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8 minute read

Make Your Images Mono

How FUJIFILM Film Simulation modes and other easy-to-use settings can help you make amazing black & white pictures in-camera

Why do we still love black & white photography? Why does something that started as a technological restriction still hold such a special appeal? Well, part of the appeal is that black & white (or monochrome) images help you concentrate on the more basic elements of composition, like shape, line, and form. Tone, texture, and lighting become even more important, and emotion is emphasized, which is why it’s regularly used by wedding, street, and documentary photographers. Ultimately, black & white images can seem more ‘truthful’, even though they lack the reality of color!

But within black & white photography there are so many variations and options to choose from. How do you know what works and what doesn’t? Like most things, practice makes perfect, but when you’re exploring black & white photography, your X Series camera has lots of features to help.

The most important of these features are the monochrome Film Simulation modes, but there’s plenty more besides, as you’ll find out…

Photo © Andris Dzeguze

Seeing in Black & White

Before we get on to the Film Simulation modes, it’s important to remember your X Series camera has two particular features that literally help you see in black & white – the LCD touchscreen and viewfinder. As you cycle through the monochrome Film Simulation modes, you’ll be able to see how they affect the image and can decide which looks best or suits your vision.

And remember, if you set the image quality to JPEG+RAW, you not only get the black & white picture you captured, but you can try it out with different Film Simulation modes by processing the RAW file later. For more on that, see below.

Film Simulation Modes

One of the easiest ways to start creating black & white images is to use Film Simulation modes. Like the color options, these draw on FUJIFILM’s long heritage in color science, and there are eight black & white options available, plus an antique brown sepia option, all of which are accessed via the regular Film Simulation mode menu.

Within the Film Simulation mode menu, X Series cameras offer a choice of MONOCHROME (B) or ACROS (A), with ACROS offering greater tonal variety and enhanced sharpness. Both options can be used in the standard (STD) mode or with a yellow, green, or red (Ye, G, R) filter that mimics the effect of a colored filter on the camera’s lens.

Photo © Karen Hutton

While the standard options are great for general image capture, those with a filter can bring new possibilities to certain scenes, or subjects with strong colors. For example, pick MONOCHROME or ACROS with a yellow filter to subtly darken skies in landscape photography and improve skin tones in portraits. The green filter boosts foliage in landscape images, while red delivers the most dramatic effects, boosting contrast for dark skies with fluffy white clouds.

Assign a Film Simulation Button

You don’t need to delve through menus to access the Film Simulation modes. By default, the left quadrant button on the back of the camera provides easy access – or press the Q button to access the Q Menu. You can also assign a specific button.

To do this, press and hold the DISP BACK button until the BUTTON/DIAL SETTING option appears on the LCD. Use the graphic to choose the button you wish to assign, press the right quadrant button, and select FILM SIMULATION. Finally, press the MENU OK button to confirm your choice.

How to Bracket Film Simulation Modes

If you’re not sure which Film Simulation mode is best for the subject you’re photographing, you can use three at once and pick the one you like best later.

Create Mono Masterpieces In-Camera

Have you ever created a great image, but knew it could work better in mono? That’s no problem. As we mentioned before, it’s easy to add a Film Simulation mode to any RAW file you’ve created using the playback menu. You can also add to the black & white look with a grain effect, and even apply a warm or cool tone to the results.

To access all the options, just hit the MENU OK button during image playback, then choose RAW CONVERSION from the list of options.

Next, choose the Film Simulation mode and pick the black & white simulation of your choice. Press MENU OK and then add in the grain effect strength, and any toning you want to apply. At this stage, you can also apply changes to the overall brightness, and to the shadows and highlights independently – both of these settings we’ll cover below.

Once you’re happy with the look of the image, press the Q button to apply the changes. The camera will process the image and then give the option to store it as a new JPEG – the original file is not affected.

Advanced Filter Options

Along with Film Simulation modes, FUJIFILM X Series cameras also offer a series of Advanced Filters, which include the partial color option. Here, the camera picks out one color and changes all the others in the picture to black & white. This isn’t necessarily one for serious black & white photographers, but can be great fun to try out!

Create in a Different Format

Due to the time black & white images were created in photographic history, many of the great examples were made using a square image aspect ratio. Using this type of framing can give your own creations a wonderful timeless quality.

How’s it done? Easy! 

Add Some Grain to Mono Pictures

Accessed through the IMAGE QUALITY SETTING menu, GRAIN EFFECT does exactly what it suggests – it adds grain to your images. This isn’t to be confused with digital noise that appears when a very high ISO setting is used – instead, GRAIN EFFECT gives images a film-like look similar to the grain found in traditional black & white film, as used by documentary and street photographers in the past. There are three options: OFF, WEAK, and STRONG. Try them to see which one suits your style best.

Black & White Tone Control

If you want a different look to the one created by the Film Simulation mode you’re using, try controlling the highlight and shadow tone. Available through the IMAGE QUALITY SETTING menu (and the Q Menu), the TONE CURVE settings allow you to increase or decrease the brightness in those specific areas. This can be very useful if an important part of the scene is being lost in the brightest or darkest parts, or if you want to add more contrast to a picture. The key to this function is to experiment to see which settings suit your style the best!


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