Welcome to my in-depth guide to the Nate Cam E-Chrome Collection!
The E-Chrome Collection is my new pack of Lightroom presets, based on classic analog films. It goes beyond emulation to bring out incredible tones in your photos. If you want to learn more about what went into this pack and how photographers are using it to take their work to the next level, check out the E-Chrome Collection Launch Page.
My goal in this guide is simply to take you inside each of the presets and show you how to use this pack to dial in just the right tones in your photos.
Think of this as your field guide to the E-Chrome Collection.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
There are 10 main styles in the E-Chrome Collection, with 4 strengths each [standard, –, ––, +], for a total of 40 presets.
While they are all based in classic films, I’ve tried to include looks that will accommodate just about every situation, from weddings & portraits, to landscapes and street photography.
However, some presets definitely work best in certain situations, so I’ve tried to note that in the preset details below.
The strength settings simulate the effect of blending the preset effect with the original image. So for instance, the [–] setting simulates lowering the opacity of the effect to 75%. If you are use to the “strength slider” on VSCO cam, this will give you a similar effect.
Don’t be afraid to use the strength variations. The before and after photos below all use the standard strength just for illustration, but I typically prefer the [–] version.
Ok, let’s look at each of these presets.
EX01 – Super Clean, Ektachrome Tones
Overview: A lively, super-clean aesthetic. This preset was inspired by a set of Kodak Ektachrome film prints, but with (I think) improved skin tones (real Ektachrome has a tendency to produce overly-magenta skin tones).
Best for: This is a good preset for general use, but I particularly like it for softly-lit portraits, architecture, food photography, still-life and travel photography. If you find the full-strength version makes images a little too “hot” you can pull it back with the [–] and [––] versions.
Before & After:
Drag the slider to see before and after. In all of these examples, the only thing that has been changed in each image is the use of the NATE Cam preset (unless I’ve noted otherwise).
EX02 – AGFA-esque, with warm reds
Overview: An Agfa-esque look with prominent red undertones. This is a very usable general preset. It produces beautiful, nostalgic tones with the smallest hint of cross-processing. Great for snapshots of all kinds.
Best for: Good general purpose consumer film-look, with warm skin tones. Looks great in sunlight or in shade. If you find that it gives your image an overly red cast, try using the [-] or [–] variation.
Before & After:
EX03 – Perfect Portra
Overview: This preset has beautiful, soft, organic feel that is similar to the effect of over-exposing Kodak Portra . Very natural skin tones with beautiful teal blues. Soft, faded shadows and highlights.
Best for: Weddings & Portrait Photography
Before & After photos:
This preset really works magic on skin tones, with a soft, pastel color palette. It’s also a great option for desaturated landscapes
EX04 – Impossibly Warm & Moody
Overview: This is probably my favorite preset in the pack. The color palette has a strong bias towards golden orange tones, but it does it in a way that is really smooth and natural. There’s also a good amount of fade here in both the shadows and highlights, which really enhances the moodiness of the photo.
Best for: This is a strong effect, but it can actually work well in a lot of situations. Use it on portraits when you want a “warm and dusty” look or on landscapes to create a deep, warm mood.
Before & After:
EX05 – Kodak Maximus, Super Lush
Overview: This preset adds a gorgeous, lush style that’s reminiscent of Kodak’s consumer film. It has an exaggerated amount of “punch,” with dramatic, deep shadows, extra cool green tones, and balanced skin tones.
Best for: I like to use this to give photos a “dramatic fashion photography” feel. This preset can be strong, so be sure to try the [–] version.
Before & After:
EX06 – Fuji tones, pro-grade
Overview: My take on Fuji professional portrait films, like 400h. Soft, warm skin tones with the perfect amount of green tinting in the shadows. This is also a popular look for fashion photography and wedding photography.
Best for: Fashion Photography, Wedding Photography
Before & After:
EX07 – Extra Golden Kodak
Overview: Gorgeous warm glow with lots of punch. This is what Kodak Gold should look like.
Best for: Perfect for adding drama to cityscapes, especially on sun-drenched morning or afternoon shots.
