Made DSLR look like film in Adobe Camera RAW-Critiques welcome.

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by tim_lookingbill, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. Got a wild hair from a previous topic asking for software that can emulate Kodachrome. It was the impetus that forced me to try out ACR 4.6's color tools in ways I hadn't before. Once I got into it, I couldn't stop tweaking because it was like sculpting color similar to my painting days many years ago.
    Thought I'ld post my results and see what you veteran film guys and digital imaging enthusiasts thought. Am I close or way off? If close could you tell what type of film each image emulates. I derived the look from examining the color palettes (mainly split toning color temp appearance) of several Kodachrome sites new and old as well as letting my intuition feel my way toward the final goal according to what I remember from prints I got back from the lab years ago.
    Some come across unintentionally looking like HDR, but all were rendered in ACR 4.6 primarily tweaking Color Temp, HSL, Split Toning and Shadow Tint sliders along with contrast and other tonal adjusts to emulate the dynamic range of slide film in general.
    Welcome comments and thanks for your time.
  2. Here's another:
  3. I seem to be having some trouble posting several images in this thread. I have a total of seven different images I want to post in this thread and the forum notice keeps telling me to not post to the same thread or something of that nature.
    I'll give it another try. Here's another image:
  4. I think I figured it out. You have to post something different in the Contribute an answer. Now I have to make up something to say with every posted image. BTW the before pic is the default ACR settings of my Pentax K100D PEF's.
  5. As far as I'm concerned that sort of program is used to enhance the colors. You've done just that. Which film it emulates is rather irrelevant, and I'm not entirely sure if it does so accurately. What does it matter to you? All that matters is that you (and/or other people) like the look of the picture. I like the more saturated look, and this program does a nice job.
  6. This one I'm not sure what film this resembles but I remember the high contrast, high saturation and cyanish green I'ld get back from my lab when I thought photography was going to be an easy way to express myself and capture what I saw.
  7. Nicholas,
    Agreed, but this subject gets asked a lot and I've always wanted to give it a try and pass it by some seasoned experts here.
    What's funny about this and quite enlightening is how dull looking the majority of my raw images that are edited to my tastes according to how I remember the scene compared to these images which were strictly copied by eye from several film samples.
    And surprisingly it was quite easy and fast to get their using ACR's tools. I like the results but they just seem to look odd to me. Maybe because I've been so used to the way digital renders color.
  8. I'm no film expert, especially not familiar with the higher end films you were mentioning (although my dad shot exclusively K64 as we kids were growing up), but I much prefer the more saturated colors (the after shots) to the stock ACR versions. I've been finding that every darn photo I want to "publish" needs work from the RAW file as LR sees it originally.
    Cheers on experimenting, I'd say forge ahead and keep refining, it looks very good thus far!
  9. Nice looks. I agree that I prefer the slightly more saturated look, and it's what I'm often pushing towards.
    I'm not certain that it matters whether it emulates film. At least to me, it more closely approximates what I see - so pumping it up brings it more inline with what I saw when I pressed the shutter.
  10. Thanks for the encouraging responses.
    Both the ACR default and the edited versions look nothing like the original scene. Pretty sure of it since I'm minutes away from where these were taken except for the two "tree" shots, so my memory is pretty good regarding accuracy.
    I've seen sample images from other sites that claim to emulate a variety of film stocks with their featured software and none look even close to actual film images posted on the web which were old snapshots, the look I was going for as shown in this link:
    I'm sure a modern pro shot captured on 4x5 film and scanned at a high end lab facility wouldn't exhibit the odd color crossovers and funky hue/saturation shifts.
    All in all it was a very invigorating learning experience not only in testing my editing skills but also finding out how messing with color this way can induce an unexpected emotional response that kept me going with each tweak. I noticed the mood and my feelings and attitude toward the image would immediately change once I pasted the copied saved settings exported to an xmp file in ACR onto other images. It was like entering a dream like world.
    There's someone else on the web who sells action scripts that give a very beautiful, professional, clean looking "pop" style cross processed look, but that look has been done to death already. When I stumbled upon this little editing venture, I realized the potential of imbuing one's own unique look to an image I wasn't aware of before just with subtle tweaks.
    Photography is hard enough acquiring this type of uniqueness you can call your own. I mean look at the unique visual styles seen in images by illustrators like Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell and Charles Bragg to name a few. There's not a lot of photographers that I've seen that can inject that level of individual style mainly because it's photography, not illustration.
  11. I don't think it emulates either film. It appears to me that the original pictures where overexposed and you used ACR to correct them. However the results you created are very nice.
