Fuji X Lightroom CC Black & White

I drop little bits and pieces regarding processing here and there. Specifically black and white processing for this blog. A good 80% of random images here are RAW files with one of a few VSCO presets slapped on when imported with not a bunch of fiddling around as I try my damnedest not to get sucked into spiraling down the post-processing and treatment rabbit hole on images I have no idea if I'll ever actually use in the context of a project. I rarely do any single image density tweaks which will definitely be required.

I also talk a lot about grain and grain simulations and my distaste for Lightroom/ACR's grain simulation. Sure it's workable for quick and dirty stuff. Within a few narrow cases it might even be workable for final results. I'd probably not use it if I had to match up real film grain in mixed work at large print sizes because it's difficult to tweak to get it to look the same under magnification. The rest of ACR is perfectly fine for my black and white processing and in my opinion perfectly fine for X-Trans.

Above is an image in the same group processed the same way from some ramblings I posted on rangefinder viewing in the XPro-2 vs EVF/SLR style viewing. I mentioned that the processing was probably one of my own concoctions. Well, I got a question via email regarding the how and why in Lightroom because the person liked how "real the grain looked".

I tend not to like any of VSCO's pushed film looks a whole lot. Mostly because all of them tend to emulate bad printing techniques and look nothing like when I push film process and print it. My pushed film never never never has gray blacks and definitely never has gray whites. I have no idea where they got the idea that pushed film looks at all like that. Kind of an invention of their own or maybe they went out looking for people that "pushed film" that had no idea what they were doing?

I've dropped a tidbit about how to make Lightroom behave a bit better when using it's grain simulation while taking a look at the in-camera Acros grain for the XPro-2 not too long ago. More guidelines than any specific recipe. I didn't include any specific recipes so here goes for this recipe along with a couple of what one might consider other factors for this particular look.

Wide

Take a look at the grain settings.

  • Amount 55
  • Size 35
  • Roughness 90

This is what I would consider a pushed 35mm look. Specifically somewhere in the neighbor hood of a two stop push of some generic 400 speed film maybe? When I go for something like this I tend to emulate characteristics of real film in other aspects as well. When you push film you're really not changing the shadow speed much if at all. You're really only pushing the contrast up and putting mid-tones and highlights where they would be at the speed you happen to be shooting at. Actually putting mids somewhere in that neighborhood and highlights even higher. This translates to the shadows going black or having no detail.

Wide

The above should give you a picture blue being things at or near absolute zero on the histogram and stuff that's close not having a bunch of separation. There's plenty of detail in the RAW that could be pulled up either via the shadows and blacks or with local adjustments. I tend to let them go otherwise something like this tends to look strange to me as compared to real film shot and processed the same way in the same light. The shadow side of a black dress and dark hair will definitely be clear film base.

The interesting part of that kind of look can be that any lighter tones within those areas or anything touched by light will really pop out. Stuff like Alicia's eye, or the little highlight on the collar on the shadow side catching a tiny bit of bounce-back from the wall. Even that highlight on her arm on the shadow side pops out of the black because just a smidgeon of light is grabbing it from the window. Same goes for the edge of her hair on the shadow side.

Photography from my point of view is subjective and graphic. Especially black and white what tones merge and what separates is a choice. When you can do anything such as bring all the shadows up so that a view can see everything, when you can locally separate every detail from every other because of better sensors and better tools doesn't mean you should. Not everything has to be some sort of HDR. Detail can be the enemy rather than the ultimate goal of every picture for every occasion.

End Notes

All photos made with the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55mm XF. Processing via Lightroom CC and some random B/W treatment.