In this post I show you how I make my digital images look like they were shot on modern 35mm film. It is one of my most popular blog posts and was most recently updated in May 2019.
In case you want the TL;DR version of events here’s how I do it, largely in camera:
ETTR to minimise digital noise and achieve the correct shadows exposure in camera; use vintage or legacy lenses; boost the luminance in the midtones in post-production; use film presets to mimic the colours of 35mm film stock. Remember though, the most important thing is your base file. No amount of post-production can turn a bad photo into a good one.
If you want to know more of the hows and whys, as well as my suggestions for good quality film emulation presets, read on, and if you prefer to learn by watching a video rather than reading, in July 2021 I made a video version of this tutorial too, so take your pick. The content is the same, but the video includes footage from Lightroom so you can more of a feel for a good ETTR histogram.
These photos were taken during a trip to the Brecon Beacons over February half term. It’s a bit of a tradition for us to head to the mountains during the school holidays. Over February half term, the spring holidays in late March or early April, and then again at some point in August we head either north or south to Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons. This time it was the Brecons and the plan was to make an ascent to the main ridge for dawn.
We drove down to South Wales on the Monday and climbed the ridge in daylight to make sure that it was safe for us to go up in the dark the next morning. It was the first time we’d climbed Pen y Fan and Corn Du, and even thought we knew it to be a well trodden path, after a hairy anniversary climb in the Glyderau back in August we were feeling extra cautious. It was bitterly cold up on the ridge even in the sunshine, but the views out west over the rest of the range were incredible. Looking up over Corn Du I could make out the moon hanging low in the sky just above the peak.
Back in August, Ed and I spent a week on holiday in Estonia. We stayed in a little studio apartment in Kalamaja, Tallinn, and hired a car for the week so that we could make daytrips out of the city, too. We spent a lot of time in Tallinn itself as it is a beautiful city with lots to see, but we also took daytrips to Haapsalu and Pärnu, and on a third day explored the grounds of Palmse Manor and Viru Bog in Lahemaa National Park. The week we visited, Estonia was experiencing a rare heatwave and so we were on the lookout for shade and water. On the way back from Haapsalu we stopped at Keila waterfall and on the way back from Lahemaa we visited Jägala waterfall, both of which are worth taking the scenic slow route home to see. The photos below are a mix of film and digital. The film photos were taken on Portra 160 and Fujicolor C200, which is why the colours are a little mixed. All of the photos are over on Flickr with geotags if you want to plan your own trip.
A collection of photos from a trip to Mauritius. Coming from the deepest, darkest depths of a northern-hemisphere winter, I was addicted to the light and barely put my camera down. The white buildings, white sand, big skies and open beaches created the most gorgeous soft box effect that I couldn’t get enough of. The photos are a mix of film (Portra 160, Noritsu scanned) and digital.