Processing Street Photographs in Classic Chrome

There has been a lot of black and white imagery on this site lately as I shared my “96 Hours in Paris” series, so I think it is definitely time for some colour.  In this post I’d like to share 15 new street images that I have taken recently, talk a little about Classic Chrome and highlight a few steps in my post production workflow.

One of the questions I get asked a lot via email, and one of the things we discuss during my street photography workshops, is how I post process my images.  While some people consider “post processing” to be a dirty word (I know, I know, it is two words), the truth is that working with images in post has been done since the early days of photography.  I definitely subscribe to the “get it right in camera” approach, but I also recognize that many images benefit from a little extra work.  My goal then is to get the photo as close as possible in camera through the careful observation of light and good camera skills; and then, I give the image a final polish in post production as needed (maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes per image max).

I LOVE using the Classic Chrome film simulation found in the Fuji X Series of cameras for colour street photography.  There is something about it…the colour palette matches my aesthetic perfectly and has a look that I was immediately attracted to when it first came out.  I think it is worth emphasizing that last thought though… “it matches my aesthetic”.  This article is about processing colour street images the way I like to make them, which usually involves contrast and bold colours.  Other photographers may have a different look or approach that they like and that is 100% okay.  After all, art would be boring if we all did it the same way, wouldn’t it?

I have used Classic Chrome extensively since its release and I find the key to making compelling images with it (as with most photos actually) is to have the right light.  When the lighting is flat and muddy I definitely don’t have the same success with Classic Chrome that I do when I have good light.

Let’s use the following image to look at my processing workflow.  Here it is, shot in RAW, straight out of camera in all of its unedited glory:

For context:

I was walking from a meeting with one of my students in downtown Vancouver when I saw the elements of this photo coming together quickly:  the bright, late afternoon sun casting light on the building, the shadow of the pole on the wall, the orange colours and the subject walking toward the intersection.  This photograph is an example of why you should always be ready when on the streets.  Now, being ready doesn’t have to mean being intense, being “in the zone”, etc… but you should always be seeing and your camera should always be ready (you can click here to see how I set up my cameras for street photography).

The first thing I do when I am editing images is decide if it is going to be a keeper or not.  Sometimes this is obvious, other times less so.  This photo came out a little under exposed and the white balance is off a bit, but I love what is happening at the centre of the frame (the light, the subject, the shadows, the colours, etc).  There are a few distracting or unnecessary elements in the scene though, like the car on the right, but a square crop should clean those up:

That’s better.  The exposure isn’t quite where I want it yet, but I like the frame.  I usually wouldn’t crop this much out of a photo, but the moment happened fast and I was across the street when I took it.

Now, let’s apply the Classic Chrome film simulation:

See how the contrast changed?  I love contrast.  I get giddy when I see beautiful shadows to be honest.  This is usually where I adjust my blacks and whites to maximize the tonal range, then make a slight adjustment to the white balance as needed.  I find this is where Classic Chrome comes to life for me:

That’s what I’m looking for.  At this point I always take another look around the photo and see if there are any distracting elements that may lead the eye out of the frame.  In this case, I think there is a hotspot along the lit wall at the top of the frame that is distracting.  Luckily, this is easily fixed with a local adjustment:

That is pretty close.  A bit of export sharpening and this one is good to go.

Could I achieve this look in camera shooting jpeg only?  I could definitely get close by selecting the Classic Chrome film simulation and pushing the blacks and whites, but I find I still often make little tweaks in post.

Here is a series of street images captured over the last few months at random times, all taken because I saw the light first and then processed as described above:

In a future post I’ll also go through my workflow for processing black and white street images; and, if you are interested in learning more about making images like these (and many others) definitely consider attending one of my street photography workshops!

Until next time,

Ian

p.s.  If you enjoyed this article I also have one on shooting silhouettes on the street that you may find interesting.

12 thoughts on “Processing Street Photographs in Classic Chrome

  1. James Rowan says:

    I was just wondering about the Fuji film looks presets. I understand shooting in camera and selecting the presets in-camera, but how are you getting those same/similar presets applied to a RAW image, say in Lightroom? Do you have to build them up from your eye? Are the Fuji in-camera film look presets transferable to Lightroom?

    Pardon my ignorance,

    James Rowan – Toronto, Canada

    • Ian says:

      Good morning James,

      How are you?

      Lightroom has the Fuji profiles in the Camera Calibration section of the Develop Module (near the bottom). You can select them once you have imported the RAW.

      Best wishes,

      Ian

      • James Rowan says:

        Ah, yes – Thank-you for your answer. Now onto the tough one (probably only for me). I am using Lightroom 5.7.1 and don’t want to go into “the cloud”. Can Fuji camera / lens profiles be gotten from another source and added manually to LR5 or am I just stuck?

        Instead of the Cloud, there are a few newer RAW processing software companies that offer a 1-time fee w/ a perpetual license – Luminar – ON1….Would that be another way to go?

        I’m using a Windows 7 64 bit laptop that’s approx. 7 years old too? I was actually looking into the XE3 and I see that there may be some things to overcome / add to my present setup.

        Any advice? What do I need to think about immediately and/or what can get me started using Fuji and then add to my setup bit-by-bit?

        Hopefully, I’m not presenting myself as a “lost cause dinosaur”…Film is still good!

        Thanks again Ian,

        James Rowan – Toronto, Canada

      • Ian says:

        Hello again!

        I do use LR Creative Cloud (I suppose it is LR Classic now), so I couldn’t comment on options other than it.

        An option to investigate, however, might be to find a raw converter that converts your RAF files to DNG files. DNG, as you probably already know, is Adobe’s generic RAW format. Once your files are converted you could import them into LR5.7.1. I’m not sure, however, if they would then have the LR film simulations accessible to them or not.

        I also have friends who have switched to Capture One are like the switch. I haven’t used it myself though.

        Cheers,

        Ian

  2. balizachile says:

    You wrote: “When the lighting is flat and muddy I definitely don’t have the same success with Classic Chrome that I do when I have good light” ….That’s probably why I usually don’t like my classic chrome photos!! I’ll do my research considering what you stated.
    Great post Ian!!

  3. Ron Rice says:

    Great article Ian. I’m curious if you concern yourself with releases from the people in your photographs in case you want to use them for anything other than personal use? Thanks in advance!

    • Ian says:

      Hey Ron!

      I do not for my street images, as I have no intention of using them for commercial purposes. Laws very from country to country of course, but in most areas they allow for editorial and artistic use without a waiver. I have been asked to use some of them commercially in the past but I always say no.

      Cheers,

      Ian

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