October 08th 2013 by Andrew S Gibson
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Thanks for reading! Andrew.
If you’ve ever used your camera’s Picture Style* settings you are imitating the use of film. Camera manufacturers include Picture Styles so you can change the look of your images according to the subject. For example, if you have an EOS camera you can choose the portrait Picture Style if you are taking photos of people (less sharpening, optimised for skin tones) or the landscape Picture Style if you are taking photos of a landscape (more sharpening, deeper greens and blues).
* Picture Style is Canon’s term. The other manufacturers have the same feature on their cameras, but use different names:
Nikon: Picture Control
Sony: Creative Style
Pentax: Custom Image
Olympus: Picture Mode
Sigma: Colour mode
Fujifilm: Film Simulation
Fujifilm take it one step further with their X series cameras. The instruction manual of the X20 reveals Provia, Astia and Velvia among its Film Simulation (the Fujifilm term for Picture Styles) settings. These are names of Fuji films. If you select one of these settings the camera will presumably deliver JPEGs that somewhat approximate the look you would get if you used one of these film types.
Film simulation seems to be popular. DxO have produced a program called DxO FilmPack that helps you turn digital images into analog style photos. According to the website, DxO FilmPack lets you
Perfectly reproduce the quality, style, colors, and grain of the most famous analog films.
Why would you want to do that? Well, if you were a famous photographer who started shooting a major project with black and white film, then was forced to switch to digital for practical reasons, you might want to use a program like DxO FilmPack to achieve a consistent look across the body of work. Sebastião Salgado did exactly that for his Genesis project, according to this article (and the discussion in the comments) at The Online Photographer.
Curious? DxO and Sony have got together to offer DxO Filmpack 3** (the Essential Edition) free. There’s no catch – all they ask for is your email address in order to send you the activation code. It’s a perpetual license, but you won’t be able to upgrade it to DxO Filmpack 4 (the latest version). Full details at the link – and note the discount on DxO Filmpack 4 at the bottom of the page. The offer is good until the end of October.
** You can use DxO Filmpack 3 as a standalone program or as a plug-in for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Aperture or DxO Optics Pro.
A brief look at DxO Filmpack 3
I’ve only used the program briefly, but here are my initial thoughts. The first thing you see when you open a photo in the program (I used the standalone version) is a filmstrip at the bottom with the names of various colour negative, colour positive and black and white films. There are over 50 in all, including venerable brands such as Kodak T-MAX, Ilford FP4+, Fuji Velvia and Kodak Portra. You can choose any one of these as a starting point, then open the Controls panel to fine-tune the look.
The controls are relatively simple, but don’t forget that if you need more functionality you can buy DxO Film Pack 4 (the Expert Edition) and get a lot more options (they are listed here). You can download a 30 day trial of DxO Film Pack 4 and try it out for yourself.
Let’s take a closer look at what it’s possible to do with DxO Film Pack 3:
This screenshot (above) shows the interface. It’s fairly simple – film presets at the bottom, and your image at the top. You can view your image by itself, or as separate before and after versions, or as a split view, like the above example. You can move the dividing line left or right, and there’s a navigator view with a red rectangle that you drag around to view different parts of the image.
Click the Show Controls button to reveal the controls panel on the right (above).
Here’s a closer look at the controls (below):
These are the colour controls (for colour film presets). As you can see there’s a histogram, a drop down menu containing all the colour film presets, and sliders for adjusting contrast, saturation and exposure. You can also adjust the intensity of the preset, and add (or remove film grain). Fairly straightforward, but still versatile.
Black and white films
There are more options in the black and white controls (above). You can select a colour filter (red, orange, yellow etc. – below) to control the way certain colours are rendered as tones:
You can also tone the image. There are six tones to choose from, all based on genuine chemical processes (below). You can adjust the intensity of the effect to suit:
Silver Efex Pro 2 users will have realised that DxO FilmPack 3 doesn’t have nearly as many options when it comes to black and white conversion. If you FilmPack 3 doesn’t do enough for you, then Silver Efex Pro 2 may be what you need. Click on the link to read my overview.
There’s not much to say here other than to advise you to download DxO FilmPack 3 while it’s free. You may as well, even if you have no intention of using it much, as you never know when it may come in handy in the future. At the very least it gives you a few more options when it comes to processing your images. Above all it’s fun to use, which is probably the most important thing. I’ve enjoyed using it, and have downloaded the trial version of DxO FilmPack 4. More about that software to come in a future post.
DxO Film Pack
You can read more about DxO FilmPack here:
The Online Photographer
You can read more about the Genesis project at these links:
Genesis (official website)
Taschen: Genesis – Earth Eternal (the book)
Sebastião Salgado: Genesis (series of articles from The Guardian)
Sebastiao Salgado’s Genesis (BBC In Pictures article)
Salgado’s Genesis project (Canon Professional Network interview)
P.S. Don't forget to check out the Ultimate Photography Bundle