In the era of the digital cameras, where things are so much easier (and sometimes more complicated, too), we have the chance to configure the digital camera, in my case, a Fujifilm X-H1, so the settings we make can offer us consistency, speed and comfort when photographing. As the time passes by and technology progresses, the menus of the digital cameras get more complex, as the cameras can perform a lot more functions, including video capture, applying some creative effects on the image, processing the RAW files right inside the camera and so on. Who would have thought about Bluetooth and Wi-Fi inside our cameras, a few years ago? Well, someone did and now we use those features, to gain speed in sharing and transferring the files to a portable device.

Getting back to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras and especially to the X-H1 (which is the camera I am happily using now), the level of customizing your camera goes quite deep, at least for my expectations. You can shoot in RAW, or JPEG, or both combined and you can customize the quality and size of each type of image file. To get a complete overview of the totality of the menu settings for Fujifilm X-H1, the best way is to download and read the PDF user manual. I won’t get into that kind of technical details, but I’ll tell you about the settings that I use for the Color Profiles.

When shooting in RAW, your image file will contain all the information that your sensor is capable of delivering and when shooting in JPEG, the processor will apply an image compression (based on a very smart software) and save your captured image in a file that is smaller in size, easier to handle. If you know your camera, your settings are correctly done, you take care of the composition and everything is right in the camera (color profile, white balance, lighting conditions, etc) you can have a perfectly fine image, in JPEG, without the need to process your RAW files. As I have said in a previous article, with Fujifilm I have gained the freedom to shoot in JPEG, as I think Fujifilm delivers the best image quality in JPEG mode, compared to Olympus, Canon, Nikon and Panasonic (at least on a “smaller than Full Frame” level). Of course, when a paid job is in question, or no matter your motivation, you need the maximum quality your camera can deliver (and you are prepared to spend time and effort post-processing your RAW files), then shooting in RAW sounds like the right thing to do. But if your photography is for yourself, then I think that JPEG files from Fujifilm are great enough to satisfy your needs.

For shooting in JPEG mode, you need to customize your Color Profiles. I use the X-H1 and I have 7 Color Profiles that I can customize to my needs, as I enjoy photographing a lot more that post-processing and I would immediately trade the time we spend in front of the PC with Photoshop on, for some more time and chances to actually photograph. This is why I enjoy so much shooting in JPEG, hence the need to make the images look as good as possible at SOOC (straight out of camera) level, without the demand to alter them, afterwards (or at least not so much).

When I go into the Menu, I select “I.Q.” which stands for Image Quality Settings and on that page, I have “Select Custom Setting” and “Edit/Save Custom Setting”. When I choose to edit and save the custom settings, I have 7 color profiles. I will write them down for you, and then I will explain the reasons for my choices:

  1. STANDARD: DR Auto; Film simulation: ASTIA; Grain OFF; White Balance Auto; Highlights -2; Shadows -2; Color +1 Sharpness 0; NR -2.
  2. CINESTILL 800T: DR 200; Film simulation: PRO Neg Standard; Grain Weak; White Balance 3200K; Highlights +3; Shadows +1; Color -1; Sharpness +1; NR -3.
  3. ETERNA: DR Auto; Film simulation: ETERNA; Grain OFF; White Balance Auto; Highlights -2; Shadows -1; Color +1; Sharpness 0; NR 0.
  4. CHROME: DR Auto; Film simulation: CLASSIC CHROME; Grain OFF; White Balance Auto; Highlights -2; Shadows -2; Color +2; Sharpness +1; NR -1.
  5. PORTRA 400: DR 400%; Film simulation: CLASSIC CHROME; Grain Weak; White Balance 5600K; Highlights -2; Shadows -2; Color -1; Sharpness -1; NR -3. Note that the White Balance is set at 5600K with a shift of Red +2 and Blue -5.
  6. BW PORTRAIT: DR 100%; Film simulation: ACROS + G Filter; Grain OFF; White Balance Auto; Highlights -2; Shadows -2; Sharpness -1; NR -1.
  7. BW RED POWER: DR Auto; Film simulation: MONOCHROME + R Filter; Grain OFF; White Balance Auto; Highlights -2; Shadows 0; Sharpness +1; NR 0.

