30 Days with the Fuji X-T2: Day 18

day18_xt2_dscf0182_20161010_35mm_2_170_200
Fuji X-T2; Fuji 35mm f/2; 1/170s; f/2; ISO 200

I’m going to do something a little different for the next three posts. I’m going to go through the three custom shooting settings that I’ve been using during this project. I’ll explain what each is generally used for and why I’ve set things up the way I did. This info is somewhat specific to the X-T2, but the general themes can be applied to other Fuji cameras. Along with each post, I’ll show an image that was taken with the settings and wasn’t post-processed in any way (aside from tweaking crops and eliminating dust spots).

First up is my landscape shooting setting! I’ll share a summary of the settings, discuss the primary uses for the setting, and then go into each of the individual settings in detail and explain how each one relates to the purpose of the overall shooting setting.

Settings

  • Dynamic Range: 100
  • Film Simulation: Velvia
  • Grain Effect: Off
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Highlight Tone: –1
  • Shadow Tone: 0
  • Color: +1
  • Sharpness: +1
  • Noise Reduction: 0

Uses

This is the custom shooting setting that I tend to use the least. It’s designed for landscape shots, but I work with RAW files for the majority of my landscape work because I typically like to push things in post processing a bit further than a JPEG can handle. That said, this is a great setting for when I’m out in the field and want to get a rough sense of what a final image might look like after post-processing. And in some cases, the JPEG this setting produces is sufficient (as is the case with this shot!).

It’s also a decent option when I have a scene in which color is a primary component of the story I’m trying to tell. My other primary color setting uses the Classic Chrome film simulation, but at times the color palette of Classic Chrome is shifted too much or just doesn’t look right with the scene. A good example of this is with really vibrant graffiti or flowers. This Velvia-based shooting setting will generally do a much better job of rendering the scene than a Classic Chrome-based shooting setting.

Dynamic Range

I have this set to 100 on all of my shooting settings, but it’s particularly important that it’s set at 100 on my landscape shooting setting. When DR is at 200 or 400, the camera will underexpose and shoot at a higher ISO to compensate. It will then render the JPEG in such a way that attempts to flatten out the contrast of the scene.

This can be useful, but I’d rather have the control to choose when the camera is doing this then let it do it automatically or all the time. Furthermore, Fuji has ISOless sensors, which means that ISO amplification can happen before or after the RAW file is created without any difference in the final image. That means that if you’re in a scene that requires a high dynamic range, you can simply expose for the highlights and pull the shadows up in your RAW file in Lightroom and get as good of shadow detail as if you had shot at the corresponding ISO in the camera and exposed for the shadows (I think I’m explaining that accurately…). The big takeaway is that it’s easy to do this in post-processing with RAW files if you want to. If you’re trying to shoot this while while the camera is also trying to guess what you want to do, you’ll probably end up in trouble.

That’s a long, rambling explanation, but if you’d like to dig deeper there’s an excellent article about all this by Rico Pfirstinger on FujiLove.

Film Simulation

I already covered this in the Uses section, so I won’t go into any more detail here.

Grain Effect

Grain and landscapes don’t usually mix well, so I leave this set to off.

White Balance

I leave white balance set to auto on all my settings, but I’ll sometimes shift the color balance when shooting sunrises or sunsets. It’s usually helpful to add some red and blue to the image when shooting these subjects, and sometimes auto white balance tries to correct the brilliant colors in the sky too much and I’ll end up dialing in a custom Kelvin temperature. But most of the time, shifting Red +2 and Blue +1 does the trick. This can easily be adjusted by hitting right on the directional pad twice (at least with my button setup) and then adjusting the color shifts.

Highlight Tone

In general, I enjoy high-contrast images. So in many cases I’ll have the Highlight Tone and Shadow Tone values set at something positive. This translates to brighter highlights and darker shadows. But with this shooting setting, my subject matter is usually already a high contrast scene. If I’m shooting a sunrise, for example, the difference in the brightness of the sky compared to the foreground is easily four or five stops. A scene like that doesn’t need any help from me to generate contrast.

In the highlights, preventing the contrast from getting out of hand is particularly crucial. If I’m shooting a brilliant sunrise, I can live with the highlights being exposed in a pleasing manner and the shadows going black (underexposing a bit), but I can’t live with a blown out sky and detailed shadows. The sky makes the image in these cases, so it needs to be exposed well. In many cases, this means deliberately underexposing the scene a bit. If I expose the scene “properly” according to light meters, I’ll end up with a dark-ish foreground and a really bright sky. But that sky will look more aesthetically pleasing if it’s exposed around middle grey or a bit brighter (zone 5–6, for the zone system purists) rather than really bright, as this will increase the perceived vibrance. Thus, I for this shooting setting, I drop the brightness in the highlights a touch.

It should be pointed out that I tend to do the vast majority of this highlight protection through the exposure compensation dial or by spot metering and locking in exposure prior to the shot. The Highlights –1 setting just acts as a little extra cushion.

Shadow Tone

The reasoning for leaving this at 0 is very similar to the reasoning described above in the Highlight Tone section. The only difference here is that I’m generally ok with the shadows going pretty dark, so I don’t try to protect them with a negative setting.

Again, these settings are just for the JPEGs. Since I usually process the RAW files for landscape shots, I’m really not too concerned with these settings. I know that I can pull a couple stops of detail out of the shadows without too much noise, so if the shadows look too dark on my LCD/histogram after taking the image I know it’s not that big of a deal.

Color

Velvia is already a very vibrant film simulation, and when that’s combined with the subject matter I usually shoot with this shooting setting, I really don’t need to boost the color setting… But I do anyways. 🙂

This shooting setting is supposed to be really dramatic and intense, and increasing the color setting a big helps with that. It can be overkill in some cases, but I always have the RAW files to work with if that happens.

Sharpness

I haven’t done any rigorous testing of the results of various Sharpening settings, but after viewing many, many Fuji JPEGs I’ve really enjoyed how the in-camera processor does its sharpening. I’ve always struggled to get the results I want in Lightroom with RAW files, and if sharpening is really important for an image I typically take it into Photoshop and use a high pass filter and/or a Nik plugin. But the JPEGs always seem to turn out really well, particularly when I nudge the sharpness up a bit.

That said, this is another area where, for landscape photography, it just makes so much more sense to shoot RAW than JPEG. In an image like this, I’d like the trees and the building in the foreground to be sharp, but the vast majority of the image shouldn’t be sharpened. Sharpening a sky like that will just lead to noise. The in-camera processor will just sharpen the whole image, and once an image is sharpened it can’t be un-sharpened. With a RAW file (or, I suppose, a non-sharpened JPEG), it’s easy to selectively choose the areas of the image that you want sharpened through masks in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Noise Reduction

Whereas I’m a big fan of the Fuji sharpening, I’m not as big of a fan of its noise reduction. So I tend to just leave this at 0 or even –1 for most of my shooting settings. For landscape shots, I’m almost always shooting at the lowest ISO possible with a tripod, so noise isn’t much of an issue.

Even at high ISOs, noise can become an issue if you’re introducing a lot of contrast in post production, but if I’m going down that route with an image I likely already have it in Photoshop and can apply some sophisticated noise reduction selectively (often using an inverted copy of the sharpening mask) to the image to balance things out.


So there it is – my landscape custom shooting setting! I’m constantly tweaking these custom shooting settings and playing around with different combinations, but this landscape setup has been pretty constant for a while now. Feel free to try it out, and if you have any recommendations or different takes on settings for landscapes please let me know in the comments!

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