A peak behind the curtain

I get a lot of people asking about my process. What camera, what film, what preset, etc. So I thought I’d give a little look behind the scenes.

Currently, I am what is called a “hybrid” photographer, which means I shoot both film and digital. Obviously, both of these tools have a lot of die hard fans who will only use one and criticize the other for its flaws. I’ve never been a very black and white thinker, so I prefer using both and getting the strengths of both while also minimizing their weaknesses. My main digital camera is the Canon 5DmkII, and for film I use the Pentax 67 medium format camera and the Canon EOS 1n 35mm camera.

I love the process of shooting film. It’s why I still do it. But another reason is for the look that film gives me. I love the colors and feel that you get with film. But the hardest part of shooting digital too is achieving a similar look so that my shoots look consistent. To do that, I use Mastin Labs presets in Lightroom on my digital RAW files. Mastin Labs was created by a film photographer for the very purpose of maintaining a consistent look between film and digital images. 9 times out of 10 I’m shooting Kodak Portra 160 film, and Mastin Labs has a preset modeled after this exact film (as well as several other types of film). While I’m a fan of VSCO, nothing has gotten my images more consistent than Mastin Labs. It also gives me the added benefit of getting a great film look when I can’t shoot film, like for clients who need very quick turn around times. Here are some side-by-side examples of my film vs. digital with Mastin Labs. For each comparison, the film image is on the left and the digital is on the right.

While the match isn’t 100% perfect, it still gets me pretty damn close. It’s hard to nail the exact look with digital because I almost always push my film 1 or 2 stops in development, which can have the effect of adding contrast and some color shifting, and Mastin Labs was not designed to mimic this. [EDIT: Mastin Labs has now released presets based on pushed film! Read my review here.] But with a little extra tweaking on my end, I’ve been able to get it pretty close. Despite it not being a 1-click solution, I’ve found it gets me a lot closer to what I want right from the start than most any other solution I’ve tried, and most of my tweaking is solely to contrast, exposure, and white balance, which is essentially what I do with my film scans as well. If you go to the Mastin Labs website, you’ll see a lot more examples that show how flexible the presets can be. They’re popular amongst the “light and airy” wedding photographers, but as you can see from my work, it’s definitely not limited to that look.

Mastin Labs also offers an Ilford Black & White pack that creates some of the best black and white images I’ve seen with very little effort. I don’t have any side-by-side examples since I don’t shoot Ilford film, but the results are still incredible. I’m in love the Ilford Pan F preset!

I’ve been a huge fan of Mastin Labs for a while now, and I would recommend them to anyone looking to get a film look with their digital images. Full disclosure: I’ve been recommending them for free for a while now, but Mastin Labs has just made me an affiliate, which means I do get a kick back for everyone who purchases the presets using one of my affiliate links: https://mastinlabs.com/?ref=40. I truly hope this helps other photographers who might not know about Mastin Labs or what their presets can do. If you’re interested in purchasing Mastin Labs, I would definitely appreciate you using one of my links, and to thank you, I’d gladly give you some extra tips on how to tweak your images or answer any other questions. Just contact me and let me know.

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