  12. Greg,
    The images were exposed for ETTR=Expose to the Right and tone corrected, but the correction wasn't just a slider adjust to contrast and exposure and saturation.
    Below are the two first images posted here retaining the original tonal edits but zeroing all HSL, Split Tone and Shadow Tint sliders, setting Color Temp to As Shot and applying +20 Saturation in the ACR's main panel. I think there's a noticeable difference.
  13. Tim, im not sure you emulate just put some time and effort developping correctly with your new knowledge the way you where suppose to do it before. I mean, as another previous member said; As far as I'm concerned that sort of program is used to enhance the colors. You've done just that. Which film it emulates is rather irrelevant..i kind of agree with that.
    film emulation for me or camera style is when you can pin point the exact look by saying " oh its a holga!" or "oh look the cross processing!"
    What i see here is a well developped image, and you finnaly understand and see the possibility, and for that bravo : )
  14. heres what i mean; lomo camera simulation
  15. heres what i mean; holga camera simulation
  16. heres what i mean; cross process simulation
  17. heres what i mean; platine simulation
  18. You get the picture! I could post and post taht kind of simulation...but when a shot is just beautifull without bells and whistle, for me its more a good development than a film simulation.
    *by the way, all here have been done in Photoshop from action i create years ago..they are yours for free for the past 3years i think..just get my email and ask for them. I got some preset also in Ligthroom that are pretty close.
  19. Tim, you've done some nice processing work. As to whether or not it emulates film, I'm not certain. In some cases it may, in most cases I'd say no. For example, the Lomo effect from Patrick is meant to make us think "Lomo," but it looks more like a Lomo filter than it does with any Holga or Diane that I have.
    Finally, there is far more to replicating a film image that color adjustments. There is the issue of correct grain relationship for independent contrast level, color layer, exposure, and output size. As well, film response in the toe and shoulder reacts differently than a digital file processed in ACR. You can't get the digital file to work like film....because it isn't film. You can get close, but on print there will be differences that knowledgeable film users recognize.
    A perfect example is using Nik's Silver Efex for converting to B&W and adding grain. It is by far, the best program available to simulate B&W film. The problem is that a DSLR will "see" the scene differently in many ways than it in dynamic range, resolution, latitude, mid range tonality, etc, etc. Depending upon the output from the raw converter....and depending upon the raw converter used, Silver Efex is going to look different. That's not to say it isn't good. I use it all the time in wedding work where I haven't used real B&W film for the image.
    Best of luck with the experiments.
  20. I appreciate your efforts and the results are interesting, but:
    The tonal relationships still look like digital to me, Kodachrome renders the tones in more of a gradual fashion rather than truncating them as seen here.
    But honestly, Kodachrome is still brilliant in current form and the processing is excellent and easy to be had, so why is digital now trying to emulate a film with such rich heritage and unique properties? No matter how close you think digital is to looking like a specific film, it will never be, so let digital be what it is I say.
    And for what it is worth, here is some of my Kodachrome, the real stuff that is...
    URL signature deleted, not allowed by
  21. What you are showing us is that the Pentax has lousy color right out of the camera.
  22. What you are showing us is that the Pentax has lousy color right out of the camera.
    I dont agree. What Tim show us is he didtn know how to correctly process images before, and he know learn that no raw converter will do the job for him. User of NX2 and DPP get good result out the camera using those software becuse those raw converter adjust the setting for the user, ACR, Apperture and Ligthroom show you a linear raw to start with and let you do the whole thing to suit your need. Its super easy to create preset once that will automaticaly adjust your image everytime.
  23. Nice job with this Tim and I think these shots are reminiscent of Kodachrome (albet with a longer tonal range, perhaps). Keep it up and nobody will ask you how you processed it- they'll just congratulate you for doing it well.
  24. Patrick....I love the Platine look.
  25. it yours my friend! just email me : )
    thanks for the comment.
  26. By the way, Daniel youre project is very interesting, love it. I would contact you soon, i would like to participate the best i can : )
  27. Patrick, could you email me the platine workflow as well? Looks fantastic.
  28. heres what i mean; holga camera simulation​
    Sorry, but that image looks NOTHING like a Holga shot. It has none of the non-linear analog weirdness you get from the average Holga. Can't reallly say much about your other simulations but they seem pretty sterile, like most attempts to duplicate film digitally.
    I think these color shots look very good. I don't think they look like Kodachrome, but as others have pointed they don't have to.
  29. i dont try to duplicate..i use those *simulation* to get the look i want..its different. The look you see of any of those image have been made in less than 3sec each, as a reference for the discusion. If i had want to mimic the exact holga look, i could have done it easily also, as theres not much to do to simulate it..but that was not the point.
