Useful Photography Tip #197: The Fujifilm Pastel Look in 4 Steps

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Getting that beautiful Pastel look is great, but would you believe us if we told you there is an easier way to do it than to work with presets? In fact, it doesn’t require a lot of work. Best of all, it can be done in-camera. For the benefit of everyone, we’re going to quickly talk about getting this look in-camera with Fujifilm cameras and with any other camera out there as well. However, due to the way that their colors work, Fujifilm is typically the best at this.

In-Camera

Even this image is too well exposed. It’s not embracing the pastel look.

If you’re using a Fujifilm camera, then make sure you’re using the Pro Negative High Contrast Mode. With your subject being backlit, simply overexpose from one to two and a half stops. For even better results, set your white balance to a warmer tone or 5300K. Ensure that the shadows aren’t very deep.

In Post-Production

If you’re working in Capture One, where this process is far better than other alternatives, start off with a backlit subject. To make this most effective, start with a normalized/proper exposure. The scene needs to be high contrast, so raise the exposure by one to two and a half stops, and add in contrast and saturation. Then white balance the photo to be warmer. That’s it. You’ll get that pastel look very easily. No need to work on color channels or anything else. This look is very popular with PRO400H film users. When those films were overexposed, the images became pastel.

Now, here are the big differences! With film, the highlight retention is far better. Digital can retain highlights, but nowhere as well as color film can. With digital, it looks gray after a while when you try to recover the images. With film, it’s just really muted. But for what it’s worth, those muted details are probably not important.