Let me tell you a ‘Toy’ Story

This is exactly why it’s worth exploring all of your camera’s features.. Stunning images by Chris Upton

X-Photographer strip BLACK

chrisupton-168pxBy Chris Upton

I think it’s fair to say that we are all guilty of not using all of the features on our cameras. We prefer to stick to what we know or what we think we need. One of those features that I had dismissed as a bit gimmicky was the Advanced Filters. Sure I had looked at them and fired off a few shots but they weren’t for me, I preferred to produce my creative images in Lightroom or Photoshop.

However that was all to change on my recent trip to Lisbon.

Now I wouldn’t quite describe Lisbon as beautiful, it’s certainly not a Venice, Paris or Prague. But it is definitely characterful. Very hilly, lots of little streets and alleyways, buildings that have seen better days contrasting with some stunning architecture, oh and of course there are the trams. These trams have been part of Lisbon’s travel network for almost 150 years and are one of the city’s major tourist attractions.

As a travel photographer there are always the iconic images that are on my shoot list but I also try to look a little further to see how I can put my own interpretation into a place. On this trip the light was pretty harsh and the sky plain blue and so my attention turned to wandering the streets early in the morning looking for some detail shots, little cameos that communicated a feel about the place. When I’m in this creative mode I often shoot square. It’s a format that I love and one that lends itself really well to the more creative approach.

So having switched my camera to shoot RAW & JPEG and selected the 1:1 format, which helps me compose in camera, I took a few images. I was fairly pleased with the results and I knew how I might develop them in post processing but then it occurred to me that I might try the Advanced Filters just to see the effect.

Now if you’re not too familiar these modes are presets which automatically apply a certain feel to the image and include Miniature, Pop Colour, High Key, Low key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus and a series of Partial colour filters.

However the first in the menu is Toy Camera and switching to this I took a few shots, looked at the screen and smiled. The combination of the scene in front of me and the effect of the filter, slight underexposure, a warm tone and dark vignette together with the square format just seemed to work perfectly together.

Well that was it, I tried a few more, and loving the effect I shot many more images this way. I also tried some of the other filters and quite liked those too but my preference was for the Toy effect and I came back with enough images to create a little Blurb book. A perfect outcome and something a little different to what I had originally envisaged from the trip.

So I would urge you to open your mind to the creative opportunities that our Fujifilm cameras offer us, you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Toy Camera mode – “loving the effect I shot many more images this way”



22 thoughts on “Let me tell you a ‘Toy’ Story”

  1. Yeah. I too thought the filters were a bit gimmicky but found that I really enjoy using them. They can give a little boost to your creativity.
    The one big downside though is that when using the filters you only get the jpg not the raw file, so if you want to make adjustments in post you are limited.

  2. Love your images. I always shoot Raw+Jpeg so choosing Advanced Filters, which only does jpg, makes me bit nervous. Weren’t you nervous that your travel pics were going to be Toy Camera without any option for changing your mind? Quick technical question — do you use DR set at anything other than DR100?

    1. Thanks Paul. Yes if I’m honest it would have great to have had a RAW and a “Toy” JPEG to cover all bases. There were situations where I took a RAW too but I enjoyed the effect and feel of the images so much that I just went with it. Ref DR as I was handholding for most images I was using auto ISO and I set the DR to Auto in the majority of cases. This means that the DR and ISO will only be increased by as much as is required up to DR200%.

  3. I usually don’t care much for filters (they seem too gimmicky somehow, or my eye quickly tires of them) but this “Toy camera” mode is quite fetching! Thank you for the encouragement to at least try those creative filter modes in my camera!

  4. Chris:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are interesting to note.

    When shooting RAW + JPEG does one file format suffer more than the other or would you say you get an equally good RAW file and/or JPEG file as if you shot solely as either RAW or JPEG?

    1. Thanks for your message. Just to clarify, with the Advanced Filters the image is ONLY a jpeg. There is no detriment to either file by shooting RAW and JPEG together versus shooting separately. Of course if you have the XPro2 you can set one card to record RAW and the other to record a JPEG.

  5. I knew those shots were taken in Lisbon as soon as I saw them. I got some good stuff when I was there in 2007, and especially of the tram car coming round that tight bend. And also some great images from around the Bairro Alto in particular. Nice work!

  6. Lovely images and effect Chris. I tried the toy filter at some National Trust properties this week and some of the results were very pleasing. Yours look very sharp, have you done any post processing on them?

    1. Thanks for your comments David and I’m delighted that you enjoyed experimenting too! As for post processing, I did apply a quick contrast and brightness tweak to some of the images that may explain why they look a little crisper.

  7. Hi Chris, I thoroughly enjoy your work. I am new to Fuji and experimenting with all.
    One question if you please. My main interest is travel photography split between hikes and landscapes and city and culture. I find my city jpegs to have “appropriate” color saturation but with landscapes colors seem a bit dull.
    I do not like over saturated processed images just want vibrant rich colors. I have not tried Pop Filter but have tried Landscape to little effect.
    Do you have suggestions for in camera color settings to improve saturation for vibrant but natural landscape colors? Many thanks and keep up the great work.

  8. Hi Mark,

    Many thanks for your comments it’s much appreciated.

    Colour saturation and feel of an image is very much a personal taste and will often vary from subject to subject and be influenced by time of day and colour temperature. My work is almost exclusively shot as RAW (apart from the “Toy” images of course!) so I don’t have a lot of experience with JPEGS. However my preference would be to shoot the STD (Provia) film simulation mode which will give the images a little punch without them being over saturated. If you feel you need more Saturation then try Velvia, though just check your Greens. Then it’s a question of trying different Colour, Sharpness and Tone settings to suit, I would suggest +1 colour and +1 sharpness as a starter. Make a note of the various settings for each frame and then assess on your computer. Hope that helps.

    Good luck with your Fuji and thanks again.


    1. Thanks so much for taking time to respond Chris.
      I am off to Xi’an, Shanghai, Taipei, Hua Hin, and Bangkok.
      My first trip in decades with a serious photographic intent.
      Will be shooting the full gamut of city streets, historic sites,
      and landscapes.

      If ever you make it San Francisco way, please let me know.
      Would love to buy you a cup of coffee or dinner and share some hidden
      Bay Area gems with you.

      Travel safe,


      1. Hi Mark, that’s really kind of you. I love San Francisco, it would be great to revisit and catch up. In the meantime have a wonderful trip it sounds fantastic!
        All the best