, large apertures and high ISOs. Or you are lugging around a tripod. These aren’t necessarily “bad things” they’re simply a part of blue hour photography, but there is an alternative that eliminates these challenges.

You can do faux blue hour photography anytime of the day with your Fujifilm X100V. It’s a simple trick, really. It requires three things: underexposure, warm high-shutter-speed flash, and a white balance adjustment. With a little slight-of-hand—I mean, technical knowhow—you can create pictures that appear to have been captured during the blue hour but are in fact daytime images.

The first thing you’ll need to do is underexposure your pictures by at least 3 stops from what the meter says that it should be. Most of the pictures that I captured required the exposure to be adjusted to -3 2/3 to -4 1/3, which means you’ll have to go manual, since the exposure compensation dial only goes to -3. You are basically setting the luminance of the background in your pictures, and you want it to be dark. It can be tough to judge in the moment what the exact exposure should be, and it takes a little trial-and-error to get it right, so be patient, as it might take a few tries to get an image that you’re happy with.

Next is the flash, which you’ll use to illuminate the foreground of your pictures. Because you are photographing during daylight, you’ll be using a fast shutter. I typically used a shutter speed between 1/500 and 1/4000, just depending on the picture, which would be a problem for most cameras when combined with flash photography, but on the X100V it’s no problem whatsoever. You see, the X100V’s mechanical shutter is a leaf shutter, which means that you can use the flash at high shutter speeds (something that you cannot do with a focal plane shutter). The X100V’s built-in fill-flash does marginally work for this, but I got much better results when using the EF-X500 shoe-mount flash. I taped a DIY yellow “gel” (plastic that I cut off of a pear bag that was semi-transparent and yellow) to the flash to make the foreground warmer.

White balance is the third key to this trick. While it varies depending on the exact light, I found that 2500K with a shift of +5 Red and +9 Blue produced good results. Basically, you’ll want the white balance to be very cool, and you’ll need it to be 3200K at the warmest, which will likely will be a tad too warm.

Here are some examples comparing pictures shot normal and pictures shot with this faux blue hour trick:

The difference is huge! The normal daylight and the faux blue hour versions of the pictures above look dramatically dissimilar from each other, even though they were captured only seconds apart. This little trick produces convincing results!

The settings that I used for most of my faux blue hour pictures are:

Classic Chrome
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight: -1 to +1
Shadow: -2 to 0
Color: -2 to +2
Sharpness: -3
Noise Reduction: -4
Color Chrome Effect: Off
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Strong
Grain: Weak, Large
Clarity: -2
White Balance: 2500K, +5 Red & +9 Blue
ISO: 640
Flash: On, with yellow “gel”
Exposure: -3 2/3 to -4 1/3 (typically)

This isn’t a film simulation recipe, so I didn’t strictly stick with one set of settings, but instead looked at each exposure individually. Still, all of my faux blue hour pictures had similar settings, and I didn’t stray very far from it.

Even though this technique is a great way to achieve a blue hour look, there are some limitations. First, you might have shadows that don’t make sense for an after-sunset image. Second, there won’t be any lights on, such as streetlamps, car lights and indoor lights, which you’d expect to find after dark. If you want to use a slow shutter speed, you’ll need to activate the built-in ND filter, but you won’t likely get it to be as slow as you would if it were actually twilight. While the shoe-mounted flash does a decent job of lighting the foreground, you’d likely get even better results if you used strobes or off-camera flashes, but that further complicates the situation.

Despite the limitations, the technique of underexposure, warm flash, and cool white balance makes for convincing blue hour images in daylight conditions. While these settings are intended for the Fujifilm X100V, they can be applied to any camera with a leaf shutter—because of the fast shutter speeds you’ll be using, the leaf shutter is the real key to this trick. Below are out-of-camera JPEGs made using this faux blue hour technique on my X100V camera during daylight.

Night Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Shark Boy – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Red Tree Berries – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Changing Oak – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V
September Autumn – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Night Trunk – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Night Trees – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Sunflowers at Night – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V
Bridge Under Moonlight – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X100V

This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.

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Fall at Black Island Farms

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Sun Corn – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Fall is for family field trips to the farm. In fact, my family and I went on a field trip to Black Island Farms in Syracuse, Utah, just last week. I also brought along my Fujifilm X100F.

