Street Photography: Using Film Simulation Presets

Film Simulation is a post production process applied to a digital image that aims to simulate the appearance of a specific make of film, e.g. "Kodak Portra". A useful purpose of this technique is to allow Hybrid Photographers to achieve a look, from the images captured with their digital cameras, that appears similar to the results they are getting from their still film cameras, thus enabling them to achieve a level of appearance consistency between both platforms.

As an exclusively digital photographer I also use film simulation quite a lot, because I like the "nostalgic look from film" appearance that the process gives to my Street Photography shots. The simulation presets are used within my Adobe Lightroom workflow, and can often impart a timeless look to the resultant photographs.

I have experimented with presets produced by two companies - “VSCO" and "RNI ALL FILMS". Both have great reasonably priced presets. However, recently, I have been considering trying out the Ilford Pack from "Mastin Labs" and hopefully in the next few weeks will get a chance to evaluate these presets too. I hope my results will be as good as the reviews suggest. Watch this space.

Of course, film simulation all comes down to one's personal preference. Some photographers prefer the look of digital imagery over that of film as it generally exhibits very little "noise", while there are others who like to rack up the "noise" level - like the 3200 iso grainy look from Ilford Delta film.

I currently only use monochrome based film simulation - mainly Ilford’s "HP5" and "Pan F" - but in the future I may also consider using colour film presets, such as "Kodak Portra" or "Fujicolor 400" for some of my Street Challenges.

Now remember, these presets are not one click wonders. They can give results that are very close to a film, but I do recommend that you try adjusting the settings to achieve your own look.



Mastin Labs * Lightroom Presets Born From Film

The only authentic film emulation presets for Lightroom, ACR and the iPhone that have been rigorously tested against film scans.

New update to my store!

For the first time I am selling my street photography workshops on my website. If you want more information you can click the link below and if you are interested you can purchase a space to one of the three dates for the workshops.

Glasgow Street Photography Workshops (Full Day)

Time (10:30 - 5:30) Meeting location: George Square, Glasgow (UK) (10:30)

Street Photography: Settings To Try (Tip)

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority

Aperture: Good Light - F8-F11 / Bad Light - F5.0-F8

ISO: Good Light - 400-1000 / Bad Light - 1000-3200

Shutter Speed: Let the camera chose for you, this is a better option if capturing people with fast changing light.



Quick Edit - The Red Arrows

I captured this photograph at last year's Scottish International Airshow at the National Museum of Flight, located at RAF East Fortune. This was one of my favourite photographs of the Red Arrows display team, due to the composition and striking colours.

1. Starting Photograph.

2. Adjusting the White Balance and appling a Camera Calibration profile.

3. Adjusting the basic adjustments to enhance the tonal range and vibrance.

4. Adjusting the Tone Curve for greater dynamic contrast and make the photograph pop.

5. Adjusting the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance to further enhance the colour and applied lens correction.

6. To finsih the photograph, I applied a small amount of Sharpening and Noise Reduction.

Ilford PAN-F Lightroom & Camera Raw Presets


This preset pack for Lightroom and Camera Raw has been developed to emulate the famous Ilford PAN-F 50 film. I have been developing this preset pack for quite some time now, one and off developed to ensure that I get the best quality from the presets. I have not only included the original PAN-F preset but some alternative basic versions of the film with different contrast and exposure changes. I have also included a few faded versions of the preset with different contrast and exposure changes.

I use these presets on my own street photography work and on a regular basis. I also use them as a base for some of my clients work when they require a black and white conversion.


Lightroom and Camera Raw Installation Folders

AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Develop Presets



Street Story: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - 21/02/2017

Being based in the Central Belt of Scotland, approximately half way between two excellent Street Photography locations, namely Glasgow and Edinburgh, the idea of visiting Newcastle-Upon-Tyne as a project had not really occurred to me. However I was fortunate enough to be joined on one of my Glasgow Walks last year by Colin Bell who hails from Tyneside. Colin, I am glad to say, enjoyed his day in Glasgow with us, and suggested that we should consider a visit to his home city of Newcastle.  Colin subsequently arranged a Newcastle Photowalk on the 21st of February, and both myself and a fellow local photographer pal, Paul Gray agreed to join. Paul's first love is as a landscape photographer but, through our friendship, I have seen his interest in Street Photography grow and, having seen some of his work I must admit to being a bit envious. We met up at Edinburgh Waverley rail station and travelled down on the London Kings Cross train to be met at Newcastle by Colin.

I decided to set myself a goal for this Photowalk by setting my Fuji X100t to Monochrome only. At the beginning of the Photowalk we decided to take a detour into the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas. The stained glass windows in the Church are absolutely amazing - so much for my monochrome approach. These windows could not be captured in anything but colour. And so I changed to the in-camera Astia film simulation profile. As I was shooting RAW, I knew that I could adjust the profiles in post-production for a cleaner finish if required. Other than this much enjoyed detour, I stuck to monochrome for the remainder of the day and tried to concentrate on capturing contrasting light and depth. During the remainder of our walk around Newcastle city centre I was more than pleased with my day's shooting.

 During the walk we bumped into Chris Harrison. Chris, who has a striking beard, is also a keen photographer. I got to know of Chris through an online community. When I saw him, I had a bit of a "double take" moment and almost walked past him. Chris joined us for a short time and it was great to meet with him. Sometimes, I believe the world is not as big as it seems.

I would like to express my thanks to Carolyn McPherson, Elaine Jacqueline Waters, Paul Gray, Paul Victor Hedley, Peter Arris, and especially Colin Bell. Also, the chance encounter with Chris Harrison. All of you contributed to my most enjoyable day, and I look forward to revisiting Newcastle again soon.

Street Photography: Half or Double Trick

This is a tried and tested technique that is often effective in preventing the shadows or highlights, contained within your photograph, from being under or overexposed. This technique is only possible in "Shutter Priority" or "Manual" modes where you have full control over your camera’s shutter speed. The large majority of DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras will usually have this option as do most of the higher end Compact cameras.

If you find yourself in the shade when walking around a built-up area, there is a high probability that the lighting will throw up harsh shadows. Now, for the sake of argument, if your exposure settings are 1000th sec. at F5.6, and 200 ISO while metering the highlights, your shadows will probably be too dark to record any detail. In order to better contain the dynamics of this type of lighting, try halving your exposure to 500th sec.  And, additionally, doubling the number of the ISO setting to 400. This will allow more detail to be captured in the shadows. The 2 stop change may cause the highlights to clip and become overexposed, but this should not be too much of a problem if your points of interests are in the shade and you frame for only the shadow areas.

All modern digital and later film cameras meter for 18% grey, as standard. I mostly use a Fuji X100t compact when out on the "Street" and I have found that it's metering tends to favour the highlights, even, on some occasions, overdoing it, thus making the highlights a little too bright. This generally only happens in the Aperture Priority mode setting. To solve this problem I double the shutter speed from, for example, 1000th sec. to 2000th sec. On most occasions, this will solve the problem. If not, you can additionally half your ISO from, for example, 400 ISO to 200 ISO. This cuts the exposure by 2 whole stop.

You can also use exposure compensation to brighten up the shadows or darken the highlights. This may be easier for a large majority of street photography featuring fast-moving subjects. Some cameras will have a dedicated button, or even a dial, to adjust the exposure compensation - check your Handbook. I use both techniques, depending on the situation and the subject matter that I am photographing at the time.

Remember, in order to master this, or any other techniques, just go out and practice them on the "Street".  Within no time, they will become second nature to you and allow you to concentrate more on the images and less on camera settings.

Photo Breakdown!