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X-CHROME: The Missing Black & White Studio for Lightroom

 

X-CHROME for Lightroom- $89

Bring the power of the darkroom into your Lightroom workflow and start developing incredible black and white photos.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a pre-order. You will receive the final product on or before December 20th.

What's included:

15 b+w film presets

6 b+w developer presets

23 paper/toner presets

NATE Black & White Toolkit

RAW PureTone Camera Profiles

Future guides and training

Jump To:     What's Inside   //   Gallery   //   Common Questions   //  Comments

For almost the past year, I've been working on something new – a revolutionary approach to black and white development in Lightroom. It's called X-CHROME, and today, for the first time, I want to give you a little peek behind the curtain...

More time, research & expense has gone into this development than anything else I've ever done.  Black and white is deceptively difficult to master in Lightroom, and required a radical new approach – both on a technical level and a conceptual level.

The breakthrough for me with X-Chrome came from studying the black and white darkroom process and researching how the masters of b+w photography – like Ansel Adam, Paul Strand & Diane Arbus – were able to achieve their most iconic photos.

Here's what I discovered:

Film emulation isn't enough. It's just one piece of the puzzle.

The masters of black and white relied on three key ingredients to craft their look:

  1. The Film.  Film selection is the starting point, but only the first step of the process.
  2. The Chemical Developer. Develop selection can drastically impact the look of a film, changing shadow depth, grain attributes & sharpness.
  3. The Toner & Paper Type. The process of printing can dramatically alter the feel of an image. The addition of "toners" can bring out subtle tints in different tonal ranges. And the paper selection makes a huge difference, both in terms of perceived depth and tonality.

It's only by using all three of these tools together that the masters of black and white were able to create legendary photos.

And it's exactly how you'll get to develop images in X-CHROME.


X-CHROME  =  Film + Developer + Toners & Papers

X-CHROME includes film emulations, chemical developer emulations, toner emulations & paper emulations. And they all work together to give you total control over the way you develop your black and white photos.

It's everything  you need to develop incredible black and white photos.

FILMS:
Polaroid Type 55 // push // pull
Fuji Neopan Acros 100 // push
Kodak TRI-X 400
Kodak TRI-X  800
Kodak TRI-X 1600
Kodak TRI-X 3200
Ilford  HP5 400
Ilford  HP5 800
Ilford  HP5 1600
Ilford  HP5 3200

DEVELOPERS:
Kodak HC-110
Kodak XTOL
Rodinal

TONERS/PAPERS:
COOLTONE // matte // glossy
Copper & Iron Toner
WARMTONE // matte // glossy
Fine Art – Museum Cotton
Fine Art – Photo Rag Satin
Fomatone – Lith Print
Kodak Brown Toner
Neutral // glossy // matte // matte +
ScanTone
Selenium #1 // #2 // #3

Each group of emulations is designed to interact intelligently with the other. So, for instance, the grain structure for Kodak TRI-X 400 changes when you use Rodinal vs XTOL for development, just as it would in real life.

Just pick your film, apply your developer chemical, then pick  & your toner or paper.

And voilà... incredible black and white!

X-CHROME also uses something new I've cooked up... I'm calling it TrueTone Camera RAW Profiles. These profiles give you access to the full, linear representation of your camera's dynamic range.  This means you get purer, smoother tonal representations and black and and whites that feel more organic (like real film).

Ok, enough talk...  let me just show you a few real examples...


All of these images have been only been adjusted in Lightroom using the X-CHROME presets described.

NOTE: If you don't see images below, just wait a minute... sometimes it takes a second to load!

Polaroid Type 55 film [pushed]   +   Kodak HC-110 developer   +   Selenium #2 toner
With X-Chrome, it's possible achieve dramatic or subtle effects depending on the style of development you're after. Here, I've used Polaroid Type 55 film, which was one of Ansel Adam's favorite films. It gives silky smooth tonal gradations with incredible detail. I then used Kodak HC-110 developer, which adds super-rich dark shadows and changes the grain structure. Finally, I finished up by using my Selenium #2 Toner – which was modeled after one of Ansel Adam's favorite toners. It adds a subtle yellow hue to the image and softens transitions in the shadows and highlights.

