Film look in digital images and why there are no rules in photography

All right! Such a nice day out there, sunny and clear We’ve been having very nice weather here this winter. Looks like everyone else is getting a lot of snow and cold and It looks like everyone is having fun and playing in the snow, taking amazing photos in the snow and we hadn’t gotten anything of that here, I was a little bit jealous because I’ve had a snow for the last 5 to 6 years at this time of the year, and we hadn’t had anything of that here until finally, last weekend, like 4 or 5 days ago, we got a foot of snow I mean not here but in the nearby mountains The thing with this place is that it doesn’t get cold enough for the snow to stick around for a long time So you only get a few days to play with the snow.. That’s what I did yesterday, I drove to the mountains I took some videos, I made some images. I’m gonna show you a little montage It’s just two minutes with some of that footage and some of the images that I made yesterday And after that we’re gonna take a look at one of those images I’m gonna show you how I went from the original RAW file, this is a digital image, to the final image I’m gonna show you all the the steps in the process I’m gonna show you how I make my digital images look like film, more or less, and why I do it But first of all, let’s play the video Okay, so this is the image that we are gonna be looking at today I think it’s a good example of my photography, what I try to achieve with it and also a good example to show you most of the steps that I follow every time for every image that I edit. I’m gonna be using Adobe Lightroom CC but you could use any software because the steps that I’m gonna be following are pretty much the same But maybe the last ones when I use Photoshop So what I was after when I took this shot is to show the contrast between the black very dark tombs and the white snow. I thought that was looking pretty cool And this was the best composition that I could find There are still a couple things that bother me a lot about this composition and we’re going to try to fix them in post The first thing that I do with every digital photo is to crop it This is the RAW file that comes just like this from my Sony a6000 so it comes in 3:2 aspect ratio, I have to crop it to 1:1 so I have the square composition The advantage of shooting digital is that you can move and change the composition a little bit if you need to adjust it but in this case It looks just fine as it is. Of course, the second step is to convert this photo to B&W As you can see, this is already pretty dark but the snow is not bright enough I’m gonna play with the curves now a little bit. I do the exact same thing or very similar for every photo I raise this side of the curve to say 1.5 or 2, something like that. Raising this to 2% It means that no black no matter how dark it is is gonna be pure black It’s just gonna be a little bit above it, so I use that to control the blacks so they don’t go completely completely black. I do the same for the highlights I don’t want any white part of the image to be completely white One of the reasons is because I use white borders. And when I print and frame photos the mat is white So I don’t want the photo to merge with the borders or the mat changing here the curve, this side of the curve, to more or less.. in this case it’s gonna be, let’s say 96% Because it has snow so I want it very bright, but not quite white in any other photo I would put this down to more or less 90% or something like that But in this case, I want a little bit brighter than usual All right. So now I’m gonna play a little bit more with the curve. I’m gonna create new points like this one This is gonna crash the shadows. I do this because I want very few details in the shadows I know that this is not probably the right thing to do technically because If you want to be very realistic and show every detail in the photo or the image You don’t want to do that, but in my case I want to show very little detail in the shadows, in the dark shadows and the bright highlights I like it that way and we’ll talk about that a little bit more later I’m gonna try to keep the curve at that level almost all the way until we get here to the highlights where I’m gonna raise this, and that is gonna do the same it’s gonna crash a little bit the highlights, as you can see they’re getting brighter and brighter And now we are gonna control the rest of it here. The exposure seems fine to me. I’m gonna take even less… I’m gonna take the shadows slider even farther down, as I said, to lose some of the detail and I think that’s about right, that is pretty dark already, that cross This is the for me the main subject of the photo, this cross right here And these are the ones that are gonna complement that cross, and this is the empty space the snow is creating that empty space, and we have a line here, a diagonal line. So this is where the viewer is gonna be focused first, and then probably the the crosses and this diagonal line so I’m gonna be focusing on that cross most of the time, and I like what I see here as you can see, it still has some detail, but it’s losing a lot of it from the original one so I like it that way I think pretty much this is it, we don’t have to do anything else as you can see in the histogram, the whites can be a little bit brighter so we are going to move this slider here a little bit Probably to there, we can change this again later, so it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time I forgot to do these, but I want to enable lens correction and the chromatic aberration for the lens that I was using Now we’re going to move to the effects panel and this is where I try to make this image look more like the images that I get from the Bronica The reason for that is not only because I like the look that I’m gonna create here it’s not only that I like the look of film, but I’m trying to create a cohesive body of work and I don’t want to be thinking about “this image is gonna look this way if I use the a6000” “this image is gonna look different if I use the Bronica or I if use this film stock or this other one” I try to make all the images look as similar as possible that way, I get the freedom of using whatever camera I have available to me at the time sorry, the dogs are going a little bit crazy as I said I want to have the freedom of using whatever camera I want to use even if it’s my phone, to create the image that I want to create, and I know that that image will fit in my main body of work so this is what I’m gonna try to do here, as you can see digital is very sharp, or it looks sharper than film so I’m gonna bring the clarity down to probably -20 or something like that as you can see here, the flowers that people left there they lost some of the detail another thing I do, is get the Dehaze slider and put it down to people usually use this to, if you have some mist, a little bit of mist, a little bit of fog and you want to have a clear image, the dehaze can get through that mist and that fog there is not much mist here, but if you look at the sky it’s increasing the contrast a lot in that sky. I’m gonna do the opposite, if you go the other way, you create mist. It’s nothing you you don’t go through the mist, you are creating that mist and that fog Of course, it doesn’t look real because it’s creating a completely homogeneous. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but It’s creating or adding fog to the whole image and that is not realistic But if you put it down to say -9, -10, something around there. It’s complementing the work of the clarity slider and it’s adding a lot of softness to the image that in my case, and my bronica, the lenses that I have, the camera that I have and the film stock that I use they have this kind of effect. They are softer than digital and that’s what I’m trying to replicate here So we’re almost there. It looks better it doesn’t look that digital anymore but now the key is, if you look at the dark parts here, it there are no details It’s just almost almost black, and here there are no details, it’s almost white look at what happens when I add some grain when I say some, I mean a lot of it for example, 45. As you can see, the snow is still white This is still dark and we don’t get the details from the snow and the tombs back but we add detail with the grain, and this is something that I think is key to my photography and to what I do because otherwise, if I didn’t add this grain, I wouldn’t be able to create this high contrast images or they would look completely different. They would look very digital, very metallic I don’t know why I like that word. They look metallic to me and some photographers out there they create very high contrast images with digital cameras, and they have very lovely images but they have that digital look to them that I just can’t get past I don’t know, I love adding this grain here, when I shoot film it comes by default I don’t have to do anything with it, but with digital images I like to add it and I like it I know this is not for everyone, but I’m telling you how I do it, you don’t have to do it but I’m telling you how and why I do it the last thing here is I always add a little bit of vignette, in this case we have four corners that are white, clear, so I’m gonna to add an inverse vignette, that is probably something around +5, I don’t want the vignette to start modifying or touching the cross too much I always add a little bit of feather here, and that is looking pretty good In normal circumstances, this would be my final image But in this case, I’m gonna go a little bit beyond this. A few days ago, I wrote a blog post where I quoted Bill Brandt. Bill Brandt, for those who don’t know, was a British photographer. He was brilliant He died a long time ago, I think 30 years ago. So he was a film photographer and I love his work He’s being a great inspiration of mine. He said that photography doesn’t have any rules It’s not a sport, it’s not a competition and you as a photographer set your own rules So out there we see that there are photographers who shoot only film because they believe that film is better or maybe they believe some of them believe that film is the only way to make photography. Some photographers print their work only in the darkroom, because they believe that’s the way to do it they don’t want anything to do with printers. And then we have the other way around people who shoot digital and don’t want anything to do with film because they think that is something from the past and it’s useless right now And of course the same with the printer. So every photographer thinks or believes different things, but they are all photographers creating images, that’s what they have in common But they all set their own rules They work with film, they work with digital, or they work with everything, and they don’t care too much about that But everyone sets their own rules And when it comes to post processing the images and work on them in the darkroom, it gets so much worse Photographers have accused others of faking images and a lot of things. I agree with Bill Brandt and I believe that every photographer the rules that they have for themselves they only apply to themselves and not to everyone else out there, because as long as we are creating something, as long as we’re creating images that’s the important thing here. When it comes to my own rules about post-processing an image, I am totally okay with removing elements from the original composition that don’t add anything to the image and they distract from the original idea that I had in the field so as I said earlier, what I wanted to show here was the contrast between the black tombs and the white snow, but this image is a little bit complex up here, it has too many elements and this one, this tomb right here that I’m gonna show you, this is not dark enough, it’s much brighter than the other ones So what I’m gonna be doing here what I’m gonna try to do, is to remove these two crosses here that don’t add anything, actually distract from the main subject of the photo and the contrast between this black and this white, your eye kind of goes there, they’re bothering me a lot I wish they were not there, but they were and I couldn’t avoid them anyway So I am totally okay with removing those crosses from there gonna try to remove this one from here for the same reason, it’s not even the whole cross is not even showing up, and then I’m gonna try to remove this tree from here if I can, because I’m not an expert in Photoshop, so we’ll see another thing that I’m gonna do is I’m gonna remove all these letters and these things from the tombs because, again, this distracts a lot from the idea that I have for this image that is just to show the dark tombs and the white snow. I know I’m getting repetitive here So I’m gonna go ahead and first of all, I’m gonna darken this thingy I’m gonna do it with the with the brush and just make sure that auto-mask is on, so this one should be pretty easy, the red part is where we are gonna apply the adjustments So we have to select the parts