    For the other open minded that want to get something else from there digital images, please click on my name, and write a email from will get a automatic response with the needed link.
  30. Wow! Some really insightful meaningful responses. Thanks for the feedback.
    I don't have a background or long history as a dedicated photographer so I wouldn't know a Holga from a Lomo. And who the heck is Diane, Dave? Just kidding. Other than that I have to say those are some very unique looking treatments. I've seen those effects on quite a few web gallery images. Just didn't know they had a specific name for it.
    Of course I wouldn't know what a correctly processed image should look like in the first place. From the many images I've see currently on the web and in all my years working at ad agencies and printing companies, film seems to be the reference point as to what should look correct. And I'm not saying that I prefer this look to my current methods of processing.
    Daniel, from the gorgeous shots on your Kodachrome site, I realize I didn't even come close to emulating film. So I've bookmarked those pages for reference in hopes at getting better at this. What grabs me most about those images is the weird diminished bluegreens to navy blue color crossovers coming out of the shadows transitioning to the warm caramel tinted highlights which was what I was going for. The high luminance reds and oranges in your images are one characteristic I think got pretty close to emulating but clearly I have more work ahead of me.
    Dave, thanks for the insight describing the different characteristics between digital and film. I agree with you, there are things about film that can't be replicated in ACR. One draw back is the weird halo artifacts applying Fill Light and Recovery in an attempt to emulate the toe and shoulder response of film. You can't see the artifacts, though few and only on certain images, in the small jpegs here, but they're pretty ugly zoomed in on in ACR.
    Roger, thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I could sell the xmp preset file, but I ain't holding my breath on that ever happening. Discussions over at the Adobe DNG Profile Editor forum mention that as one of the benefits of that app as a way to sell profiles of custom color styles. I'm just playing around.
    What I'ld like everyone to know from this, if they already aren't aware, is that ACR's simplistic interface allows an immediacy over editing in Photoshop and other raw converters with no stops or slowdowns. Since I was just feeling my way around in ACR much like a painter scrubbing and dabbling paint on canvas switching from one brush to another creating happy accidents in hopes of instilling a unique personal style, doing this in Photoshop would've required going from one editing dialog box or adjustment layer to another, constantly selecting from a myriad of menu selections different Blend modes and/or filter effects that impede the impulsive nature of the creative process not to mention the processing power required to pull it off.
    All I had to do in ACR is work on one image trying to copy a look, in this case my skewed impression of film, save the setting and apply to other images and what I got inadvertently was no longer a lame attempt at a copied film style but a way to inject uniqueness in an image quickly without making it look over processed.
    Best I can describe it is it's basically fingerpainting with the video color table since you're strictly working the preview, not the data which can eat up memory and slow you down. Also each subsequent image's content brought its own uniqueness when applying this preset which required its own set of additional tweaks to bring out other subtleties that couldn't be seen on first examination of the original scene as well as from ACR's default settings or other methods used to make the image look "good".
    I have other presets that make my images look "correct" or "good" according to how I saw the scene. Pentax like any other digital camera doesn't produce bad color. I just shot overexposed to take advantage of ETTR. I probably shouldn't have included the ACR default setting version to compare against since it more distracts than informs.
  31. As Daniel said. Considering that Canon, Pentax, Nikon and Sony all have film variants of bodies that take the same lenses... which are all currently at rock-bottom prices, wouldn't the best way to attempt to simulate such films be side-by-side shoot outs? But then again, the danger might be that you might discover that you really prefer the way the film comes out right out of the lab as opposed to hours and hours of alterations.
  32. ACR 5.x (CS4) is a NICE improvement over 4.x.
    ACR 4 makes ACR 3 look useless; however ACR 5 is a marginal, but very useful improvement over ACR 4 with many more tools.
  33. "...tonal adjusts to emulate the dynamic range of slide film in general."
    All pretty good comments; but as mentioned, film is film and digital remains digital.
    The "look" is as one likes it to be.
    I shot this sometime back, played a little with it and came up with what I consider a "film like look."
    Aesthetically it's not much, though I liked the tonality and color and range.
  34. I guess I'm left asking what the "film look" really looks like then.
    Pete, your Table 1 image is kind of hard to tell which is which. It's professional looking and seems to look like a high quality scan of large format film. The only thing that gives me any indication of a film look is the slightly caramel tinted WB.
    The only way I can tell if it's film has been derived from my experience with prints from my 35mm Yashica and Minolta Freedom Zoom P&S from a one hour photolab which exhibited a color palette with color crossovers similar to what I've posted.