Before & After:
EX08 – Moody Fuji Superia
Overview: Cool tones with a super moody vibe. This is my new “go-to” for street photography. Add a touch of grain from the NATE Cam Film Toolset, and you’re in business.
Best for: Perfect for moody, overcast city shots and landscapes.
Before & After:
EX09 – Washed-Out Portra
Overview: Dreamy, washed-out tones with a noticeable tan-tint. Great for soft, muted landscapes.
Best for: Great for soft landscapes.
Before & After:
EX10 – Cross-Processed Fuji
Overview: This preset adds just the right amount of “moodiness” to a photo. It has a classic fuji-esqe color pallet with subtle cross-processing effect that gives images blue/teal shadows and yellow/rosy highlights. There is also subtle fade which adds to the moodiness.
Best for: Moody portraits, city shots, landscapes.
Before & After:
Film Toolkit Details
A lot of other preset packs come with separate “toolkit” add-ons, but I always find two big problems with them:
First, other toolkits have presets that are probably easier to set directly. I saw one toolkit selling for $50 that had 10 presets just for setting the exposure. Seriously, how hard is it to change the exposure? Do we really need a preset for this?
Second, other toolkits were overwriting the settings in the original preset, leading to bad and unpredictable results. When I hit the preset to “add fade” on other preset packs, it was just as likely to decrease the fade (because it is overwriting whatever fade was on the original preset). Same with the grain setting. It seems like whoever built the toolkit didn’t communicate with whoever built the preset.
So I built the NATE Cam Film Toolkit around two principles:
- My Film Toolkit only includes settings you can’t quickly adjust yourself.
- My Film Toolkit is designed to compliment the main presets I built. This means I have strategically used the settings available and purposely left settings untouched in the main preset so that the Film Toolkit will work on top of it.
Having the Film Toolkit has cut down on my development time dramatically and really improved the results I’m getting. In a couple of clicks, I can make the exact adjustments I want.
Let’s look at each of these settings and see what they are doing:
Film Dynamics // + // ++ // +++
These tools help to recapture the softness of film in a way that is natural and pleasing. You will find these tools useful if you find that the full-strength presets are a little “harsh” or “too contrasty” for your style, or you just want a more subtle analog film look.
Using Film Dynamics is different than using the [-] or [–] of a given preset. Using Film Dynamics, you keep the overall effect of the preset (i.e. hue shifts, tinting, etc) and only soften the dynamic range of the image. If you want to lower the overall effects of the preset (including color shifts, etc), you should start by trying the [-] and [–] versions.
Film Fade // 01 // 02 // 03 // 04 // 05 // 06 // 07 // 08 // 09 // 10
Adding fade via an RGB curve is pretty easy. But doing it predictably is all but impossible, because those damn tiny points on the curve are so sensitive and difficult to control.
So this is simply a predictable, pre-built way for you to add very precise fade to your images.
And because my presets make their curve adjustments in the channel specific curves, the fade will truly be on top of the existing preset (and not messing up an existing curve).
Film Punch // + // ++ // +++
I use this one a lot.
This preset adds intensity to your photos by carefully pulling down the blacks and shadow tones without effecting skin tones.
Even though it’s simple, I think this is one of the most useful presets in the pack and I try each level of this preset as one of the final steps in my processing flow.
Film Saturation // – // + // ++ // +++
The Film Saturation presets solve a problem I’ve been working on for a long time: how to increase saturation levels just in the shadows and highlight areas of an image.
In Lightroom, there isn’t a direct setting to do this, but I’ve found a way that works really well (and it doesn’t involve the saturation settings at all). It basically “tricks” Lightroom into adding more saturation right where we want it.
You can also do the opposite of this and keep the mid-tones saturated, but de-saturate the highlights and shadows using the [-] version of this preset.
Grain [megapixels] // 200 // 400 // 800 // 1600
In Lightroom, the grain effect isn’t scaled for the resolution of your image.
Let’s say you have two images. One is 12 megapixels, the other is 20 megapixels. If you apply a grain with a size of “30” to both of those images, you will see large grain on the 12 megapixel image, and virtually no grain on the 20 megapixel. It makes a HUGE difference!
