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.

San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography in Classic Chrome – Part One

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Every now and then we need to take a time out from our day to day lives.  We need to re-charge, feed our soul, and do whatever it is that makes us happy.  For me, this means getting on a plane and going to San Francisco, a city I photograph often and feel at home in.

I absolutely love San Francisco.  I love staying in the same hotel every time I go.  I love the people.  I love waking up to the sounds of the cable cars in the morning.  I love the food.  I love walking along the ocean, even though I live on the same ocean here in Vancouver.  And, above all, I love shooting street photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Unlike many cities that have small cultural communities, the Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest one in North America and the largest  Chinese community outside of Asia.  It has a vibe and a culture, especially once you get off the well travelled tourist streets.   It is a fabulous location for shooting street photography.

I travelled extremely light this trip, taking just the Fuji X-Pro2 with the 35mm f/2 lens on it.  I added a 16mm wide angle lens in one pocket of my jacket, a few extra memory cards and batteries in another, and I was good to go.

I think it is fair to say that most of my street photography is processed in black and white.  Street photography for me is about capturing the moment, the gesture, and the feel of the scene.  I am almost always of the mindset that if colour doesn’t add anything to a street photograph that it is best viewed in black and white.

This trip was different, however, because the light was amazing the entire week I was there.  At mid day the light was hard and bright and there were brilliant shadows cutting through the streets.  Earlier and later in the day the light was soft and beautiful.  The colours in San Francisco’s Chinatown are vibrant, but they were especially beautiful when combined with the light I had this week so I decided to shoot the entire set in Fujifilm’s Classic Chrome film simulation.

I also decided to spend time this trip working on getting closer to my subjects.  Every photograph in this blog post (except for the one in the intersection above) was shot from less than 10 feet away from my subject, and most were shot within 5 feet.   Most were captured using manual zone focusing which allowed me to move quickly through the city streets and react to a scene instantly.  With a light gear pack, manual zone focusing, and brilliant light it was easy to spend hours at a time just walking, observing, and occasionally shooting.   The week flew by, and I came home with a set of images I truly enjoyed making.  More importantly, I am re-charged and ready to tackle a busy holiday season.

This post and the photographs below are the first of two posts featuring new street work from this trip.  I hope you like the images as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Part two of this series can be viewed HERE.

Cheers,

Ian

Vancouver street photography and the new Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation!

DSCF3088Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2 lens, Classic Chrome film simulation

I’ve been out shooting street portraits and street photography lately, both here in Vancouver and also in Seattle, and I’m finally getting a chance to post some images.  I love street photography, meeting new people, observing the world.  These outings were also the first time I had the opportunity to shoot with something new called Classic Chrome, a new film simulation Fuji has added to their X camera series.

Fuji knows colour, having produced film for the last 80 years or so, and the X series of cameras have several different film simulations built into them that simulate the look of classic types of film.    The new addition to their palate is called “Classic Chrome”.  Classic Chrome is reminiscent of Kodachrome, a very popular film back in the day.  The colours are a little desaturated, a little subtle, a little muted….but not “flat”.

The first photo in this thread is of a beautiful young lady who was drawing on Granville Island.  It was shot using the Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2 lens.  Look.  At.  That.  Background.  That lens provides amazing subject isolation and is a beautiful portrait lens. The new Fuji Classic Chrome simulation looks great too.   The colours are subdued, but very pleasing to my eye.

Here are a few more images using the Classic Chrome film simulation while out in Vancouver.  As usual, you can click each image to view larger.

DSCF3416Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3453Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3104Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3103Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3092Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2, Classic Chrome film simulation

Beautiful colours.  I love this setting.

Moving to Seattle, things were in full Christmas mode last week, with a large carousel downtown and a clown making balloon animals:

DSCF3279Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3272Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation

This gentleman was on his way home to watch the game (jersey already on for good luck of course!):

DSCF3302Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation

And, of course, sometimes you just need to make your own party happen (not Classic Chrome, but I love this image in B&W):

DSCF3378Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom

Yesterday was my third day out shooting in the last few weeks, and back in Vancouver it was a brilliant day with clear skies and bright sun.  Shadows, sunbeams and patches of light seemed to be a theme, and the Classic Chrome film simulation worked very well with this light:

DSCF3483Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3429Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation
DSCF3477Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation

Many people have images of Vancouver in the winter that involve snowsuits and igloos.   While we usually get a week or two of snow per year, those last three images were shot on December 29th and are more the norm.

And, finally, this lady visiting Vancouver from Taiwan wasn’t waiting around for someone to take her photograph…. she was well equipped with her camera, a tripod, and a timer:

DSCF3432Fuji X-T1 with the 10-24mm zoom, Classic Chrome film simulation

 

The Fuji cameras are well suited for street photography, and the new Classic Chrome film simulation offers a nostalgic take on the images captured.  It is inspiring me to get out and shoot as often as I can right now.  I suggest you do the same!