The name of this new style is bolder than what I want it to be, but I just couldn’t figure another name as this style is a study of Kodachrome 64.
I have seen quite a lot of photos taken with the film that just look totally different from each other. We can take for an example the Herzog -look. Herzog used the Kodachrome 64 for many photos that just have wonderful look. But the odd thing, at least to me, is that those photos show kind of unsaturated version of Kodachrome. It looks like the color is glued on top of a gray-scale image. And that makes the look fantastic and even desirable to be copied. At one time I even entertained with the idea of trying to emulate that look, but I advanced only to the level of getting the grain and contrast (including micro-contrast or clarity) to a similar level. At that time I had no good color references to go further.
Some, or actually quite many, samples of Kodachrome 64 just look awful. Either the film is awful, or the development or the processing of the photos have not succeeded. And I agree having seen very nice looking photos taken with the film (and this is minority of the available photos), so it seems the film hasn’t been the easiest to scan and post process but when you make the effort the results are nice.
I might not be the only one that have pondered how to get access to Kodachrome images that include color information that could be used to fine tune the look to modern photographs. In the last two years I have tried to find Kodachrome images that are taken of some known color charts. Only recently I found one such photo, which was claimed to have been taken with Kodachrome 64. And I decided to try how I could match the look with Capture One.
My first attempt was based on using only the Capture One color editor, which I have been using for practically all of my styles so far. Sometimes I have tried to use the color curves, but I just haven’t been skilled enough to use them and again opted for this “simpler” method. No, actually it isn’t very simple to achieve a totally new look with the color editor. It works well for some certain wavelength, some individual colors, but matching many different colors with it is a pain in the a**. It is almost impossible to get the overlapping tweaks to work with adjacent colors. One thing the color editor is good at is keeping the overall color balance neutral. My attempts with curves have always ended to unusable looks that have very bad color casts in whites, grays and blacks. Now, with the color editor I managed to match the colors of this color chart that is supposedly taken with the Kodachrome 64 film. But there were some colors that just couldn’t be tweaked right and I decided to make a “compromised” version which I was quite satisfied with. But I just couldn’t be happy with the idea that I was not able to get all the colors “right”. And I thought that with curves I could adjust the colors more “linearly” as you always have to accept kind of non-linear “steps” with the color editor. So I took the big leap of faith and started exploring the look with the color curves.
It took many many iterations and fresh starts to get at least partly something that looked like the color chart I was trying to match. I gave up many times, but came back again and again and started to find a pattern of curves that might work. And when I finally was near matching the look I found that even with the curves there was no way to match every color. But using the color curves freed me from the problems the overlapping colors caused in the color editor. Finally I decided to take a hybrid approach using curves for the basic color matching and fine tuning some colors with the color editor.
I didn’t achieve the look exactly. Especially the brown and orange colors didn’t match and when I was near with the orange colors the color gradients again went wild and unusable. So I stepped back with the brown-orange colors and accepted that they look nice even without matching 100 %. Actually the browns in the color chart seemed anyway too dark to be realistically used for wider range of scenarios so this compromise didn’t hurt so much.
The final look is not totally color balanced. There is a bit of color cast that asks the user to decide which kind of white balance setting suits the image or the user’s style best. I set the white balance to follow the camera’s Daylight white balance, but I suggest you don’t leave it there as only some cameras and some photos seem to be able to give acceptable setting straight out of the camera.
I wouldn’t say the reds are a total match but they look nice to my eye. And greens are “mind-blowing”. I could not predict how the greens would look, but they look wonderful, at least for me. There really is a wealth of gradations from bright to dark greens and blue to yellow greens. The blues are quite balanced but do they match Kodachrome 64 is another question that I cannot answer, they are what they are in this style. The colors are very saturated and deviate a lot from such look that I see in Herzog’s Kodachrome 64 images. But this is a “modern” style. Maybe I try to tweak the saturations later for another style.
The overall look of the style is very, very contrasty. Personally I don’t find such contrast useful, though it might be interesting for some types of photography. And certainly there is a difference if you look the image on display or as a print. I guess the contrast could play well in printed form. I remember someone expressing that Kodachrome had very deep shadows that still didn’t get totally black. This seems to be the case with this style, but the deep end probably needs positive exposure compensation more often with the possible cost of blown highlights. All this considered this style probably is not very useful for most of the situations and I agree it could end up as just a study.
So, I made it and share it. Comment below if this style works for you, either as is or used as a base for your tweaking. And the link to download the style is here:
Some more photos processed with the style. Remember that the style need user to choose the preferred white balance.