  35. If you want the look of film, particularly a specific film, i say shoot the film! Why mess around making something that isnt into something that still isnt...
  36. Just crank up the saturation in the camera. But if we have to go to all this trouble to get a nice shot, then to me its not photography, but skill in computer graphic manipulation...sigh! Yet another piece of software.
    I still keep some velvia and my F4s handy for beautiful scenery.
  37. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's a lot less trouble than making a contrast mask in Cibachrome to get a nice print. Are Cibachrome prints also in your list of no-nos?
  38. First off, good work. Experimentation is the key to many things.
    I agree that color was corrected in the original images to make a more pleasing final result. Having only shot one roll of Kodachrome, I can't say how close the colors are. However, knowing film and its properties, there are a few pieces missing. Someone on the forum may be able to achieve this. After all, they say you can do anything in Photoshop.
    Some of the misunderstanding may come from only using Kodachrome in its glory days on prints or on a projector. I imagine that a 4x6 or a far away projection, the color scheme would be the most memorable aspect of Kodachrome. From what I can find on Flickr (elsewhere and posted above), I can tell that scanning Kodachrome does not diminish its legendary status.
    If you are craving the look of film, come on and buy some. Find a pro lab who will do some good scans for you. I do my own color scans on a $20 Epson 4490 (thank you Craigslist). If you are interested in going the scanning route, your software skills will be tested to squeeze every bit of data out of the scan. For B&W, it's all wet for me except when sharing over the Internet is involved.
    The new Ektar 100 is amazing. C-41 means that processing is pretty cheap and relatively abundant. Please excuse my scanner, the DMAX is modest and scanning at 4800dpi doesn't actually render that amount of data.
    I repeat, buy film.
  39. Bonifaz, I've never been able to get gorgeous (odd ball) color as depicted in your shot shooting film whether scanning it myself or letting a local lab do it. Whatever color I did get was a PITA getting there and it was different with every frame so there was no consistency. To be clear I've never shot Kodachrome. It's always been negative print film.
    Even with negative film the color palette rendered in the final image has always been given to me by whatever film brand plus processing delivered. I didn't create it. I would've never known to color the bricks shown in your image that strange greenish beige. I don't know if you edited it in or it just happen to come out that way in processing? or scanning software? Even if it was left up to me to make that image look the way it does I still would've never known to make the wood fence two toned with orangish tan and violet tinted gray and the sidewalk cyanish gray. That's not accurate. That's not what I would see when tripping the shutter.
    Of course I could just shoot Kodachrome or any film of my choice to get a certain look. As I've indicated before my experience with film has never guaranteed a certain look or desired result. There has been too many fingers in the pie trying to get what I want with added time and hassle and I was never sure if the results were ever what I wanted. Who wants odd ball color in a photo? I never did.
    But it took me just 15 minutes in ACR to come up with initial color tweaks derived editing the last image I posted of the boy and train and exporting the settings to xmp to render that odd ball color to other images with added tweaks. How do I know what film is suppose to look like? Pleasing? By whose standards. A chemist at Kodak? Did this chemist anticipate acquiring pleasing color would be subjected to varying degrees of process control? Would it still be considered pleasing color even under the worst processing conditions? I just don't trust film and its processes required to get that pleasing color that others seem to effortlessly achieve.
    And just to show how I would edit a random snapshot from my Pentax before I came up with my impression of the film look, here's another before and after:
  40. Tim,
    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I understand where you are coming from now. Before I spent so much time in the darkroom I didn't understand how to make film work for me. Overcast days were a botch, saturation was a mystery, and I was constantly getting odd color casts. Working in B&W, I handled everything from the initial capture to the final print. Only one finger in the pie there, and I love it. B&W film home processing is more about grain and speed of course than it is about any color cast (film bases have different coliors).
    I don't know what to tell you. Every camera meter is designed in a different way. It's important to know how it works and to accomodate it. There were a few months I used cameras without meters and didn't use meters myself. I memorized EV values for various situations and memorized different rules for shadows. It got me close in some siutations, and I had many frames that wouldn't come out. The good thing was that I got to see the tolerances and behavior of color negative film.
    As for some of the pictures in my previous post, the auto-exposure feature on my Epson Scan software reacted very poorly to Ektar's strong blue channel. There was another feature turned on that boosted the saturation. Most of the other pictures on Flickr were scanned with different settings. It has since been turned off. I also found out the software was only scanning values 10-225. I don't care about the 1-9 values (shadows) but man did I want all the highlights I could get (226-255). Now a click in Photoshop CS3 for auto-levels and auto-color produces much better results. I would have to revisit those scans with my newly discovered settings. I like the odd-ball colors in those particular shots, so I didn't change it.
