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.


WPC – Band on the Run


Nikon D5100, Nikkor 50mm, Portra 400 film simulation

I never saw them afterward and I had never seen them before. It was only one quick moment on my usual way home.

As I was walking down the street I heard a strange noise disturbing the usual “soundtrack” of a busy street. That was the sound of music approaching. Suddenly these guys on a motorbike appeared out of nowhere playing something upbeat and funky. I had my camera with me but wasn’t ready for them as they jumped out of traffic and rushed away, and I thought I missed it. But then they turned around and for the second time, I was waiting.

The real photo challenge here was to focus, as I had a manual 50mm lens on my digital Nikon. Though the band is not exactly in focus, considering the circumstances I think it is still fine.

One direction

Nikon D5100, imitating Ilford HP5
Nikon D5100, imitating Ilford HP5

Once upon a time I posted this photo I managed to take in a split of a moment. So this is basically the next shot on my camera.

After I passed those girls on my way down the street I stopped at the crossing and saw these guys. Suddenly they both looked in one direction, having seen something unusual I guess, judging by their face expressions.

Originally a digital image, it was cropped and post-processed to look like a film one. This is a new version in b&w, which kinda looks better and reflects my current street photography preferences. The previous version from 2012 looked like this:


What’s your thought?

P.S. Oh, and it might be just the picture I needed for that Nostalgia photo challenge.

Dance to the music!



It’s not very often these days when I get a chance to take pictures in the street. Today was special. My family and I went to the seafront and walked along the shore. At some place we saw a street musician playing saxophone. I wanted to take a photo of him but suddenly some boys passing by started dancing to the music. Amazing!

I shot “from the hip”, so I couldn’t actually see the photo I was gonna take until I saw it on the camera’s display, and I wouldn’t get a second chance as the situation changed really fast. All the dancing was spontaneous and took only a minute.


And as you walk away…

And as you walk away...
And as you walk away…

This picture was originally taken by my Nikon DSLR with an old manual Nikkor lens and it was in colour of course. Later I edited it using a film preset to imitate Ilford HP5 film .

Though from a distance the photo could look like a film one, still I see almost no analogue spirit in it despite this quite authentic preset. I like film photography, so I try to use those presets when editing my rare digital shots, but I always doubt if it adds anything to the pictures or ruins them.

Does this filmish effect spoil the photo? Below is the original.