I love files produced by the X cameras from Fujifilm. Both JPEG and RAW though for my street and travel photography I tend to shoot jpegs more and then, if necessary tweak them. For professional work it would pretty much always be RAW and boy do the files carry a lot of info to recover! This article will focus on my editing workflow for street and travel projects. Hope you like it and find it useful.
Deciding on what “look” you want to achieve from a project or a set is not an easy thing. I have spent years on trying different presets, systems, both paid and non-paid and have never been fully satisfied with the results therefore I’ve decided to ditch the idea of “one-to-suit-them-all” preset search and started creating my own workflow adjustable to different scenarios. And 5 years later I am happy with what I’m getting from the X system and the workflow to follow.
The reason I love Fuji X cameras is that you already straight out of camera get the tones and colours which are either spot on or form a truly fantastic base for further edit – whether subdued by the excellent Astia or Pro Neg S or enhanced by the all time favourite slide emulsion from Velvia or Classic Chrome (X-Pro2, X100T and X-T1 only), you’ve got an abundance of choices. And that’s only for the colour files as the black and white, which I will also elaborate on later, is another quite brilliant field which partly made me go for the Fuji X in the first place in 2011!
So let’s go and dig right in. This first set is what I like to call “Velvia on steroids” as Velvia was used as the base jpeg shot to start off with. The camera settings for my velvia are aperture priority at f4 for street, dynamic range 100, auto white balance,auto iso (limited to auto highest 6400), sharpening -1 (for all my colour and b/w pics alike – I find that anything close to 0 onwards adds too much edge to the files and makes the edges too harsh to deal with, especially in JPEG files as they’re predetermined by nature), colour +1, shadow and highlights +1 (for those who are just starting out this translates in more contrast in the areas of shadows and highlights) and always slightly underexposed as you can see from the original file below. The picture was taken with the XF35mm f/2 version lens.
Although the image looked quite interesting and atmospheric straight out of camera I wanted to push the colours a bit more, even out the contrast between the shadows and highlights gently and add medium format grain to represent a more film-like atmosphere. I’ve found this particularly appealing when printing my images, particularly on matte paper, my favourite for street and travel photography.
The next step in this edit was a gentle Tone Curve adjustment as follows:
I always tend to manage light with this adjustment within the first steps of editing as it allows me to manipulate shadows and highlights correctly before moving on. Here I followed the reversed S curve technique in preparation for the next set of adjustments to finalised the edit in the 2 above mentioned areas.
The next set of adjustments allows me to reveal more texture in the otherwise blown out highlights in the boards and revealing a bit more the sign below the kayaks.
Finally I’m adding grain as one of the final steps before sharpening. The type of grain I liked for this image is based on one resembling medium format and though never truly medium format, I find it quite true and refined on the final print.
My sharpening is performed in Photoshop using the Nik Software Output sharpener 3 – now made free by the company. I knock down structure to -50% and strength to 65% in order to retain the quality of the grain. And that’s it for this image.
Finally for the before and after comparison:
The differences, although gentle, actually make more sense in print more though those of you enjoying editing on high quality 4k or 5k screens will appreciate more detail and grain information. My advice is PRINT and for printing I’d advise matte fine art paper here all the way.
For a more radical and stronger colour rendition in travel let’s have a look at the following image, this one assumes the same base settings as the above photo for in-camera setup with the exception of (experimental) colour -2 in camera setting.
The idea here is to make the buildings more textured and colourful thus expressing the atmosphere of this beautiful Cinque Terre village (Vernazza), bring out the colour of the sea and sharpen the image, the buildings in particular with the use of masking tool this time as well so that the sea remains less textured. On closer inspection I notice that the image is unsharp due to unsteady hand and I’ll be fixing that as well. Luckily this isn’t visible at first glance and doesn’t “spoil” the image for me at least. We’re also looking at slightly revealing detail in the shadows too although their position here for quite a natural vignette around the buildings due to their placement and framing.
