Film Simulation Recipes — Why Pictures Are Too Yellow & How To Fix It

Kodacolor film simulation recipe in artificial light.

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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FXW App: Filter by White Balance — How To Use This New Feature

The Fuji X Weekly App was updated just yesterday, and I want to discuss one of the new features that I think will be heavily used: Filter by White Balance! This feature is unlocked by becoming a Fuji X Weekly App Patron.

Filter by White Balance will be a game-changer for many of you. The most obvious use is for finding recipes that match the lighting conditions. Is it sunny? Find a recipe that uses the Daylight White Balance. Is it indoors in mixed lighting? Maybe Auto White Balance would be good. But there’s another way to use Filter by White Balance, which I’ll discuss below, that will make your Fujifilm experience even better!

If your Fujifilm camera is older than the X-Pro3, you cannot save White Balance Shift within the C1-C7 Custom Presets, and each time you change Presets, you have to remember to adjust the WB Shift. It can be a little annoying. However, for each White Balance type, the camera will remember one WB Shift, so if each of your C1-C7 presets uses a different White Balance type, when you switch Presets, you won’t have to adjust the WB Shift. Amazing!

Let’s take a more practical look at this. If you have a Fujifilm X-T3 (for example), we’ll Filter by Camera and select the camera. For the X-T3, you’ll have over 70 recipes to choose from!

Let’s select one recipe to be our C1 in the Custom Settings menu. We’re now going to Filter by White Balance, and tap Auto—there are nearly 40 recipes to choose from! If you find more than one that requires the same WB Shift—Classic Chrome and Velvia both use +1R & -1B, and Velvia v2 and Dramatic Monochrome both use 0R & 0B, just as a couple examples—you can actually use multiple recipes from this White Balance type, and potentially program more than just C1. For this example we’re going to pick just one, perhaps Eterna v3 (interestingly, Agfa Optima 200 shares this same shift, and could be used, too), to be our C1 preset.

For C2 we’re going to select Daylight. There are 12 options to choose from. Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, and Kodak Gold 200 all share the same WB Shift, so, in theory, you could program all three of these into your Custom Settings presets. For this, let’s go with Kodak Tri-X 400 to be our C2.

Next, for C3, let’s select Kelvin. You have 15 to choose from. Let’s choose maybe Jeff Davenport Night.

For C4 we’ll go with the Fluorescent 1 White Balance. There are just two options, and we’ll select Kodak Vision3 250D.

It’s the same story for Fluorescent 2: there are only two options. We’ll choose Ektachrome E100G to be our C5 preset.

For C6 we’ll select Incandescent. There’s just one recipe: Eterna Bleach Bypass, so we’ll program that one in.

Lastly, we have C7, and for that we’ll select Shade. There are three options, and we’ll go with Porto 200.

Now we have our C1-C7 Custom Settings presets programmed! C1 is Eterna v3. C2 is Kodak Tri-X 400. C3 is Jeff Davenport Night. C4 is Kodak Vision3 250D. C5 is Ektachrome E100G. C6 is Eterna Bleach Bypass. And C7 is Porto 200. That’s a pretty good set! Since each preset uses a different White Balance type, you won’t have to adjust the WB Shift when you switch presets. For those White Balance types that don’t have very many options, such as Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, etc., if you didn’t like any of the choices, you could alternatively use two recipes that share both the same White Balance and WB Shift (such as the ones mentioned earlier).

You can come up with multiple combinations of these C1-C7 options, and keep track of them using the new colored Stars. Maybe use Green Stars for these seven recipes, and come up with another seven that can be used together and mark them with Blue Stars, and another seven that are marked with Purple Stars. Just an idea.

I hope this all makes sense. Filter by White Balance can be useful in more than one way. If your camera is older than the X-Pro3, this will make your Fujifilm experience more enjoyable, as you won’t have to remember to check the WB Shift each time you change presets. If you don’t have the Fuji X Weekly App, download it now. If you do have the App and it didn’t automatically update, be sure to visit the appropriate App Store and manually update it. If you are not a Fuji X Weekly App Patron, for the best App experience, consider becoming a Patron today!

About White Balance

This cross process look is made possible by a White Balance adjustment.

I get asked regularly about White Balance. My film simulation recipes require various White Balance adjustments, and sometimes, in different light situations, the results can be unusual, which can be good or bad, depending on what you are trying to achieve. So let’s discuss this, and figure out what you can do if the results aren’t what you want.

White Balance is the adjustment of color temperature (measured in Kelvin) to account for various light conditions, so that white objects appear white, and not yellow or blue or some other color. White Balance Shift is a tool to precisely fine-tune the White Balance. The intention of White Balance and White Balance Shift is to achieve a natural color balance that matches what the eye sees. But you can give your photographs whatever color balance you’d like—this is art; there are no rules.

