In my Advanced Photography Tutorials series I share tips and advice for taking your photography to the next level. This series assumes that you are confident with the exposure triangle and have been using a DSLR or mirrorless camera in manual mode or semi-automatic (aperture priority / shutter priority) for some time. It also assumes that you are confident with the basics of composition, exposure and white balance. I have also written a series of tutorials for beginners in photography, so if you need to refresh any of the basics you may well find the information you need in my blog archives.
In this Advanced Photography Tutorials series you will find blog posts on techniques such as making your photos look like film, medium format imitation, film photography and editing. I hope you find them useful.
A couple of years into teaching myself photography, I began to wonder how other photographers made their photos so bright and luminous. I love luminous, light filled images but I just couldn’t seem to get my photos to pop with light the way other photographers did. I knew it wasn’t my camera. Browsing the camera pages on Flickr I could see that other photographers with the same camera as me could achieve the effect I so desired, but for me it remained illusive until I learned three pieces of technique. In this tutorial, I’m going to take the guess work out of it and share all I know about making your photos look bright, light filled and luminous.
This post is quite dry, but hopefully you’ll find it useful. I go through how I structure and organise my Lightroom catalogues for both my personal work as well as the weddings I film and photograph, and how I keep on top of a huge database of photographs each year.
Back in 2016 I wrote a post all about how to make your digital photos look like they were taken on film. Today I thought I would share another technique post on the subject of the film look, this time focusing on achieving the medium format look with a Four Thirds, APSC or Full Frame digital camera. This is a method I often find myself using, as I prefer the way longer lenses render photographic images. I sometimes use a 35mm or 28mm lens when I need to get a group shot or wide angle perspective when I’m working, but for my personal work I prefer to use the following method to retain the depth and feel of longer lenses in my wider perspective images. This technique is also really helpful when shooting in a tight space as it allows me to capture more of the scene without needing to reach for a wider lens to fit everything in.
How to make your photos look like medium format
The method I use to make my photos looks like they were taken with a medium format camera is nothing new, and I don’t claim to be the first to try it, however I have modified the method in a way that I think makes it much more accessible. More on that below.
I first came across this technique as used by wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer. It is often called the ‘Brenizer Method‘, but it can also be called the ‘Bokeh Panorama Method’. In short, it is the use of a long lens on a crop or full frame digital camera to produce stitched panorama images with a shallow depth of field. You shoot multiple frames, each with a small bit of overlap with the last so that special software can blend them together in post-production.
You’ll find lots of examples with very, very shallow depth of field, but it’s not a requirement. You don’t have to shoot at F1.2, F1.4 or F1.8 to use this method. I often shoot at F4 or F5.6 and use the method more for how it allows me to open up a composition without it becoming too flat. This method can also be used to make photos taken with an APSC or Micro Four Thirds camera look like they were taken on 35mm or ‘full frame’. There are no hard and fast rules, so just get out with your camera and get creative.
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.