Processing woes killing my fun

Hey everyone it has been a while. Post processing has really been killing my fun of photography.

I have no experience with Film outside of as a kid using my mom’s 35mm point and shoot and getting the photo’s developed at the drug store but looking back at old photos we have all boxed up everyone of them had more character then Digital. Even looking back at photos my grandparents took on their camping trips when my mom was a kid they all had this character that digital lacks.

Digital just feels too perfect I guess. As a result I have been scouring post processing trying to find a way to bring this character into digital. Sadly every converter out there seems to revolve around this digital dynamic range perfection. This I feels leads to fighting the software.

I am not trying to simulate the films out there it is more the bringing of that film character of my own style to digital photographs. As a result I am trying to encompass a workflow to do so but it is so against the grain of the many softwares I am at a wall and it is demotivating me.

Note I have a CR3 camera which does pose some minor limits at the moment unless I attempt dng conversion.

Can anyone offer some help and direction to re motivate me?

I’d start with defining what that “film look” means to you personally, in words,


I think you just need to use high values for saturation and contrast.

When you were a kid using your mom’s 35mm all you had to know was to point, adjust exposure, shoot (mostly). The technicalities of film emulsion chemical makeup was not even remotely in your head or a concern. Neither was the minilab likely used to develop the film negatives (or positives). Nor was the paper chemistry, exposure, development, fix, etc.

Your process was Shoot an image → Give roll of film to someone else → get back prints → magic!

Now, with digital, you are given the control from start to finish of the entire process. Unfortunately this means needing to understand better all the parts between shooting an image and getting back prints.

If it helps, try approaching this systematically. Can you define a few traits of what “film character” is, to you (as @paperdigits said)? If it helps, try focusing on one or two particular aspects of what makes a film have a certain type of character in your eye. Then look into reproducing those aspects in your images.

Maybe add a few examples here and try to describe as best as you can what it is about them that catches your eye or is pleasing to you. Then we can start focusing on each of the aspects in turn and maybe find a good solution for you! (And I’m sure we’ll all learn a little something along the way too… :slight_smile: ).


As a side note, if you’d like a simpler path, you can try using a few of the different styles or presets that some folks have worked on. @stefan.chirila has quite a few gorgeous presets that might do what you’d like!

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I will try my best to explain with some examples.

Color Kodak Ektar. What I like about this is the muted earthy tones as well as the way the contrast rolls off. It seems the mid tone contrast is soft and smooth but spikes in the highlights and deep shadows. This to me brings a moody but grounded character.

Color Superia X-tra 400. Again nice muted earthy tones I really like this feel. Contrast wise I love how this is smooth through the shadows and mid tones but spikes in the highlights. I love the combination of mood and high key these photos have nice and up lifting.

B&W Nepean Acros 100. I love this film my favorite nice and punchy but retains the details really well makes you feel like you can just walk into the photo. Feels very earthy as well. Has very nice contrast transitions with a subtle punch in the highlights and shadows but also seems prone to crushing the deep shadows too dark if not exposed well.

Just some examples all of some of my favorites out of existing film base.

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For me it all starts with the sensor. Bayer is only capturing one channels worth of information and turning it into three. 2/3rds of our image is made up math. This results in what I call the Bayer blur. Texture can have an unnatural Smoothness. (Not to mention the low pass filter in a lot cameras, adding more blur to avoid moire). Edges aren’t precise, and sometimes jagged.

A camera I don’t own but am interested in is the Sigma with Merrill sensor, as it actually captures 3 channels worth of data, and thus has Much more realistic texture. It comes with its own challenges though - making it far more limited in usefulness than Bayer. It also doesn’t seem to be well supported, or at all supported, by FOSS.

To me the light, contrast and saturation of film can be mimicked fairly well in raw convertor, but not really the texture. A good idea might be to post a raw in the play raw section, along with a still shot on film, and see who can make the raw look like the still. If so, try to post a still that is similar to the raw in lighting conditions. Then you can analyse the sidecars to see how it’s done.

AA filter like my 90D can be fixed easily in post with a high pass in a pixel editor, they tend not to be a issue. The biggest issue tends to be the contrast. Most converters have hidden contrast you have to fight with due to curves they apply ideally they should allow linear with full custom curve. Not to mention CR3 support even on the commercial software side still needs work. Capture One is in the best spot but expensive. Open Source should get there eventually RT is good but needs metadata yet already submitted the files for camera support.

I digress the problem is not the format more software but more that I am not sure how to bend the tone curve and colors to my will :joy:. Technically it should be possible in all software but easier in some then others.

Filmulator was my attempt to solve this same problem.

