For the last two months I’ve spent enormous time with Capture One tweaking couple of styles. The style I started with was the Portra 400 -look I have many times approached with different methods and different results. During the process I suddenly jumped to tweak a look that I have not liked so much, but nevertheless I spent a lot of time studying and tweaking a Portra 160 -style. But again I jumped to another look, my another never-ending style, Kodachrome 64. I jumped between all these styles and most of my time went on making a color wheel setup that would work as a base for all of them. I think I made, counting all these three studies, more than 200 iterations. My eyes got sore, for sure :-).
This time I left all the fancy things behind and concentrated on the colors of the three looks. From all those I finished the Portra 400 look earliest. This has no grain, no added “halation” like my previous versions, just one colorscape that I think is suitable to be called Portra 400 look-a-like style, P400 and it’s V-version.
The basis for the colorscape is a slight compromise from some scans that I found in the Internet. I have no resources to make controlled shooting, controlled developing, controlled scanning and controlled post processing to a film. I had to rely on the cues I have found. Speaking of which, there is almost no possibility to make a “right” Portra 400 look in digital processing. And I don’t mean the colors or contrast or sharpness or grain or halos etc. I mean that there are so many variables to begin with that I would not find it very useful to exploit them all. Some have done probably wonderful job taking into account different scanners and different film exposings when they make styles or presets for computer. Mastin Labs seems to make beautiful and very useful styles, to name one. They even have made LUTs, and that is cool, I think. I have also found that RNI (Really Nice Images) and Seim Effects are also offering nice styles. If I were buying one I would probably end up buying Mastin Labs’ styles, but that is just my favorite. All of them differ and have different aims for the styles. But I want to learn new things, and as this is my hobby at the moment, I want to try my hand with these challenges, as feeble as I am making these.
So, here is my first “serious” try with the Portra 400 look. My approach here was to use only the color editor, and not to use the curves. Things are much easier with the color editor, to a point. The changes in color balances theoretically could be more analogous with color curves, but I just cannot get past the fact that one is all the time struggling with the overall color balance. The color wheel on the other hand adds an awful burden of making color gradations look “natural”. With overlapping tweaks the color gradations ruin the look of the style and one has to be very careful to adjust the adjacent color tweaks so that they aren’t overlapping each other. And one has to do quite many tweaks to arrive to a point that the style looks like a Portra 400 film, for example. Capture One color wheel does have a limitation with the adjustments, you have only 25 (if I remember it right) possible different adjustment ranges available. I started with three different light levels with all the ranges, but soon found out that I cannot get enough adjustments to cater the whole color wheel, all the individual colors. I dropped selectively some adjustments so that there are only two, or even one, adjustment per color range. The most important ones have three light levels. This way I could cater the whole color wheel with “only” 25 different color ranges. This setup gives the colors a more analog gradations. I am certain that after testing the style with over 1000 good quality raw-photos, there must be the 1001st one that just shows some oddity I haven’t found yet. But to me, the style at it’s current state, works for all those 1000 photos :-). I have to admit I have learned from the latest iterations and the P400 III that I published earlier, had some color errors that makes it useless for some scenes. The same errors aren’t repeated here, though there might be new ones lurking… 🙂 (hopefully not).
Update 1.7.2022: I have a newer version of this so there is no need to share this older version.