Despite the discontinued production of rolls and packs of film, analog seems to have survived the fad stage and one of the hottest items on the photo market today are film presets. Fortunately for modern photographers several companies are committed to digitally reproducing film’s appearance through the creation of these film-specific presets, and in September 2013, Totally Rad!, Inc. jumped into the mix with the successful release of Replichrome I: Icon, a series of presets based on Fuji™ and Kodak™ color and black and white films, and Replichrome II: Slide Film based on slide film from a variety of manufacturers. Lucky for me, I received a copy of both Replichrome sets to learn for myself exactly what these presets are all about.
Totally Rad! took a scientific approach on their approach to emulating film spending years on its inception. After using a boatload of film sourced from 4 different states (go Philadelphia!) and three different countries, 19 different camera models, over 4, 400 images, 2 versions of Lightroom and 3 versions of Photoshop, four color checkers, 3,600 watt seconds of lighting, 16 different locations, 12 models, and crapload of film bytes scanned, Replichrome I: Icon was born. If you like to get into the geeky side of things, you can read this detailed blog post on The Science of Replichrome here. It’s a cool read and definitely gives you an idea of all the hard work that goes into creating something like this.
Hundreds of hours later, the final outcome for Replichrome I: Icon gives users 13 styles of film, 9 color and 4 black and white, to choose from when editing digital RAW images (not JPGs) in Lightroom 4/5 with up to 6 variations per look. You also receive a series of workflow tools to go along with them giving you a total of 135 presets in all. When you purchase your presets for Lightroom, you get the Adobe Camera Raw 7 version for free! Please note though, that ACR 7 only works with CS6.
Like Icon, Replichrome II: Slide Film was scientifically designed by sourcing and shooting over 3,500 images with 19 different cameras under multiple lighting scenarios of reversal film from Fuji™, Kodak™ and Agfa™ amongst others. Slide film – often called a transparency because of its transparent base – produces a positive image which is then mounted as a single slide for viewing. Astia, Provia, Ektachrome and Panther are just a few of the options you’ll find in this preset pack of 19 film stocks with 203 variables for both Lightroom and ACR.
Each series of film presets have one or more variants labeled: +, ++, – or –. The symbols represent an image on film that has either been underexposed (-) or overexposed (+).
According to Totally Rad!
Typically, underexposed versions (-) will have less contrast, lower saturation, and darker colors, in addition to faded shadows, increased grain, and some color shifts. Overexposed versions (+) will have higher contrast, more color saturation, and some tonal shifts.”
Here’s a look at a black and white image using Kodak Plus-X 125 with the the underexposed (–, -) variants first, the preset itself, followed by the overexposed (+, ++) variants:
One thing that immediately sets Replichrome: Icon & Slide Film apart from other film presets on the market, is that it takes into account the scanner hardware used to digitize film. With that in mind each film (Icon) color preset also comes in two different scanner formats: Frontier and Noritsu. These are representations of the particular film preset that has been digitized using either a Frontier or Noritsu scanner…a game changer for sure. If you’ve shot any film lately, you have probably noticed that your images take on a slightly different look regardless of the type of film you chose. This is because in the digital process of scanning film, each scanner holds different qualities which are passed on during the digital scan. Again, the explanation from Totally Rad!
Generally, Frontier versions have cooler shadows, lower saturation, darker reds, and a “flatter” look. Noritsu versions generally have more color saturation, warmer shadows, and are a bit punchier overall.
Let’s take a look at what exactly all of this means. The following image exhibits each variant using Kodak Ektar 100: the underexposed (-) variant, the preset itself followed by the overexposed (+) version with Frontier on top and Noritsu on bottom:
For Replichrome II: Slide Film, Totally Rad!, Inc. scanned their test data across two platforms as well using a Noritsu™ scanner “known for cleaner scans and brighter color” as well as hand-adjusting scans on an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner calibrated “with a custom IT8 for maximum color accuracy” giving consumers “two different expressions of each film’s character” alongside different variants of exposure depending on the particular preset. Check out this great infographic to learn more. Here’s how the two compare with the Scotch Chrome 100 preset applied with no grain. You can easily see the subtle color differences between the two.
And here’s an example of three variants using the Kodak P800/1600 preset, or essentially:, exposed, underexposed (-) and overexposed (+). There is a No Grain option as well (NoGr).
Both Replichrome Icon and Slide Film come with their own “Tweak Kit” or series of workflow presets that work in conjunction with the others. Included in the workflow set is the ability to adjust contrast, sharpening, vignette, darken skies, apply warm, cool and split tones to black and white images along with a variety of tone curves as well.
