New American Color Fujifilm Recipe

Ever since I discovered the work of Joel Sternfeld I’ve been obsessing over how to achieve a similar look in-camera. Here’s my take on it.

Øyvind Nordhagen

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My hobbyist photography doesn’t come close to Sternfeld, but at least I can play with his look.

I think I have gotten as close as is possible. Digital is not film, but given the level of control we get with Fujifilm film simulations and in-camera processing we can get pretty close.

Recipe and examples at the bottom. Find more examples on my Instagram.

Distilling Sternfeld’s Look

Joel Sternfeld is one of the photographers grouped under the term New American Color Photography; the movement and exhibition in 1976 that made color photography accepted as art photography. The others being William Eggelston, Stephen Shore and Richard Misrach.

I’ve read that Sternfeld’s early work was shot on Kodachrome. However I’m more interested in his later large-format work from the book Stranger Passing, which appears to have softer color and contrast.

I’m no film expert, but I wanted to replicate the look nonetheless. After quite some time of thorough research I have distilled the key points down to these:

  1. Color saturation: Medium. Sternfeld’s colors may seem to pop. However the perception of color saturation is pretty relative in my experience. With hard contrast, colors seem more saturated and vice versa. Overall it’s Sternfeld’s control over the colors present in his frame that make them pop, not some saturation slider. Color Chrome Effect is very effective at giving more film-like color saturation by pulling back the luminance of the most saturated colors. Color Chrome FX Blue on is better left at weak because it would otherwise push the sky brightness too far down. It also tends to produce unnatural color gradients elsewhere.
  2. Hue and tint: We should aim for something pretty neutral, but we are probably talking Kodak film stock. Most Kodak films have a subtle warm look overall, while leaning ever so slightly towards warm green in the shadows. I achieved this to a certain degree using…

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Øyvind Nordhagen

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