How to design Fujifilm Recipes

I often get asked to create a recipe mimicking the style of specific films or photographers. Instead of doing that, let me instead show you how I go about doing it in a few simple steps.

Øyvind Nordhagen

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“Nighthawks” Øyvind Nordhagen, using OWH Darkness recipe

Fujifilm has given us a great set of tools for creating distinct looks in camera, without having to do much post processing, if any. With some basic knowledge of these tools you should be able to play around and achieve what you want.

Get your references straight

Before beginning though, you need to know what your desired result should look like. I suggest you find around 5 reference images that look like what you want. Pay attention to contrast, color cast, saturation, sharpness and grain. Make sure that they are actually similar by comparing their histograms. If 3 images have faded blacks and the remaining 2 have rich black levels, you have some more research to do.

The next step is to compile a few of your own raw files that represent a selection of similar subjects and lighting conditions to your reference images. These will be the images you use to test your recipe. Don’t go overboard with this or you will be up all night going back and forth adjusting. 5 images is good here as well, as long as they represent some variety.

Download Fujifilm X-RAW Studio

Tweaking recipes in your camera is highly inefficient, so I recommend you download Fujifilm’s companion software X-RAW Sudio. It’s not without its flaws, but it gets the job done. Best of all is that it actually uses the RAW processing engine of your actual camera. This means the results will be identical to what you later will shoot with your recipe.

Contrast first

The place I always start is with the desired contrast curve. Look for tendencies in the histograms of your reference images (it can help to squint your eyes for this). Take this simplified example: We can clearly see that there is some crushing of the blacks involved, but with a roll-off in the bottom end. There is also a dominance of mid-highs, but again no clipping.

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Øyvind Nordhagen

Photographer based in Oslo. I write about photographic technique and editing.