My 3 cents in defense of film simulation

Recently I’ve read a post by Frank Lehnen in which he points out a phenomenon of film simulation in digital photography. As he claims his loyalty to film he also asks an obvious question: “Why trying to imitate film when there’s the real thing?”

For the record, I completely agree with Frank on what he says about film and its simulation in digital. It really seems ridiculous and somewhat ironic that having run away from film in the early 2000s the photo industry now tackles the look and feel of it.  However, I am as guilty as anyone who does this, in my digital photography I use film simulation. Why?

Obviously, I don’t speak for anyone but me, so these are my reasons for #fakefilm heresy.

The look

I just love the way film photos look and I want my digital pictures to be the same. I’m also quite a sucker for that film grain and colour reproduction. Or black and white reproduction if you will. As I’m not shooting commercial photography I don’t care too much about how realistic skin tones are or things like that. By trying different film presets I’m free to experiment and make even boring real-life looking digital files more exciting. Which brings me to my next point…


Post-processing pictures by applying this or that film preset can be fun. As I mentioned, photos from a DSLR may look too real. Unless I’m lucky with some amazing light, most of the time I want to liven up my pictures with a film effect. And it’s fun to see how different settings for film and ISO change your photo. I would even try some presets on that frame with amazing light just to see how they go together, and if I like what I see, I leave it.


Digital photography plays a minor role in my photo work. I’m a film guy, so most of my photos are “the real thing”, but why my digital pictures should be a black sheep? At some point, I just decided that I want some sort of consistency in terms of the look, and that consistency is film. I’m not trying to fool anyone here, you can still easily detect a digital photo in disguise, but I believe it looks more in place among film pictures in a slideshow, for example.


As I’ve already mentioned somewhere else, my ideal digital camera would be the one that gives me the aesthetics of film and the security of digital. Oh, wait, there is one. It’s Fuji X100 series. Though again one can identify a digital file in a film simulation skin most of the time, those Classic Chrome and Acros settings are really good. And maybe some day I’ll get me one of those, but till then I’ll keep messing around with some film presets applied to my digital pictures.


2 thoughts on “My 3 cents in defense of film simulation

  1. Thanks for this defence of film simulations!

    And you’re right, and I confess that I’m guilty too! My one and only digital camera for the moment is the iPhone and it really comes in handy (pardon the pun) sometimes. And for these shots I apply film simulations too…

    And great photos, by the way!


    1. Thank you, Frank. I use VSCO on my phone and they have great presets for film. Really dig them.


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