I went down a pretty deep rabbit hole. I started researching cinematographer Greig Fraser, which led to investigating other great cinematographers, such as Roger Deakins, Rodrigo Prieto, Hoyte van Hoytema, Caleb Deschanel, and several more. I spent quite a bit of time learning about various motion picture techniques. I came to the conclusion that cinematographers often better understand light than many photographers. By “understand light” I mean 1) light qualities, 2) how light is rendered on what it is being captured on, 3) how to use or manipulate light so that it is rendered precisely as intended, and 4) how light affects moods and emotions. Granted, a movie has a whole team of people who’s job it is to control and manipulate the light, but the cinematographer (working with the director) is the one in charge of it.
You might notice when watching a movie that the colors and color cast change from scene-to-scene. The way you respond when viewing a predominately blueish scene is much different than a reddish scene. The colors, among other things, trigger certain responses from the viewers, and cinematographers use this extensively, and often brilliantly. Sometimes it’s quite obvious, and sometimes it’s much more subtle, and you might not even notice unless you’re paying careful attention. If you understand light similarly to a cinematographer, you could do the same thing in your photography.
Another thing that I stumbled across is gear. Obviously film and digital have different aesthetics—digital is much easier to work with, especially when it comes to incorporating special effects and CGI, but it can come across as clean, clinical, and soulless. Film has more character and a different feel, but is much more difficult to work with. There are also digital-film hybrid techniques. Whatever method is used will affect the final aesthetic. Some cinematographers like working with modern lenses, and some—like Greig Fraser—prefer vintage lenses because they have more character. Filters are a big part of the process. Color correction filters (to control the light) and diffusion filters (to give atmosphere) are pretty common. I was surprised to learn that some cinematographers like putting water, silicone, dirt, etc., on the filter to dirty them, and some even like shooting through glass (in-between the camera and the subject).
This is probably more than you ever wanted to know, but I think it’s important to understand for this recipe. First, the light you shoot in will affect how pictures are rendered (definitely not unique to this recipe, but worth noting). Cool light will give a cool color cast, warm light will give a warm color cast. You’ll want to think about the light—how it will render—and the mood or emotions you want to convey in your photographs. Second, inspired by Greig Fraser, I used vintage lenses for these photographs, mostly a Helios 44-2. You don’t have to use vintage glass, but I do think it helps to achieve the desired aesthetic. Third, for most of these images (especially if there was a bright light source) I used a 5% CineBloom diffusion filter. What I appreciate about this filter is that it’s quite subtle. The 5% CineBloom filter is not a requirement for this recipe, but it helps give it a filmic look, especially when there are bright highlights, so I do recommend it if you have one.
This “Cinematic Negative” Film Simulation Recipe isn’t modeled after any specific motion picture film, but is more inspired by a generic daylight-balanced cinema film aesthetic after researching a number of different cinematographers. It is compatible with the Fujifilm X-T30 and X-T3 cameras. To use it on newer X-Trans IV cameras (X-Pro3 and newer) plus X-Trans V, set Color Chrome FX Blue to Off, Clarity to 0 (or -2 in lieu of the 5% CineBloom filter), and decide on either Grain size Small or Large. For the X-H1, you can use this recipe if you ignore Color Chrome Effect; however, it will render slightly differently. I used the 16:9 aspect ratio for some of these photographs, but use whichever aspect ratio you prefer.
Dynamic Range: DR400
Noise Reduction: -4
Grain Effect: Weak
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
White Balance: Incandescent, +8 Red & -9 Blue
ISO: Auto up to ISO 6400
Exposure Compensation: 0 to +2/3
Below are all camera-made JPEGs captured using this “Cinematic Negative” Film Simulation Recipe on my Fujifilm X-T30:
Help Fuji X Weekly
Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There’s a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!