How to Shoot Your Photos Like You Would Chrome Film

Chrome film is what some of the world’s most famous photographers used to use.

Though one can argue that they can get the look of chrome film by applying a chrome-like preset to their images, I’d state you’d be very wrong. Shooting chrome films is arguably the truest form of photography: you shoot an image and then develop it. Whatever you get is what you get. It’s stupid to try to push or pull a chrome; you have to work with what you get from the camera. Some of the best photographers today shoot the same way they did years ago: like they were shooting chromes.

Be Very, Very, Ultra Conscious of the Lighting Situation: Make Sure it’s Even

Here’s how my thought process goes:

  • Look at the scene
  • Envision what I want
  • Put viewfinder to the eye once I’m within the right distance
  • Look at the light, is it even?
  • If yes, then shoot and underexpose by around 1 to 1/3rd stop
  • If no, continue moving around to find even light unless I can’t find a way to make it even
  • If it isn’t even, will the uneven parts matter much?
  • If no, then shoot and underexpose by around 1 to 1/3rd stop

Even light means there is no variance in your exposure’s zones. There’s a pretty huge variance if one area would be better exposed shooting at f8 while the other area is better at f1.4. If that’s the case, it’s better to not shoot and waste the time or effort. Instead, just work on getting the shot you want.

Underexpose the Photo

I said underexpose your photo before. Why? Well, the general rule with shooting film is to underexpose chrome film and overexpose negative film. In digital, it varies depending on intent and manufacturer branded sensors. But if you want more chrome-like images, I generally recommend underexposing the scene if you’re below ISO 400. Why ISO 400? Well, only in rare cases were there chrome films above that. There were a few 1600 and 800 chrome films, but not a whole lot. ISO 400 was even not as popular as slower emulsions.

If you have a good reason for shooting at ISO 800 or 1600, then start equalizing the exposure meter or giving it more light if you can. Sometimes you can underexpose like for catching fast moving motion. But when it comes to the proper, careful approach to shooting chromes you should generally underexpose.

Care About a Specific Detail? Spot Meter for It, and Underexpose a Bit

Underexposure in the scene is the best general guide. But there are situations where you’ll care about a very specific detail. This is why I state that generally speaking, you’re best off with even lighting. But if that’s not possible, then meter for the important spot, and underexpose that a bit.