How do I use those color profiles, according to my taste, moods and needs?

Standard: This is the standard color profile that I use for general purposes, where no special effects are needed. ASTIA simulation offers softer colors and discrete contrast. Normally, I set this profile when finishing using my camera, so it can be ready for any urgent situation, when I quickly turn on my Fujifilm camera and get a shot that looks “normal” and good (except the cases when I forget).

CineStill 800T: This is the one which supposedly imitates the characteristics of the CineStill 800T ISO800 film. With visible grain, high contrast and less dynamic range, having a shift towards blue, it is simply a cool film simulation for high ISO, low light situations with artificial lights within your frame.

ETERNA: This is one of my favorite film simulations, so appreciated in videography, but also very interesting in photography, as well. Before using X-H1 (which comes with ETERNA included), I had the X-Pro2. Because I like ETERNA simulation, I thought about a way to imitate it, by using PRO NEG STANDARD film simulation which offers soft colors, ideal for portraits and then subtract some color and put everything on Minus, for a more discreet look, with less contrast. I think, by manipulating the White Balance and setting a more warm tone, we might be getting close to what ETERNA really looks like; useful for Fujifilm cameras which do not have ETERNA.

CLASSIC CHROME: This is a wonderful film simulation, but in my version, I need it to offer more color and contrast; this is why my choices are Color +2 and Sharpness +1.

KODAK PORTRA 400: This profile simulates (surely not entirely accurate, but quite close) one of the most loved and used film which Kodak still manufactures (Thank God!). With its warm tones and true to life gentle skin tones, it is the perfect choice for portrait photographers using analog cameras, but this film is so good and versatile, it can be used in almost any conditions and for any type of photography.

BW Portrait: ACROS is a wonderful film simulation, but in my version, I tuned this profile for a higher dynamic range, with very soft contrast and sweet grey tones – ideal for subdued portraiture.

BW Red Power: Again, a black and white profile using MONOCHROME with the Red Filter on, where the Shadows setting at +2 offers a more powerful and rich in contrast look. Usually, I try to set the Exposure Compensation to a positive value, just to get more brightness and compensate a bit the powerful contrast.

As you can see, I don’t use Grain much (only in special cases, where a color profile tries to mimic the characteristics of a film type) and the general bias is to have Sharpness and Noise Reduction on negative levels. Also, very important: the Highlights and the Shadows are almost always on negative levels; together with Dynamic Range set on Auto (where DR can easily go to 400%) it helps me getting the maximum dynamic range this camera can do, while shooting in JPEG. You can easily add contrast, later, but if you choose VELVIA simulation with all other settings on 0, or positive values, you will certainly gain a lot of punchy contrast and vivid colors, but you will surely lose dynamic range and some details in the shadow areas. It is better to have the possibility to add contrast, saturation, vibrancy later; changing the color curves in simple, fast steps is often better than loosing dynamic range.

The best thing you can do is to experiment with different settings, make some tests and see what your ideal color profile might look like, in order to achieve the images that represent your style in photography. I only wished for more film simulations (like Classic Neg in X100V, for example) and the ability to save custom white balance settings, attached to a color profile (X-Pro3 and X100V, for example) and maybe 10, 12 color profiles, instead of 7.

One thing becomes clearer to me, while looking into my style of shooting in the past, the archived photos and the way I used to process my files: with a careful customization of the available color profiles, I can get, in most cases, the images with the look that I want and forget about heavy post-processing my files; not to mention that JPEG files from Fujifilm have quite a wide latitude of processing. Fujifilm JPEG files are amazing! You only need to experiment and discover this liberating joy!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2020 /