OWH Darkness Fujifilm recipe for the darkest of days

To make great pictures in darkness with just a little artificial light you need serious contrast and noise control. This recipe is the best you can do to your JPGs in that situation.

Øyvind Nordhagen

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Nightscape at Grünerløkka, November 2022. Fujifilm X-E4/Fujinon 18mm f2 OWH Darkness recipe. Unedited.

It’s November here in Norway as I write this. November is miserable in many ways, but most of all it’s when the natural light is at its low point. The beautiful warm, glowing fall light of September and October is long gone, daylight hours are few, and the Christmas lights of December (possibly even white snow on the ground) is still to come. What do you do if you still want to shoot on the street? Especially if you’re like me and you have a day job?

The answer is you have to deal with the darkness in constructive ways and chase whatever light you can find. This is my third winter in Norway as a street photographer and let me tell you that it’s a hard time to be an opportunist on the street with a camera. It’s the same amount of time it’s taken me to finish this recipe.

Dealing with darkness and artificial light in street photography

You would imagine that hard shadows in direct sunlight is the hardest contrast there is, but you would be wrong. Guess what is…

Preston and Western, Brighton May 2022. Fujifilm X-T4/Fujinon 35mm f1.4. OWH Darkness recipe. Unedited.

It’s surprising how far the extremes go when there is no natural light spillage anywhere besides moonlight. Yes, direct sun is brighter than artificial light, but think about it: Even a hard shadow on a bright summer day has a lot of light in it that spills in from reflections around it. It took me a long time to realise this fact and start accepting that I had to lower the contrast to absurd levels. That’s why a major component of this recipe is the combination of DR400, Shadows -2 and highlights -1.

I have experimented with different photometry settings. While nothing is perfect, I have had the most luck with Multi.

Dealing with the varying colour temperatures of artificial light

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Øyvind Nordhagen

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