Film Emulation – A List of Standalone Programs and Plugins to Emulate Film in Your Digital Darkroom

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It all started a few months ago after I purchased a Fuji X-E2. The way Fuji cameras render grain and colour is very unique and constitutes a real breath of fresh air in a market where other manufacturers seem more obsessed with megapixel counts and high ISO performances.  Don’t get me wrong here; I am also the owner of a high megapixel camera with terrific high ISO performance! I just really wanted something lighter and more compact when I travel and scout locations for jobs, and I found all of this in my Fuji camera. But to my surprise I found even more…

Let’s clarify a point first: I have always been and will always be a digital photographer as I equally like the time I spend shooting images for my clients and the time that I spend editing/enhancing them in the computer. What I was not expecting with this Fuji camera (beside a blazing fast autofocus!) was the look of the images. I don’t think that any digital camera was ever as close to film in terms of tonality and colour. The images also have that subtle grain that I never observed with any of my Nikon dSLRs. And I love it! I am obviously not the only one, considering the number of Fuji cameras sold this year.

It is interesting to notice that digital photography has clearly taken over the market but the so-called “look of film” is still considered by most the Holy Grail of modern digital photography.

Thankfully some developers understood this need to emulate film and currently offer great programs that allow film emulation in the digital darkroom. I have summarized in the following table some of the most popular standalone programs and plugins that emulate film, and also tone or add texture to your images.

Film Emulation Software and Plugin Options

At a time where Instagram and iPhone filters are to photography what poutine is to French cuisine, a crucial factor for me when using these programs is their customizability. Interestingly, it is a paradox that these programs and filters were created to help enhance photographers’ creativity when one notices how many photographers end up using the same presets and filters, and apply them to their images without taking the time and opportunity to modify them or create their own recipes. Camera angle, depth of field, focal length, exposure and lighting are some of the factors that contribute to the mood of an image. I also believe that unique post-processing techniques play a significant role in the creativity of images captured. In summary, emulate film but strive for uniqueness!

Film Emulation Software and Plugin Options

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