We wanted to give photographers even more options with Replichrome II,” said Doug Boutwell, CEO of Totally Rad! Inc. “Similar to Replichrome I, the process took several years to develop due to extensive research involving a variety of cameras, film and images all processed through multiple labs and scanners. Users can once again emulate the most popular film styles on their digital images easily, but with more unique choices.
When it comes to editing my own photos, I tend to be a purist relying heavily on preset workflow tools to speed up my process. My current favorite tools being Totally Rad! Basics, VSCO Keys, and the VSCO LR Film toolkits. This is a by-product of my high-volume event work where speed and accuracy is more important to my clients than creative interpretation which I save for my personal or portrait work. Although I often fall in love with applied presets time and time again on other photographers’ work, particularly when a series is being displayed, I find I have a difficult time applying similar looks on my own. So unless I’m trying to achieve a certain appearance in an image, I rarely apply the entire preset using just the camera profile since I find them generally to be too strong.
I was both surprised and delighted to find that with Replichrome, both Icon and Slide Film, I am able to work within the confines of an entire preset without expending great effort in order to achieve that “look” to work for me. While editing this shoot of photographer Cherish Bryck in the Mohave desert, I was able to find a match in the Fuji Pro 800Z Noritsu preset that subtly enhanced my image, but did not drastically change it. I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Like digital, slide film was made to be viewed, usually through a projector, and most of my early childhood lies in dusty boxes of slide-filled carousels, not forgotten, but seldom seen. Throughout my design school days, I shot countless rolls of slide film pouring endless hours over giant light boxes to piece together my projects, and when I quit my only full-time job to travel the globe with aspirations of becoming a stock photographer from my wanderings, I left with a bag full of slide film which I was sure would do the trick. Later while freelancing at an Ad Agency, I would scan more transparencies than I’d care to remember. So for me, Replichrome II: Slide Film is more than about “options.” It’s about reliving the look of incredible moments of personal history.
The nature of a transparency is more precise and cleaner than film, a true photographic slice of reality, and the colorful, high-contrast look often achieved with slide film enhances that beauty. Since many of the brands of slide film I lovingly loaded into my old Canon Rebel were discontinued in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this set of presets makes me more than a little nostalgic. Sadly, there are now only 4 types of slide film currently in production, so I was thrilled to head back to my roots with Replichrome II: Slide Film to achieve these looks on my images today.
How does Replichrome: Slide Film stack up against actual slide film in a side-by-side test? Take a look.
When I pulled out my binders full of slides and old scans to make a comparison, I did my best to find digital images with similar subject matter and similar lighting conditions. Admittedly, these scans from an Epson scanner are over 10 years old and the quality is rather dubious, but I think you can still see the one in the other. As it turns out, I shot a lot of Kodak Elitechrome/Elitechrome Extra Color 100/200/400 as the case may be, the consumer version of Ektachrome, or E100G, E100VS, E100.
The last roll of slide film I shot was in 2003 while traveling in Botswana, Fuji Provia 100F. Part of me wishes I’d bought more film after that trip to hoard under my bed (you do that too don’t you?), but the other part of me isn’t too hassled by the loss. After all, with an incredible set of slide presets like Replichrome, I can avoid the both cost of film and its developing while playing with my digital files as much as I want. Of course it can’t replace the actual product, but it certainly has found a welcome home in my repertoire of tricks. I love the pops of color it provides, the multiple variations offered and the ability the tweak kit provides to create many options for my images. Like with Icon, the fact that many of these presets don’t require a great deal of effort to work beautifully on my photos goes a long way in my book, once again making Replichrome, both Icon and Slide editions, my first stop when exploring creative presets.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of Replichrome I & II:
• Replichrome is intended for RAW images (not jpgs)
• Replichrome works in LR 4 & 5 and ACR 7 (CS6)
• Convert your files to DNGs if your camera model isn’t supported (most are)
• Choose your preset first, then edit your “basics” second
• Use the underexposed (-) version for a more desaturated look
• Boost your shadows if your images are too dark
• Tone down your highlights if your images feel too bright
• Play with Camera Profiles without applying the entire filter for a partial look
• Enable Lens Profile Correction if you apply a vignette (avoiding a double vignette)
• Have fun!
Film remains a hot topic in photography circles today continuing to gain momentum as more photographers explore the roots of their craft, and with Replichrome I: Icon and Replichrome II: Slide Film, Totally Rad!, Inc. has created two winners that I highly recommend. Does film bring back memories for you too, and have you played with Replichrome yet? Share with us in comments! I’d love to hear your slide memories too!
For the purpose of full disclosure, I was provided with a free copy of Replichrome I & II to test with no expectations for a review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. This article originally ran on Mortal Muses here & here.