To solve this, I’ve calibrated the grain size and strength for three different megapixel ranges: 10-15MP, 15-20MP, 20-30MP.
So for instance, say you’re lucky enough to be shooting with a Nikon D5, and you want to replicate the approximate grain from a 400 ISO analog film. You would just select “Grain [20-30MP] – 400 ISO”. Or, if like me you are sadly still shooting with an older model that is just 12 megapixels, you would select “Grain [10-15MP] – 400 ISO.”
Setup & Organization
Getting started with the E-Chrome Collection is easy. You’ll get an email with more instructions and a video, but just in case you lose it, you can click here to watch a video on how to install E-Chrome.
I’ve tried to organize the pack in a way that makes it very easy to use and to pick which preset you want to use.
There’s a preset description next to the main strength of each preset.
This serves two purposes. First, it means you don’t have to memorize what each preset does. Because it’s labeled right there next to the preset. And second, it makes it easy to see which preset is the standard strength. (Also, it just looks better.)
This solves a complaint I’ve heard a lot (and experienced) with VSCO Film. With VSCO Film you just have this massive wall of indistinguishable presets and its very difficult to know which one to use. Should you use the “Agfa RSX 50 II +” or the “Kodak Elite Chrome 160T Alt +“??? It just all starts to blend together, even for someone like me who has studied each of these films.
NATE Cam Profiles
The first time you use an E-Chrome preset on a RAW photo, it will automatically select the right NATE Cam Profile made for your camera model. You should see the Camera Calibration change to “NATE Cam.”
You don’t have to manually select the profile. Just choose a preset, and it will do this for you.
Even though it just says “NATE Cam”, the profile is specific to your camera model. This is kind of a peculiarity of the way that presets and camera calibration profiles work. The camera profile is smart enough to only be loaded for your specific model, even though internally they are all labeled as “NATE Cam” so that the preset can consistently select it.
If the profile is listed as “embedded,” you are not working on a RAW file. This means you are working on a JPEG or TIFF file. The NATE Cam presets will still work fine, you just won’t get the added benefit of the camera calibrations.
A lot of people have asked about my workflow using these presets, and how they should use them. Here’s roughly the flow I typically take.
- Exposure & White Balance – Get these close to “correct.” The exposure should be low enough to avoid highlight clipping. The white balance should be close to neutral, but don’t worry about getting it perfect. Your image should look unremarkable at this point.
- Apply the E-Chrome Preset – I usually have a good idea of which preset I want, but you may need to play around a bit at first. Imagine what you want. Read the preset descriptions. Start off with the regular strength.
- Adjust strength of preset – Depending on the scene and what you want your image to look like, you may want to dial down or dial up the effect using the strength variations.
- Fine Tune with NATE Cam Film Toolkit – I usually like adding a bit of punch. Depending on the image, I may also add a bit of fade and grain (by default, no grain is added in main preset).
- Re-adjust Exposure & White Balance if necessary.
- Make any other adjustments. 95% of the time, this should be all you need to do, but if it still isn’t the look you are going for, of course feel free to make additional edits! It’s beyond the scope of this post to talk about all the adjustments you could make, but if you have an idea, go for it! That’s how you learn!
- That’s it!
If you haven’t purchased E-Chrome yet, there are a couple of different packages available right now.
Guaranteed to be the Best Presets You Own
I know you are probably wondering, “Will E-Chrome really look this good on my photos?” Yes, it will. But just in case there is any doubt, go ahead and try it out. And if you don’t absolutely love it, just tell me and I’ll give you a 100% refund. No questions asked.
The best deal is definitely the Lightroom Mastery option, which gets you my new video course (coming February 2017) along with BOTH the Lightroom & Video LUT Presets. The video course alone will cost $99 when it goes live, so you are essentially getting all the presets themselves free.
The Lightroom Mastery course is for anyone who wants to go beyond just using presets to understand why a preset works.
I’ll go from scratch on preset to show you why I made each choice, and explain a little more about how I use particular settings in each panel along the way. I will have particular focus on the camera calibration panel, the tone curve panel, and the H/S/L panel, since this is where most of the magic happens!
Hope that helps! And let me know if you have any questions or comments below.