that we want to darken this is actually something very easy to do nowadays with software and I really appreciate this because You know, it’s much easier for us to deliver the vision that we have We had in the field or that we have now when we see the image on the computer. I don’t see anything wrong with creating what we want to create. Okay, so when we have this now we can adjust that and I believe that taking the shadows down and then the blacks should do the trick It’s better to compare to the other ones. It’s still much brighter Maybe the exposure. There we go! So something like this. This is what I mean oops So now, when we look at the image this cross right here is not brighter, it’s as dark as the other ones, so we don’t get distracted by that I believe that adds a lot to the image Let me show you the difference, there you go, as you can see it is a much better image already and we haven’t done anything, just darkened this thing Now with the healing brush, we can remove some of the brighter spots I’m not gonna go to the fine details of this image This could take up to hours to work on this image, but you get the point I’m trying to remove as many distractions as possible I’m gonna speed this up, but I’m gonna remove the letters from the tombs as well Okay, so I’m done here as you can see without the letters it looks so much better This is much closer to what I wanted to create here. As you can see, with the letters it’s distracting because you start reading the text. It’s not as good and I’m not faking anything the tombs were still there, the snow was there as long as the photographer is not lying or try to fake something on purpose I think it’s just totally okay to remove distracting elements, even if they are as big as they were here I don’t usually do this for most of my photos, by the way most of my images are just fine straight out of camera with just the adjustments in contrast and brighter whites and darker blacks and that’s most of my work I don’t spend a lot of time editing my images. This one is an exception, though, because I like it I love the vision that I had there and I think it’s a very strong image. At least I like it And I think if fits really well in my work So I’m not gonna let some stupid made-up rules to ruin this image for me because I’m just want to remove three crosses and some letters and that’s totally ok So what I’m gonna do now to remove these three crosses that I have left and this three here the image is pretty much done This is the exposure I want, I have the grain structure and everything, the vignette. Everything is done. This is ready to go So I’m gonna export it to Photoshop because this is much easier to remove in Photoshop The tools are much better there. And once again, I’m not an expert in Photoshop at all oops There we go So there might be better ways to do this or not I have no idea, but this is how I do it, so edit in Photoshop, this opens Photoshop Yeah, there we go. Let’s start with this one, the smaller one That one should be fairly easy to remove from there. So the way I do it, I use the lasso tool, here, I go around it selection, and then we go to edit, content content-aware-fill, and this opens this dialog, this is new in Photoshop I believe they released this content-aware tool just a few months ago This is not supposed to be a tutorial about this tool, there are like a thousand of them on YouTube but I’m just gonna show you what I’m doing here. As you can see, you get the preview here of what’s gonna look like. I think it’s pretty much perfect the way it is. I’m just gonna play a little bit with it There you go. That looks even better. So press ok, and it’s gone So now we have to select the original layer again. I’m gonna go from easier to harder. This is gonna be the second easiest one to remove let’s do the same, edit, content-aware-fill It’s pretty much gone already. I think that’s fine once again, I would go here and fine-tune this, as you can see it left a little bit of traces there. I will work on that, but as you can see, it got rid of the cross. It’s looking already pretty good and Let’s try this one. This might be a little bit harder because of the snow that is going downhill here So it might have a harder time filling that, or it might do it just fine the selection has to be in this layer There we go Almost, almost there, but as you can see, it doesn’t look very real there It looks a little bit better, I guess I think that’s fine, actually. That looks pretty good to me. And we’re gonna do the hardest part, I believe that is to remove this tree, and the reason why this is gonna be harder well, it’s because it has this roof here, the roof of the tomb, I think that’s gonna be a little bit harder for Photoshop to do, but let’s try it, it might surprise us I always forget Yeah, it’s not very good as you can see because as I said it’s pretty hard for Photoshop to guess the roof there. So let’s try all the options mirror… that looks better rotation And that looks pretty good already. Let’s try a little worse medium looks the best Yeah, I think that that one looks the best scale kind of destroys that part Yeah, let’s leave it like this just for example purposes here. That’s fine. As you can see I have to get rid of this but yeah, I think that this is good enough. Let me show you this is the final image. This is pretty much the steps that I follow when I edit the photo, of course with this image I went a little bit beyond because I was removing different elements, but as you can see my goal is pretty simple with this image It was all about the contrast between this main cross, the white snow on the tombs, the black of death, if you want to call it, and the white of snow and life, that contrast that caught my eye there, and this is what I wanted to create I already knew when I took the photo that I was going to remove the letters from the tombs I didn’t know if it was going to be possible to remove some of the crosses and some elements. That looks pretty good I will have to work much more on this, but this is out of the scope of this video I just wanted to show you more or less the steps that I follow So yeah, this is it Let me know guys if this is something that interests you, I can show you more examples with more images in the future because I’m aware that this is a special case, it’s very very high contrast it has snow, but I can show you some other examples where we have some grass and some texture to it Other than just the grain, but yeah, let me know For now, thank you so much for watching again and see you in the next one

