Here are 42 photographs taken from a recent bridal collection shoot. I’ve shared them to show how I process my monochrome images using the new Acros film simulation from Fujifilm. Please feel free to read or just browse the pictures for ideas and inspiration.
Acros film simulation showing wonderful tonal gradation
The shoot: A commercial bridal fashion shoot for advertising, editorial and web use
- Client: Abigail Westrup Bridal
- Makeup and hair: Vicki Waghorn
- Model: Victoria Bond
- Location: Clevedon Hall
- Photographer: Damien Lovegrove
- Camera: Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF90mm lens – All pictures were captured in RAW and processed in Lightroom
I shot in RAW and used the Pro Neg S film simulation with H tone set to -1, S tone set to -1, Sharpness set to -2, Noise reduction set to -3 and the White balance set to K and carefully adjusted for each set up. The White balance is the only element that gets transferred to the RAW processing engine however the other factors give me the perfect image on the camera LCD to enable me to set the lighting contrast and exposure.
Acros film simulation
Of the four Acros film simulations available in the latest generation of Fuji X cameras Acros G is the one I use for portraits. The benefits of using Acros G over Acros, Acros R and Acros B for portraits is skin contrast is higher and the lips are more clearly defined irrespective of skin colour. Acros R tends to make skin blemish free but also ghostly and lacking in lustre, and Acros B just looks a bit blotchy. For landscapes, the R and B options are very popular and for street and architecture the regular Acros is generally considered the best.
Acros G versus B g
Acros G has a slightly steeper curve in the mid tones giving a touch more visual contrast than B g. My process for working with B g is to get the colour image right using Pro Neg S then make a virtual copy and switch camera profiles to B g before adding a touch of contrast. Now with Across I don’t need the last bit. That’s the obvious bit but there is also some alchemy going on at pixel level too. Acros G is more refined, it delivers more acutance than B g and this is a look that I like very much indeed.
I spent 16 years working as a professional photographer processing my black and white negatives and then hand printing every photograph. For the final 4 years of my film life I had a darkroom technician to do the work with me because by that time we were shooting 30+ rolls of film each week. I went completely digital in 2001 when I bought a pair of Fujifilm S1 cameras and I have never looked back since.
The lessons I learned from film
The main thing I learned when shooting film is to be consistent. I started by testing every film that was available and I narrowed down my shortlist. I got to know the one or two films I was going to shoot on a regular basis really well so I could predict the look at the shoot and establish a house style. Then I tested and measured each emulsion through experimentation to discover the ideal formula for processing the negatives to achieve the kind of look I was after. One film I used in 35mm cameras (Nikon F100) was Fuji Neopan 1600. I rated it at ISO 800 and processed it in Ilford ID11 developer at 1:1 for 7 ¼ minutes at 24°. This gave me great prints at grade 2 on my LPL enlarger. I then adjusted the printing settings to optimise for each negative. On digital I’ve done almost exactly the same process by testing every film simulation on offer before settling on the two that I’m going to use. I nearly always use Pro Neg S for colour and I use Acros G for black and white (X-Pro2) (B g on X-T1). Even when I’m shooting black and white I set my colour image first in camera ensuring the white balance and tone are spot on in each new scene before I switch to Acros G or B g for the shoot.
There is a trend at the moment for some wedding photographers to pump in contrast and make monochrome pictures ‘pop’ or ‘punchy’. The problem is this will become a dated just like the ‘vintage look’ that was popular a few years back with it’s yellow tinted skies and washed out shadows. HDR is already passed it’s best in a lot of peoples eyes. The good news with the Fujifilm simulations available in X series cameras is they are beautiful, calm and timeless. Classic Chrome is the exception and it’s interesting to note that it never got a Fuji emulsion name because Fuji transparency film was always better than that, and reproduced colours more faithfully than CC. Although most of my cameras have the Classic Chrome film simulation available I find it a bit too ‘Instagram’ for my taste. My advice is get a look that is right for you, get to know it well and make it your own. If, like me, you shoot for commercial clients from time to time, having a clean, pure look in your tool kit is definitely worthwhile too.
- Set up your camera LCD/ EVF to ensure you are seeing accurate exposure and colour saturation.
- Spend time to test each film simulation to determine the ones that work best for you and your subject.
- Adjust the highlight and shadow tone settings to give an accurate representation of your final look.
During the shoot
- Set the camera to your regular colour film simulation, and set the white balance for the scene.
- Switch to Acros film simulation or your regular monochrome film simulation as and when required. Always have the correct white balance before switching to a monochrome film simulation. If you are shooting in a fast changing environment switch to Auto WB.
- Use the camera screen to asses the lighting contrast and adjust the lighting as required. Get it right in camera. If you resort to a lot of slidery in Lightroom you will have lost the delicate, subtle, effect of the film simulation.
- Set the film simulation to the same one that you used at the shoot and make final tweaks to the pictures before exporting. Tip: I have set my Lightroom defaults to set the Pro Neg S film simulation automatically for all pictures taken my Fuji X cameras.
How to batch process a set of monochrome images in Lightroom
- Get all the images looking perfect in colour. Spot healed, white balanced, gradiented, brushed and renamed etc.
- Switch to Library and select grid view.
- Select all the pictures and press Cmd & apostrophe to create virtual copies.
- Keeping the original selection switch to Develop.
- Set the picture on screen to the new monochrome film simulation Across or B etc.
- Sync settings and choose just Camera Calibration and Process Version.
- You now have a perfect set of monochrome images.
About The Author
Damien Lovegrove is a world renowned portrait photographer based in the UK, specializing in making women look fabulous. You can say hello on his website, blog, Twitter and Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
One More Thing
Damien was kind enough to share a discount code for his Illumination 1 & 2 video tutorials. (they are awesome!). Use discount code diyphoto on check out for a £25 discount