The farm was great! We went on a tractor ride to pick pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. We saw some farm animals. We watched a pig race and a turkey race. We played on a giant playground made from stacks of hay. We made our way through a big corn maze (and didn’t get too lost). It was a nice autumn afternoon, and this was a great way to soak it in.

As far as photography goes, it wasn’t the best conditions. The midday light was harsh with plenty of bright highlights and deep shadows. And when you have four young kids, you need a free hand or two for them. But that’s where the X100F came in handy.

The camera is small enough to fit into a large pocket. Grab it when I want to snap a picture, hide it when I need free hands! Smaller is better in these types of situations, and pocket-sized is a huge plus. A DSLR is simply too big and bulky.

I used the built-in fill-flash frequently on this trip. It handled the tough lighting without fuss. The X100F has a good dynamic range, but the scenes typically exceeded the limit of the sensor; however, the flash helped fill the gap, making the light a little more even.

I used my Classic Chrome Film Simulation recipe for these photographs. I love the film-like way it renders the pictures. It has a classic Kodak slide film look. And it come straight out of the camera looking finished. These are unedited. I don’t have time to mess with RAW anymore, and the X100F speeds up my workload drastically by producing good results that don’t need editing.

The Fujifilm X100F is the best camera I’ve ever used for snapping family pictures. Go on an adventure with the kids and come back with nice pictures to supplement the great memories made. It’s so effortless. I wish that I had this camera years ago!

The takeaway is that a couple hours at the farm in difficult light can still produce a number of keeper photos when you have the X100F in your pocket. These are mostly personal family pictures, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.

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Autumn Flag – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Red Tractor – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Empty Bench – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Biting Cabbage – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Carrot Farmer – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Three Pumpkin Heads – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Say Hello – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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The Crate Pumpkins – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

 

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Cute Little Pumpkin – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Found Two Great Pumpkins – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Help Needed – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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The Pumpkin Master – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Jon’s Pumpkin – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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The Perfect Pumpkins Are Picked – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Trouble – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Jon Watching The Turkey Race – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Climbing Hay – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Hay, Girl – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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At The Bottom of The Hay Slide – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Jon In A Corn Maze – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Down Into The Corn – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Tattered Corn Blade – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Corn Stalk – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

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Nice Day At The Farm – Syracuse, UT – Fujifilm X100F

 

Leaf Shutter & Flash & X100F – Oh, My!

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The Fujifilm X100F has two built-in shutters: electronic and mechanical. The electronic is a silent focal-plane shutter and has a maximum speed of 1/32,768. The mechanical is a nearly silent leaf shutter and has a maximum speed between 1/1000 and 1/4000, depending on the aperture. You can choose one or the other or have the camera automatically choose which it thinks is most appropriate for the situation.

When I purchased my X100F I didn’t think that the leaf shutter would be a big deal. I don’t do a whole lot of flash photography. I figured it would be a rarely used feature. Boy was I wrong!

A leaf shutter works more like an iris. There are blades, similar to aperture blades, inside the lens that open and close. It opens from the center outward. For this reason you can sync it to the flash at much higher shutter speeds. A traditional focal-plane shutter (which is found on most cameras) rolls across the frame, and doesn’t pair particularly well with flashes.

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The Joy of Fishing – Huntsville, UT – Fujifilm X100F w/Flash

Leaf shutters are typically found on expensive medium-format gear. You rarely see them on other cameras. The exception is that Fujifilm has included leaf shutters on their X100 series, such as the X100F.

The Fujifilm X100F has a great built-in flash. There is a hotshoe should you want to add an external flash, but the fill-flash is more than adequate for most pictures. And Fujifilm has programmed the camera to perfectly balance the built-in flash with whatever lighting is available.

It’s truly amazing! The camera almost never gets it wrong. It just seems to know the perfect amount of light to add to the scene. The results are very natural looking. The pictures don’t scream that a flash was used.

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Man In The Straw Hat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F w/Flash

I wasn’t much of a flash-photography guy, but now I am. I find myself frequently using the built-in flash on the X100F. The flash and the leaf shutter are key features of this camera!

It makes anything from family snapshots to portraits to back-lit scenes to dim-light situations a breeze to shoot. Any setting with unwanted shadows can be made better by using the flash built into the camera.

There are many things to love about the X100F. The retro look. The classic controls. The film simulations. The camera’s exceptional ability to balance fill-flash with the rest of the frame is perhaps the best part of it. And it is all made possible by the leaf shutter.

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Let’s Roll The Moon Across The Sun – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F w/Flash