X-LR Review – Automatically apply film simulations in Lightroom

Introduction

It seems to be a fairly common scenario. People shooting RAW+JPG on Fuji so they can see what the original photo looked like at the time they took it. Whilst there are some people that use the JPG, there are a fair amount of people who shoot profiles to get a particular look with the intention of post processing the raw later, whilst the JPG goes to waste. The challenge is, without the JPG, how do you know what the profile was that you shot with?

I recently came across a Lightroom Plugin (in beta) that allows you to automatically apply film simulations in Lightroom. It’s still in beta mode but so far my testing has shown it to be 100% reliable with all the camera’s I’ve tested so far (X-T2, XE2S and X100T).

To make it easy to show how the tool works, I took some photos of my wedding photos from about 10 years ago with different film simulations applied in camera.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 22 07 am

The little plugin is called X-LR from John Beardsworth at Lightroom Solutions. John has a number of Lightroom plugins he has built over a period of time that you can find here. The X-LR plugin isn’t listed there as it’s still in beta but you can find it here The version I tried is slightly different from the screenshots he has shown on his page. It doesn’t have the expert mode, but apparently if you don’t select a preset, it will select the default camera profile.

Personally I like the preset option as it gives you some flexibility to customise settings for different profiles. You may want higher levels of contrast for Acros as an example.

The premise behind the program is simple: You import your raw files and then apply the settings after import. In practice, it’s a little more complex, at least for the first time, so I’ll take you through the process. After that, you can switch off the popup so you just apply it and it runs.

Step 1

I import all my files with any presets I apply to all, rather than specific film simulations if this is relevant. I also add keywords, metadata/copyright, etc. At this point I switch off “Smart Previews” as I don’t feel there is any point in applying smart previews until I have applied the film simulations. Unfortunately you can’t set this up on import, which is more of a limitation of Lightroom than the program itself (I think) but it’s easy enough to select all and apply the settings after import.

As you can see below, the film presets show the correct previews imbedded in the raw files.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 19 26 am

Step 2

Without applying the film profiles, all the images will be stuck with the same default profile applied so they will look the same. Select all files and go to plugin manager and select L_XR. This can be run from the Library mode without being in develop mode.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 20 50 am

You will receive the initial popup which asks you to map the Fuji Film Profiles to Presets. If you leave the preset blank, it will map it to the appropriate Adobe profile.

Whilst this may seem like the easy option, I think a preset offers more flexibility so I would recommend downloading Thomas Fitzgerald’s free film profile presets as a starting point, and modifying them as per your individuals requirements. You can download them here. All they are is presets with the film simulation applied so it saves you having to manually create a preset for each one.

With them mapped to the Thomas Fitzgerald’s film simulations, it should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 21 05 am

Click Run and the program will now run through and apply the appropriate simulations based on your settings at the time. With the beta, this will be limited to 4 photos per run, but when the final version is available, you can apply this to hundreds of images at a time. I didn’t have a sepia preset applied as I never use it in real life but you could apply the default Lightroom Sepia preset if you want.

Step 3

Create smart previews if required although these should generate automatically. You should now have the photos with the correct profiles applied as you can see below.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11 27 25 am

In conjunction to adding the preset, it also tags the image with the film simulation keywords so you can search by film simulation if you want. You  can also see which images have been run through X-LR which is a nice touch.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 21 56 am

As mentioned, you can switch off the popup as once you have this setup, you won’t need to set it up the first time, you won’t need to do it every time, although this is up to you. I.e. you may want to see it to adjust it for every session. This is adjusted by unchecking or checking the “Run without dialogue box” option.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10 24 32 am

What could be better?

It’s really difficult to look at faults with this plugin without nitpicking, it’s a relatively simple and effect tool and the limitations on import is more of a Lightroom limitation so that’s not an issue with the product itself. I think the idea of leaving it blank could be confusing to some users, so potentially having an option in the list which just says “Adobe Chrome/Acros/etc” with the selection defaulted on install might be less confusing for some users. That’s about all I could find to complain about, and as I said, I’m nitpicking.

Conclusion

Without knowing what the pricing will be like, and assuming the pricing will be in line with the rest of his pricing, I would say that this plugin is a must have for any Lightroom Fuji user who shoots raw, particularly those who shoot RAW plus JPG just to get the profile. The nice thing with this plugin is you can run it as and when you want, and you can also use it on all your historical RAW files if required.

Whilst the current version I’m using is a beta, it’s been flawless with me to date, including high volume handling, so rest assured, I will be buying a copy as soon as it is released. I’ll update the review with final details of where to purchase it as soon as it’s available.

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