Back when I shot film, I don’t remember hearing the term “white balance” spoken even once. There were two options: daylight film and tungsten film. The former was most common and was used in natural light situations, the the latter was less common and used in artificial light situations. I carried with me a warming filter and cooling filter to compensate for various light conditions, essentially to adjust the “white balance” when the light changed. You can actually still do this with digital photography, but the White Balance tools on your camera make it unnecessary to carry around warming and cooling filters.

Different film simulation recipes require different White Balance settings. Some use Auto, but many use Daylight or a specific Kelvin temperature or some other option. Most have a shift, as well. Often they are intended for natural light, and a few for artificial light, but when the light changes, the results can look strange sometimes. Occasionally that “strange” result might be something you really like, but often it’s probably not. When that happens, what can you do?

The White Balance in this picture is intended to produce good results at night.

I’ve said for a few years now that film simulation recipes can be seasoned to taste. This means that if you aren’t getting the look you want, don’t be afraid to adjust the parameters to achieve desired results. For White Balance, this might mean selecting something different than what the recipe calls for. Will this make it look more like the film that it’s based off of? Probably not, but if it gets you the look that you want, then that’s good, right? The next time you are in some light situation that’s giving you too warm or too cool results, see if simply selecting a different White Balance (maybe even simply using Auto White Balance) fixes the issue for you.

Another option is to use a different recipe. Some film simulation recipes are intended to work well in certain light conditions. Look for one that might be a better fit for the situation. If you read the articles and view the sample pictures, that might provide a clue of when a certain recipe will work well; however, it’ll probably take some trial and error to really figure out which recipes to use when.

Other than either adjusting the White Balance to something different than what the recipe calls for or selecting a different recipe altogether, your options are to use a warming or cooling filter like in the film days or to simply embrace the unusual results. There’s not a whole lot else that you can do. My advice is to consider beforehand if the recipe will be a good fit for the light; if it’s not but you still want to use it, either accept the results for what they are or adjust the White Balance to something that will give you the results that you want. Don’t be afraid to make an adjustment to the White Balance if that’s what the situation calls for.

New Auto White Balance Options: White Priority & Ambience Priority

My wife, Amanda, upgraded her Fujifilm X-T20 to an X-T4! Video-wise, the X-T4 is a huge upgrade; stills-wise, the X-T20 is a solid camera, but the X-T4 is a little better. The picture above shows Amanda with her new camera, captured with my Fujifilm X100V using a new film simulation recipe that I will publish very soon! The Fujifilm X-T4 has two new Auto White Balance options: Auto White Priority and Auto Ambience Priority. What are these? What do they do to your pictures? Let’s take a look!

For Auto White Priority, the manual says, “Choose for whiter whites in scenes lit by incandescent bulbs.” And for Auto Ambience Priority, “Choose for warmer whites in scenes lit by incandescent bulbs.” Essentially, Auto White Priority is the same as Auto White Balance, except it has a cooler tone under artificial light, and Auto Ambience Priority is the same as Auto White Balance, except it has a warmer tone under artificial light. In natural light, all three are the same.

The pictures below show all three Auto White Balance options under natural light (using my Kodak Ultramax recipe). Can you tell which is Auto, Auto White Priority and Auto Ambience Priority?

Which is which? I have no idea! I can’t tell the difference. The three images look identical to me. Even when I closely examined the three full-resolution files, I couldn’t figure it out.

Under artificial light, the differences between Auto, Auto White Priority, and Auto Ambience Priority becomes much more obvious. You can see in the pictures below that Auto White Priority is cooler than standard Auto White Balance, and Auto Ambience Priority is warmer than standard Auto. Take a look!

Auto White Priority
Auto White Balance
Auto Ambience Priority

Of the two new Auto White Balance options, I’m most excited about Auto White Priority, although I think in some situations Auto Ambience Priority might produce nice results. The new LomoChrome Metropolis film simulation recipe that’s on the Fuji X Weekly App requires Auto White Priority, the first recipe to use one of the new White Balance options. I think there’s some good potential for incorporating these new options into new recipes to create different looks. Now if I can just convince my wife to let me borrow her new camera….

Film Simulation Recipes That Use Other White Balances

Film

I’ve made a list of all my film simulation recipes that use a white balance other than auto or kelvin. Previously I organized them by dynamic range setting, so that they could be seen in a different arrangement. Now I’m doing it by white balance. The film simulation recipes below all use a white balance other than auto or kelvin. Just in case it’s helpful, I’ve also included the required white balance shift.

Daylight:

Kodachrome 64 (+2R, -5B)

Cloudy/Shade:

Lomography Color 100 (-3R, +7B)

Fluorescent 1:

Color Negative (-2R, +4B)

Fluorescent 2:

Fujichrome Sensia 100 (-1R, -3B)

Custom: 

Portra 400 (+2R, -5B)

See also:
Film Simulation Recipes that use Auto White Balance
Film Simulation Recipes that use Kelvin