Creating the Look of Film Digitally – Replichrome Review

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets - Replichrome reviewThe Year was 1987 B.D.

That was the year I started my first little photography studio. 1985 B.D. Before Digital.

Those were the days of film. Those were also the days of shooting and tensely waiting, sometimes for several days, to find out if anything you shot was worth keeping. Which is why I gave up on wedding photography fairly early on. Entirely too much stress.

I started out shooting with a basic Nikon SLR with a single kit lens. As I became more financially flush, I moved on to a Bronica medium format camera and stepped up to bigger negatives.

Because I always wanted to be a commercial photographer,  I focused on finding films that would give me the fine-grained, higher contrast, punchy color I was looking for.

I continued to use those same films to photograph my portrait customers, as well as products, objects and architectural details.

I built a very successful photography studio on the backs of several different films stocks. Along the way, I learned a lot about different kinds of films.

Why talk about film now that we have digital?

  • Because film was and is a thing of beauty.
  • It is far more “forgiving” than digital for photographing people.
  • Each film stock has singular and unique qualities.
  • Many photographers are returning to or adding film to their toolkit.
  • Shooting on actual film stock can enhance your fine art career.

What if I don’t or can’t shoot film?

If you’ve jumped thoroughly and completely onto the digital bandwagon, yet still long to recreate that analog film-look of yesteryear, you can recreate it yourself in post-processing. And possibly never see the light of day while you try.

I’m all about the post-processing. It’s the digital equivalent of going into the old school darkroom and selecting different papers, developers, filter packs, dodging, and burning, to tickle out or suppress whatever details you so choose.

However, I will be the first to admit it can be a monumental time suck.

What is an aspiring filmophile to do?

Stand on the shoulders of those who came before you.

Replichrome I Review:

Doug Boutwell and team over at Totally Rad have spent over 2 YEARS developing Replichrome I, II and III, a set of Lightroom presets.

Before I go any further, I’ll use his words to tell you what Replichrome is:

THAT is dedication. And reinventing a lot of wheels so that we mere mortals don’t have to.

I took advantage of the free “Try Now” trial pack and very quickly thereafter decided to purchase Replichrome I because it has some of my favorite film stocks, namely Kodak Portra 400, which I used extensively in my studio for years.

As always, a picture is worth…

I selected an image from my files to begin playing with these presets. Rather than choosing a portrait, I chose a shot of a famous local sculpture here in Asheville. I’ll begin my review with the image as it appears straight out of the camera.

Straight out of the camera:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

It’s not a bad shot actually. Nothing to be ashamed of. Good contrast, adequate detail. But for those of us who CAN NOT resist tinkering, surely it could be made better. Or at least, different.

Kodak Ektar 100 Scanned with Frontier:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

Compared to the shot straight out of the camera, this one is more color saturated, as well as being higher in contrast. The result is more noticeable texture in the sculpture, as well as deeper blacks in the shadows and brighter highlights overall. The color temperature has shifted slightly magenta, which gives added pop to the color of the sky.

Kodak Ektar 100 Scanned with a Noritsu Scanner:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

Same film, different scanner. Once again, higher contrast, deeper blacks and slightly brighter highlights. This time, the magenta color shift is more noticeable in the metal of the sculpture. For my taste, the sky has lost some of it’s depth of color and the overall texture is not quite as noticeable as it is in the shot above.

Kodak Portra 400 Scanned on a Frontier Scanner:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

In my opinion, this is a super nice “neutral” image. Portra 400 is the color film I predominantly used in my studio once I began to shoot with medium format cameras. It was fine grained, had good but not extreme contrast and the color balance, while still shifted to the magenta side, produced believable, healthy looking skin in portraits.

Kodak Portra 400 PLUS Scanned on a Frontier Scanner:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

Same film as above and same scanner.

The contrast is significantly increased, adding noticeable depth to the shadows as well as adding more detail to the texture of the sculpture. The highlights have popped more as well. I REALLY like this one.

Confession Time

At this juncture, I would like to admit that I have NO idea what the “plus” means, but it shows up on many of the presets, and obviously effects the final image.

Having read and re-read all the material about the presets, I assume it refers to the “Customization” presets that are also included with the set. With these tweaks, you can increase/decrease exposure, change the color balance toward warmer/cooler, lighten/darken shadows and highlights and even add vignettes.

Kodak Portra 400 Scanned on a Noritsu Scanner:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

I’m going to compare this one to the first one of this film scanned on the Frontier scanner, since it also has no additional customization or tweaks.

Once again, this is a super nice image. Increased contrast over the version straight out of the camera, yet more “neutral” in comparison to the version scanned on the Frontier machine.

I find I like the scans from the Frontier scanners more, because I love bold color and texture you can practically feel. But for those who prefer a more neutral palette, this is an excellent option.

Black and White Options

These preset packages also come with black and white film options.

I selected two presets that feature films I used to shoot regularly with, Kodak X 125 and Kodak Tri X 400.

Kodak X 125 PLUS:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

Clean and almost grain-less. Really good yet not excessive contrast (which would darken the shadows too much and blow out the highlights).

This is a good choice for portraits, either outside or in the studio. It will render skin tones that don’t look like granite, which is an issue often times with either black and white film, or digital post processing for black and white.

The sky is lacking somewhat in drama, but overall a really nice “neutral” look.

Kodak Tri X 400:

Creating the look of film digitally with Lightroom presets

Ah. Kodak Tri X 400. The old reliable film stock for newspaper men (and women) of yore. This was a film I shot with my Nikon 35 mm cameras. It’s great for things like sculptures and objects, a tad brutal for people.

Just like the actual film, this shot shows obvious grain. I sometimes add grain to my digital collages for artistic affect.

This preset provides really nice contract and nice bright highlights, overall doing a remarkable job of mimicking the original film stock.

Scanners Unknown…

I couldn’t ascertain which scanner was used for either one of the black and whites. However, considering all the hard work and diligent attention to detail on these products, I’m not going to pitch a hissy fit about it. Gratitude people. I’m deeply thankful for Doug, his team and people like them that are so fired up and passionate about what they do, that they’re willing to put in YEARS of work to develop these products, which make our lives easier and waaaaay more artistic.

I have been using Totally Rad’s products for several years. I’m psyched about these new presets and already have my eye on my next purchase…Replichrome 3. Because Ektar 25.

PROS

Super easy to use and amazingly accurate film looks.

CONS

Does not come with banjo lessons.

A word about things that take time…

I started writing this review almost a week ago. I try to give REAL value with my reviews.

It is amazing the amount of time it takes to find appropriate images to use, to thoroughly try out and use the product, save and upload all the images and then wrangle my mind into a logical, linear writing process.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Writing is HARD. Even for those who do it for a living. Writing in a fashion so others can easily understand your meaning is EXTRA hard. Hats off to all the writers out there. Word.

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one comment

  1. Patricia Sims says:

    very good explanation of the different effects , using the different type film. Was easy to understand.