Here on my blog, I didn’t talk a whole lot about my post-processing work so far. I could fill whole books with information about skin retouching, body reshaping, dodge & burn, and all the other various techniques since they are all based on endless different approaches and – much more interesting – philosophical point of views.
There are certain standards the (beauty/glam) industry is requiring, but there’s also room for (my & your) own style development.
One of the (last) steps in my post work – a must so to say – is the cultivation (refinement) of my imagery with film looks.
Why a Film Look?
Aiming for a film look has nothing to do with me yearning for the good old days or not being able to let go. Heck no, I truly love the digital era. But film looks instinctively (and unconsciously) evoke a feeling of authenticity. After all, this “look” has been fed to us and internalized for decades – meaning grainy specific B&W /color-profiled imagery and prints.
A photo appears to be much more realistic if it looks like an image of the analog era. Far from digital super HD that gives us a feeling of exaggerated (= unreal) clarity.
Conversion & Looks Help to Enhance My Vision
The specific character that came from a pushed B&W film or a slightly underexposed slide film are aesthetically so far away from the clean digital files we see with today’s high resolution cameras.
There is a unique elegance in film’s simple grain and mysterious qualities. For the film photographer, certain specialized looks have always been achieved by choices in chemistry, paper and technique coupled with the type of film or emulsion chosen. The varying differences in the consistency of light sensitivity in emulsions typically give each type of film its unique aesthetic.
With many films being taken off the market, it is still incredibly useful to keep those traditional names and what they meant to the film photographer alive, and use them as points of reference.
For me as a photographer in the digital era, using film simulation effectively is all about choosing a “look” that matches my vision and intention.
Using Plugins besides Photoshop or Lightroom
While sophisticated standard software like Photoshop & Lightroom gives you the ability to customize and personalize your images perfectly through individual edits such as highlights, shadows, contrast, color channels, skin retouching, liquefying and more, they never really provide the look and feel I’m used to (and adore) from my pre-digital days: The charisma of distortion, aka analogue film look.
Sure, you can add grain and build looks in Photoshop too, but working with specific and sophisticated add-ons (= plugins) integrated in your workflow in PS/LR is the only (simplistic) way to open a gate to a new world, to level-up your vision.
Dedicated film emulsion simulation plugins are a wonderful addition to the common retouching process (yet most plugins don’t come cheap…).
I Use Exposure by Alien Skin
Exposure gives my photos an organic and emotional appeal inspired by the history of analog photography. That’s exactly what I am used to from my old days of photography. Using these looks helps me wiping out that clean, overly-perfect digital flavor.
Further, the app helps me in developing my style. With over 470 presets that emulate the warmth of film, Exposure offers a wide range of starting points for developing my look. There are classic favorites like Kodak Porta, Fuji Pro 160, Provia 400F, Kodachrome, TRI-X, Polaroid, Ilford and Neopan, plus exotic ones like Panatomic-X, GAF 500.
Sometimes I discover a preset that sparks an idea. I then start to modify the original preset until I have created a unique look for one of my series. Sometimes this takes quite a lot of time – but it’s the creative process that translates my vision into the message of emotion and mood.
Every Series Conveys Its Own Look
Example images shown here are extracts from different shootings that are all based on completely different concepts and purposes. However, they are perfect to showcase the infinite possible outcomes. Each is represented by a “before” and “after” image. The “before” has already received its final touch ups in Photoshop so the “after” rather shows the effect of the specific look that I have applied to the image.
Conclusion: Reactivate Bygone Impressions
Triggering the feel of authenticity by using film character looks is a bullet proof way to gently convince viewers of a photograph’s validity.
But what is actually “real” in photography? Everything is subjective and each impression, every emotion is based on an experience – stored away in our conscious and subconscious mind, heart…
It’s my job to revive such personal and individual impressions…