Modern Negative Fujifilm Recipe

Film and digital — the best of both worlds in one recipe

Øyvind Nordhagen
6 min readSep 10, 2021


Camera JPG example of Modern Negative

Back in May this year I told you about a recipe I created named New American Color. I made it to mimic the look of Joel Sternfeld’s large format street portraits. To that end I would say i was fairly successful. As close as digital gets without post-processing anyway. A lot of other photographers seemed to enjoy it as well.

Using this recipe over the summer I have tried adjusting it a little and sometimes I would keep those adjustments in a separate custom bank and use that more than the original. Now, the original is probably more accurate to my original intention than what I’m presenting here. However I found that New American Color leans a little heavy towards a stylized look that only works for certain subjects and lighting conditions. I wanted to take what I loved about the first recipe and make something a little more versatile.

Those who follow me on Instagram will have noticed the name “New American Color MKll recipe" being used for some of my shots. This was the working title for Modern Negative. What it became however, is something inspired by certain attributes of New American Color, not a replacement for it. They serve different purposes so they deserve different names.

So what did I like about the first one?

New American Color was made to look like negative film of a format larger than 35mm. That is partly my intention here as well. Actually I wrote an entire article about achieving a medium format look on APS-C. There are some tips in there that go really well with this recipe. I want something that looks like it could have been shot on film, but modern film with modern processing. Slightly organic, but without a retro feel.

I still think Astia, which ironically is a slide film, is the best starting point negative film recipe. This simulation has a depth to the blues and the greens that none of the other film simulations have. It also has a bit of the, shall we say, unpredictability of film. With simulations like Classic Chrome or Classic Negative you can almost always tell that an image was shot with it. Not so with Astia. It will often exaggerate white balance shifts in shadows for instance. It’s also extremely good at controlling tonal gradients in reds, oranges and yellows, as Fujifilm gave special attention to skin tones when making it. For me these are desirable properties that makes me excited to see how my images turned out.

Apart from that Astia’s native contrast is actually spot on for me. Whatever changes I tried just made everything worse. Astia has a natural tendency to crush the shadows a little and that’s just perfect.

How goes the rest of this recipe then?

For grain both small and large works, but never strong. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would choose to add heavy artificial grain to anything, unless making a pushed Tri-X recipe for wide angle punk rock concert photography (hmmm… I might just do that 🤔).

I’m also pretty careful with my white balance offset. Anything extreme will lock me in too much. I still think that going fully neutral will take away from the organic feel of film, so a slightly warm offset is called for. It’s so subtle that when you see for instance concrete in the context of the whole image it will appear neutral in relation to more colorful things.

What Astia lacks is the highlight rolloff of negative film stock. This makes it hard to use New American Color in harsh sunlight without maxing out the Dynamic Range setting, so for this one I did just that. I think it works wonders, but it does mean you often need your electronic shutter in daylight. Don’t worry about it! Here’s how the two recipes look side by side:

Color, contrast and tint comparison between Modern Negative and New American Color

Sharpness, or rather softness, is something I hit hard with New American Color, going for large/weak grain, maximum negative sharpness and maximum positive noise reduction. This is one part of that recipe that made it very specific to a style. I still want a softer look for this one. I still don’t want to use negative clarity because it slows me down, but if you don’t mind I say experiment! For me versatility is key with this one so a simple -2 for sharpness is all I need. Here’s another comparison to New American Color:

Sharpness comparison between Modern Negative and New American Color

Honestly Astia’s default saturation is pretty much perfect for this. However I find that reducing it to -2 is almost the same, but will produce even smoother color graduations and that’s important.

Color chrome effect and Color chrome effect blue are in my mind features worth buying into Fujifilm for by themselves. Those settings I pretty much never change. They stay at strong and weak respectively.

The full recipe

These settings are made with the X-T4 in mind. The numeric adjustments in the X-T4 go from -4 to +4, so a -2 value is the equivalent of -1 (medum low) on older bodies.

Film Simulation: Astia
Grain: Weak Large
Dynamic Range: 400
ISO: Auto 640–6400 (important for DR400)
White balance: Auto white priority
WB offset: R: 3, B -2
Color chrome effect: Strong
Color chrome FX blue: Weak
Highlights: 0
Shadows: +2
Color: -2
Sharpness: -2
Noise Reduction: -3
Clarity: 0
Exposure compensation: Typically +1/3 — +2/3

A note on lens choice

Fujifilm actually recommends using Astia with lower contrast and vintage lenses. Comparing shots from the XF 23mm f/2 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 I can absolutely understand why. The best lens-pairing for this recipe s among those I own is the XF 35mm f/1.4, also because the shallower depth of field really adds to the look.


This has become my go-to standard recipe. If you enjoy it, please tag me in your captions on Instagram so I get to see how others use it! I’m @oyvindwashere in Instagram as well. The images below have only been cropped and straightened. Follow me to see more examples.

Happy shooting!



Øyvind Nordhagen

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