Why use Film Simulation Modes?

27 June 2017 | Category: Stills

Most digital cameras have a feature that allows you to take control of jpeg image colour. In Fuji cameras this is known as the Film Simulation Mode while on Canon cameras it’s Picture Style, Olympus Picture Mode, Nikon Picture Control and on Sony cameras, it’s Creative Style mode. They’re designed to give images a particular look with many cameras having options such as Vivid mode to give colour an overall saturation boost and Landscape to boost blues and greens to make scenery look more vibrant.
With a background in film production, Fuji’s Film Simulation modes have names such as Provia (standard), Velvia (vivid), Astia (soft - more subdued colour and contrast), Classic Chrome, Pro Negative High and Standard, Acros (black and white), Monochrome and Sepia. While there are a few variations, they are designed to replicate the look of the company’s popular film emulsions. The muted colours and warm tones produced by Classic Chrome have proved especially popular while many monochrome shooters love Acros.
While each manufacturer has default settings for the Film Simulation / Picture Style modes, it’s also possible to customise aspects such as contrast, sharpness and saturation in-camera to tailor the appearance of jpegs to your own personal taste.

Getting it in-camera
Even if you shoot raw files to adjust post-capture, it’s worth spending some time investigating a camera’s Film Simulation / Picture Style modes to find the ones that you like and that work for the subjects that you shoot. We’d also encourage you to use the customisation options to perfect them and find the look you want. The main reason for doing this is that it will mean you are better informed about whether you’re getting the images you want at the shooting stage.
Using the Film Simulation / Picture Style modes also encourages you to visualise the final image at the shooting stage and this invariably results in better photographs. This is particularly true when shooting black and white images.
With mirrorless system cameras like the Fuji X-T2, Olympus OM-D E-M1, Panasonic GH5 and Sony A7R II, switching to the black and white mode allows you to see a monochrome image in the viewfinder or on the main screen before you take a shot. Seeing the scene rendered in shades of grey makes it far easier to ensure that you’ve got the composition right with the perfect arrangement of image elements within the frame. Removing the distraction of colour also allows you to see the image as a collection of shapes more easily, which again is good for improving composition.
To preview the impact of Picture Style / Picture Control modes with an SLR like the Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D810 you need to activate the live view mode and compose images on the main screen. Alternatively, you can shoot using the viewfinder and review images on the screen to assess them.

Save time
An increasing number of pros who shoot with mirrorless cameras use in-camera jpeg files because it saves them a lot of time processing raw files. Using the Film Simulation / Picture Style modes and customising the contrast, etc, enables them to create a bespoke look that they can replicate reliably.
Some still shoot raw files ‘just in case’, and we’d certainly recommend that you shoot raw and jpeg files simultaneously at least while you’re getting to grips with the various colour modes and determining your own look. It also means that if you come across a subject that looks better in colour, you’ll have a full-colour raw file if you don’t have time to switch colour mode.