    There's also the issue of screen calibration in the modern world. I don't see my image the way you described. Does your monitor have an SRGB profile you can load? I need to get a tool to help me calibrate my screen in situations of dynamic ambient light. There are many on the market. Most computer area/offices experience this issue. Here's just one example.
    What is odd ball for you?To a certain extent, I've heard some people say that color is arbitrary. I don't think it is, but it all depends on your taste. Sometimes very rarely I want the colors to pop. Other times, I want them as accurate as possible.
    The choice is really up to you. There are different films with different responses to different wavelengths of light. Camera companies have various ways of converting RAW (so I hear) that yield slightly different results. Have you ever tried matching printer profiles in Photoshop, making sure that the colors on the screen are similar to what's being printed? It's tough! It all depends on what you're going for. With distortion, field of view, and depth of field, a camera already sees the world much different than we do.
    Take a look at this pic. A cold winter day in December. Skin tones are accurate. Grass is dead. That house is really painted turquoise. If I could go back in time, I would test it. Is this odd ball? It's Kodak Portra 400 NC (stands for neutral color).
    I should mention that since the lens I love to use is 50+ years old, it has a slight warming effect. The coating has aged a bit and saturates more than my newer lenses.
  41. Bonifaz,
    I have German ancestry, but dont' speak the language. From the Danenberg/Bockelman tribe so to speak.
    Hope you didn't take my "oddball" color comment the wrong way. I meant it as a compliment. Both your images you've posted and the ones on your flickr site are very good and have their own timeless character about them. Film to me renders scenes with a kind of dreamlike altered parallel universe to reality kind of feel. It's not reality but then in some way it has more character than reality.
    You may need to calibrate your display if you don't see the unique color detail in your first image I described in terms of having gorgeous "odd ball" color. All your images on your flickr site possess this unique look. I'm not saying it's wrong or bad but all are far from looking accurate as far as reality is concerned, but I don't think your love of film is based on its ability to reproduce reality accurately.
    Film has its own color patina which from my experience is unpredictable from the moment you click the shutter to the final scan and this is what I have issues with. Not saying film looks bad, it's just hard to process and know what you're going to get ahead of time. For instance when I'ld shoot a scene that had a specific color, clarity or character to it with my film camera I'ld often get unexpected or skewed results far from what I was trying to communicate by the time I saw it in a scan or print. I was often disappointed shooting film in this regard. Not so with my digital camera.
    As far as reality looks the image below is a dead to nuts exact depiction of the four way stop intersection outside my window I just snapped with my Pentax K100D and tweaked ACR's default settings to make it look exactly as I see it. Took me a couple of minutes.
    No where in this sunlit scene do you see concrete curbs and paved road with a cyan or bluish cast. Even the coral brick veneer on the front of the house (and it is coral colored when the sun is on the opposite side) has quite a bit of noticeable orangish yellow. I wouldn't say this image has as much character as if it were shot on film, but at least I can predict what I'm going to get and I can work from there.
  42. As an experienced palladium printer I can say the Platine emulation looks awful and wouldn't be an acceptable Platinum/Palladium print.
    As for the other film emulations I think the final film renderings look fine but they don't really have the Kodachrome look.
    I think what the OP has done though is to demonstrate how well RAW processing can work and it certainly shows a creative endeavor.
    The real challenge with RAW processing comes when processing skin tones. Most people don't get those correct. And getting those colors on the final print is also another challenge, though the first step is processing the RAW file.
    DXO optics has film emulations, their Kodachrome and Velvia is okay, but as someone else pointed who cares most of the time.
    Prints made from Kodachrome looked like crap most of the time unless a lot of money was spent creating an excellent interneg and then translating that to an Ektacolor print.
    The first Holga shot looks like the Clarity slider was pulled all the way to the left and then vignetting was applied - not really a good emulation.
  43. Donald anything you can show us from your Photoshop knowledge that can help a user? I like when people critique others images but with something to show. Oh, by the way, i answer your question about the comment you made on my image section : )
  44. if you want to emulate film why don't you just go shoot film? simple solution!
  45. Addison,
    Like I said before, from my experiences with film it just hasn't been that simple. Wish it were. It's really too much trouble with always unexpected results.
  46. Well then learn how to use it! Its like playing guitar with a synthesizer. It just makes more sense to play a guitar. Or vice versa with a midi guitar.... The "unexpected results" can often be the best part about it (so long as no one was an idiot and destroyed the film...).

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