First therefore, we’re looking at the tone curve and adjusting the light, just like with the 1st image:
Next, I’m looking at colour rendition and at what I want the colours to look like. No “out-of-the-box” method here I’m afraid though you could try many available presets online. I do it “by eye” but all the time keeping in mind 2 aspects: a. I will print this and b. I want a film-like grain added and reveal naturally in the colour on the final print.
My colour adjustments are as follows here (Hue/Saturation/Luminance):
… with settings in the Basic panel as follows:
I’ve added clarity this time though gently in order to not to overdo the sharpening effect at the later stage. My next move is again grain with the very same settings as with the first image and then cropping the image to cut off the horizon from the sea level.
Next, sharpening but this time right here in Lightroom. Have a look at the settings for sharpening this and all my other files below. I’ve experimented with a number of adjustments (and software) and found that when sharpening directly in Lightroom, these work for me best. If the effect is not strong enough for you simply adjust the sharpening slider to between 30 and 50 max as, in my experience at least, this is enough to bring out the crucial edge detail.
I’ve mentioned masking before when talking about sharpening. This simple yet effective tool will have its application here whereby I want to leave the sea relatively unaffected though grain preserved. Simply adjust your sharpening by holding the Alt key whilst moving the slider. You will notice the areas left dark then, meaning unaffected by sharpening, in this case we want the sea to be it, and some “edging” white and black areas elsewhere. This is where your contrast/structure/edge sharpening is applied. Remember this short phrase when it comes to masking: “white reveals, black conceals” and things should be clearer. Practise this on both portraits and landscapes and observe effects. It’s quite interesting how often this little tool is omitted yet so effective. Finally the before and after images below:
Finally to finish off the travel and street part let’s look at a black and white image edit.
For the one presented below my idea was to produce an image inspired by the famous and much loved Tri-X film. I recommend you do some research if you’re unfamiliar with its effects and definitely shoot a roll if you happen to have a film camera stashed and forgotten somewhere in your attic. The quality of its grain and contrast are amongst favourites and still very much used by both professionals and enthusiasts alike.
The image was taken in Florence in the piazza with many sculptures and marble surfaces which instantly appealed to me as a working combination. I’ve spotted this man sitting on one of the marble structures, he himself blending in in his poise as one of the “human” sculptures, and took a photo of him pretending to look up at the sculpture. I was using the 18mm f2 lens therefore was relatively close to him for a “no-look” “from-the-hip-height” shot. The photo was taken using manual zone focusing set to approximate of 1.5 metres.
Starting from the basic panel and continuing onto levels, grain and sharpening, the following settings have been used:
I’ve actually deliberated on increasing clarity here as it’s made the image more “hard” in contrast. If this is too much for you, simply leave Clarity slider at 0.
Notice the far left of the curve. It is its raised position that gives the photograph the “film” look – it’s also worth experimenting with this on your colour photos.
Toning/black and white channels:
Again, open to experimentation is the red and orange panel here. Particularly with subjects such as people i.e. close up portraits, the red and orange sliders manipulations will affect skin tones. If you happen to edit and manipulate the skies in your image, it is the blue slider you’ll be interested in. For a number of surfaces, structures and textures experiment with magenta and the greens.
This is where the Tri-X effect comes into action and play in combination of the aforementioned curves (far left point lift) adjustment. Again, open to experimentation and investigation on the zooming in and out, which I continuously did when coming up with this final effect.
Before sharpening I’ve cropped the image to remove the unwanted elements – the people who got into the frame.
Remember to keep on zooming in and out to check whether you’re not getting digital artifacts in your image.
I recommend using the above settings as starting points and moving on from there to adjust to your desired look. As with everything, there’s hardly ever one tool for everything but I do hope the above tips get you started. Remember to share your images in the FujiLove Readers’ Group! It is certainly becoming one of my top places for inspiration!
A bit of extra resource: I’ve found this website useful for resizing for the use of the images on social media. It actually adjusts the resolution quite well without downgrading on quality much. Have a look here. Otherwise for exporting I’d recommend (for social media only) resizing long edge to 2048 horizontal for landscape images and 900 for vertical/portraiture. This works both in Lightroom and Photoshop, just keep it as srgb for the files to be recognised and compatible on most/all devices. And that’s it! Till next time!