Perfection is not the goal, just the ease of achieving decent results.


Pretty much on point I could care less about technical perfection as long as I can achieve the particular vision for the image without fighting to get there. Film sims are awesome but that is not my goal to emulate a film but more to I guess create my own film style based off what I love and what works for what I want to convey. Software just does not seem to be built around this concept.

You should try filmulator.

Filmulator doesn’t imitate the color of a film, it’s fairly neutral color-wise.

It also supports CR3 at the moment, at least in the Linux build… not the R5 or R6 though if that’s what you have.

No I have a 90D sadly I have to use Windows due to my PC hardware. My audio doesn’t work under Linux yet only the nvidia dvi audio does so it seems and I have no device that does dvi audio.

If there is a up to date Windows build I will give it a go even if I need to dng till cr3 gets in that build.

Maybe my use can help in the development even though I cant code complicated stuff I can give feedback.

Actually, now that I remember correctly, the Windows build does support CR3, but you cannot download lens correction profiles or else it will no longer launch.

Yes, but doing high pass in post tends to create halos.

Rawtherapee and darktable both allow you to edit in linear without an embedded tone curve. It is one of the features that makes them superior to much proprietary software. Of course you will likely want to add a tone curve in at some point so the image looks right our screens, but at least those two programs give you the flexibility of choosing your own curve, and adjusting it as desired.

I find filmic in darktable very powerful. Highly recommend taking some time to learn it.

Odd indeed I tend to shoot macro now a days corrections tend to not matter as much the lenses don’t really distort badly. But I am sure you will get the bug worked out. I will give the software a try. Not looking to match film color. Color can be handled in a tif with affinity, photoshop, or whatever.

I am more looking to take better control over the film curve to get more film like contrast curves.

I found that a high pass with a radius around 0.3-0.5 in linear light blend mode does not halo and clears the AA filter. Sometimes you need to lower opacity a bit due to crunch but works well.

DT and RT are good software but I tend to have weird issues with dng particularly around white balance. Not a issue in RT/dt. Has something to do with Adobe as CR3 in LR/ACR has the same issue it is correctable quickly in either case. I did submit files to RT for next release. The color profile should already be in dev but a bug is halting the addition of the white frame data.

I don’t think we will ever get to the point where digital photos can perfectly reproduce all the aspects of analogue photos. But we can get close, and digital cameras have abilities that make photography fun as well.

At the moment I’m enjoying photography and postprocessing so much. With a vintage 50 mm lens, Filmic RGB in DarkTable plus RawTherapee’s vintage film LUTs I get results I’m happy with.

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This is not just film, it’s first and foremost a gorgeous light with just the right amount of atmospheric hazing.

Something like LUTs (for a preset approach) or color balance (for a fluid approach) will help you achieve that look, but you may have to learn what makes that aesthetic first, and this might be painful anyway. See to learn stuff.

As @patdavid said, as a digital photographer, you now need to be a lab tech and a retoucher on top of framing the shots and setting your camera in its sweet spot for the given conditions. It’s not less work than before, on the contrary.


So I played around a bit with RT. I had to convert to DNG + use a Adobe DCP profile. The problem with this is that Adobe CR3 handling is not the best it adds a weird to handle slight yellow color cast to the images. This same cast is experienced in DxO Photolab as well but not in Canon DPP4 or Capture One. So the Adobe colors are a bit messy for CR3.

Using the White Balance tool I was able to remove that in RT by using the Picker + tweaking the blue red equalizer. From here I just tried in this case to get the Kodak Ektar feel to the image which was challenging using RGB curves. Also created a custom tone curve to try and mimic the contrast flow of the example shots I looked at. No where near perfect but that is not what I was shooting for I was more trying to figure out how things behave.

@aurelienpierre yes I understand these are awesome shots and that to get a film style I am looking for I need to study much. Still feels like I am fighting the tools as one adjustment completely messes up other adjustments etc. Very hard to find a balance and this is probably more because film was not linear and obviously the DR of the film was very different plus chemical processes are very different.

Here is a jpeg of my first attempt with RT.

Here is a darktable version as well using scene refered. Main changes from the base were correcting adobe’s yellow color cast in the dng. Adjusting the black rel exposure in filmic slightly to change the way the contrast rolled to be slightly less contrasty. Added some local contrast with tweaks to keep that same feel but bring in the pop I was missing in the mids. Again RGB Curves to grab the earthy colors. This actually felt a lot easier to do in darktable then in RT. Probably due to the filmic curve. The darktable version did lose a bit of brightness trying to figure out how to fix. ( Updated jpeg. Fixed it with tone equalizer I think.)