 

Kodak TRI-X 400 film  +   XTOL developer   +   ScanTone toner
TRI-X 400 is my favorite films to shoot, so I've put a lot of care into capturing the grittiness and contrast profile that makes it so universally loved.  XTOL is one of the most popular developer combinations with TRI-X because it retains detail well and has relatively low grain. The ScanTone toner profile is something I created based on the natural tone of film negatives picked up during the scanning process. It adds just a touch of warmth to the highlights without being too noticeable.

 

Ilford HP5 400 film   +   Kodak HC-110 developer 
Ilford HP5 400 film is one of the biggest modern competitors to TRI-X 400. (Film shooters are often divided on which they prefer). The biggest difference is that HP5 has subtler contrast and smoother tonality when shot at box speed (while TRI-X 400 really pushes the contrast).  So if you want lot of dramatic contrast, go with TRI-X. If you super-smooth tonality, HP5 is your film.  Here, I've paired HP5 with HC-110 developer, so we have silky-smooth tonality in the skin tones, but still get the rich black tones from the HC-110 to help separate the subject from background.

 

Polaroid Type 55 (push) +   Neutral Glossy
One of the trickiest things with this pack was figuring out how to get a smoother, more natural representation of tones. The secret to accomplishing this is in the new NATE TrueTone camera RAW profiles. They give you access to the full, linear representation of your camera's dynamic range.  This means we can get purer, smoother tonal representations and better image results. For instance, in this image, look at the tonal separation between the mountain, the sky and the clouds. And within each of those, notice how even the contrast is. For instance, see how you can see the contrast within the tones of the clouds in the after image.

 

Kodak TRI-X @ 1600 film  +   Copper & Iron toner
I spent a lot of time researching popular toning combinations and how the application of chemicals has been used to create beautiful toning effects. Here is TRI-X 1600 film with my Copper & Iron toner applied – one of the more obscure toners I found, but such a unique and beautiful look. It gives highlights a warm-red tone and shadows a deep turquoise tone. It gives this photo a metallic look with incredible dimension.

 

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film  +   ScanTone toner
This is another great example of my TrueTone RAW camera raw profiles... see how natural the tonality is throughout the entire range of tones?  In the "before" image, you can feel some "clumping" of tones happening – especially in the upper mid-tones.  It doesn't leave room for the brightest parts on the rock to stand out. The Fuji Neopan Acros preset – using the TrueTone camera profiles – feels so much more natural and adds just the right amount of dimensionality to the shot.

 

Polaroid Type 55  +   Red 25A Filter 
Another fun aspect of black and white photography I wanted to recapture was the use of "contrast filters." While Lightroom has a few default contrast filters included for B+W, I found them to not be that accurate (or pleasing) when compared to before and afters of actual contrast filters in use. So I've carefully calibrated my own set for you. Here is the most intense of those filters, the Red 25A filter. This filter dramatically darkens blue tones (like the sky) and green tones (like grass), while dramatically brightening red and orange tones. Historically, it was used quite a lot in architectural and landscape photography. The pack also includes an Orange YA3 filter and a Yellow K2 filter.

 

Kodak TRI-X @ 1600 film   +   Kodak HC-110 developer
This is a classic combo. First, by rating Kodak TRI-X at 1600 iso, you're basically just underexposing your shot by 2 stops, and then making up for it by "pushing" your film during developing. This "pushing" process adds more contrast, more grain, and can lead to some loss of detail in the shadows. Here, I'm emphasizing this even more by using the HC-110 developer to really obliterate those shadows. The result makes the image super-gritty and ominous, and really draws your attention to the subject's hand.

 

 

Kodak TRI-X 400  +   Fomatone Paper (lith printed)
Here's another really unique effect you can achieve with this studio pack.  Fomatone paper is a warmtone paper that's really well suited for something called "lith" printing. Basically, a chemical developer is used not just on the film, but also on the printing paper, when can create some pretty dramatic results! This preset can really convey that intense warmth of sunrise or sunset black and white photography in a way that I haven't seen anything else even get close! This may not be for everyone, but in the right situation, it can really elevate your black and white photo.

Common Questions

6 Comments

    • Nathan Johnson

      These presets will not impact “lens correction” and “vignette” specifically, nor will it change your white balance or exposure settings. That said, it will overwrite other changes you’ve made, like tone curves. So you should use these early in your process (or make a virtual copy if you don’t want to lose your previous edits). Within the X-CHROME modules themselves, however, they have been designed to be intelligently stackable – meaning that as you go through the progression of “film -> developer -> paper”, it is designed to make the appropriate adjustments without overwriting the previous decisions you’ve made.

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