22 Replies to “Film look in digital images and why there are no rules in photography”

  1. Bill Brandt said that there are no rules in photography. He manipulated some of his images in the darkroom. What do you think? How far do you allow yourself to go when it comes to editing your images?

  2. When editing out elements, I usually find it easier to remove them before I edit in black and white because photoshop does a better job of it – as the content aware film can make the grain look a little weird as it doesn't flow properly – then apply the grain and bw edit the whole image afterwards, getting a better finish.

    Great video as always 🙂

  3. Hi Adrian. I really enjoyed seeing how you process your digital images to look like film. Would love to see more in the future. I agree with you totally- it’s your image, do whatever you like to it 👍

  4. I liked this video Adrian, pretty much the same workflow as I follow. Only difference is that I go as far as I can with cloning whilst still a colour image. It seems to work better somehow and the gain is the last thing that I add, but your image looks pretty good using your methods…

  5. Thanks for a great video and sharing your experience with us. As far as i know that the definition of outdoor photography is to capture the moment. And if you have to add or remove objects in post-processing to make your picture looking meaningful, it means that you failed as photographer in general terms. And next point: I probably would agree with Thomas that making digital image looks like film does't have any sense. Digital should look like digital and film should look like film. Otherwise what are digital cameras for? Just to clone film?

  6. Creating film like digital images is actually what ended up with me plunging into film and learning how to develop black and white myself. there was a music video in particular that caught my attention as it was shot on color film stock. I love the look of color film, and black and white is a lot of fun. I think each one has its own advantages and look.

    As far as editing images, I've come to realize that doing things "in camera" is similar in principal to doing it "in post." The image created is manipulated in one way or another. And sometimes, heavy manipulation is just as interesting as dedication to realism.

  7. love the edit video! the composition of this image is very nice, and yeah I'm totally with you, I'm totally fine with removing unnecessary things from my photo…it's about creating the image I saw in my head when I took the photo…

  8. I think the way the image is framed determines what post-processing is acceptable.

    I want to preface this by saying that I absolutely think photojournalists are artists.

    I think whether the intent of the photo is to document as a photojournalist or whether it is to create a piece of artwork is the distinction that determines whether you should alter the photo, remove elements, etc.

    If the photo is being presented as a raw depiction of life, I think heavy manipulation is disingenuous. I think basic color and exposure correction is fine in the age of RAW photos, as film comes out much more vibrant that RAW from the get-go, but for example, the photo by Steve McCurry with the kids running through the water, I disagree with his decision to remove kids from the picture to simplify the composition. That's not how the scene unfolded, and to have that published as a journalistic work in an edited fashion is dishonest in my opinion.

    If he wanted to take that same photo, however, and post it to his portfolio/social media/duct taped to his refrigerator under the pretext that it is a manipulated photo, that is perfectly fine.

  9. Fantástico vídeo, Adrián. Como siempre!! Ya que mencionaste el tema de las impresoras… ¿Tus copias impresas las haces con una impresora fotográfica o envías todo tu trabajo, tanto analógico como digital, a un laboratorio?

    Muchas gracias, enhorabuena y un abrazo!!

  10. Hi, I looked for this image and the last one you shot on your store but didn't see it. I'm interested in buying a print. I must agree that you;'ve inspired me to buy a Bronica and the same lens you shoot. I shoot portraits and street but I would like to get into landscape photography. There is one photo you took I like you posted up on IG. I'll send you a DM .

  11. I recently found your channel, and you have a wonderful & cohesive body of work! May I ask why you don't just shoot in a 1:1 aspect ratio while using your digital camera? Or do you simply not have that option? Just curious if there is a reason. Cheers! 🍻

  12. Excellent – this was so eye opening! Making my digital shots square and more film like was right in front of my eyes, but it took this video for me to see that – thanks!! I shoot film in square format and love the look – no wonder I've been having trouble liking my digital shots…

  13. Excellent video, totally agree about the issue of ‘rules’ in photography. I am also a big Bill Brandt fan 🙂

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