RNI Film Simulation Review
I recently heard about RNI presets from a photographer acquaintance who I keep in touch with occasionally. He does professional photography and videography for big name clients out of New York and I tend to trust his judgement. He gave RNI a strong endorsement so I wanted to see for myself. RNI offered me a free copy of their pro pack in exchange for a review. Other than that, I have no affiliation with them.
All images below were edited using the stated RNI preset. Unless otherwise noted, no further edits beyond exposure, white balance, and grain adjustment was done.
I am generally a big fan of presets because they save time, they’re fun to play around with, and even if they don’t offer precisely what I’m looking for, they provide a good starting point to which I can apply further edits. I have quite a lot of experience with VSCO - perhaps the most well known of the film presets - and I really enjoy their products. So after hearing about RNI I wanted to try it out.
The RNI pro pack is a complete package of all of their films, and sells for $122. It contains almost 70 presets - many of them with multiple variations. The entire selection can be viewed on their website www.reallyniceimages.com. They also have a ‘lite’ pack for about half the price, which includes a less comprehensive selection of presets, though still enough to have some fun with. Based on cost alone, RNI wins out over VSCO who offers around 8 packs starting at $59 apiece.
One of the first things I noticed about using RNI was the streamlined organization. The pro pack is divided into 5 folders: b&w, negative, instant, slide, and vintage. This makes it very easy to find the certain look you’re going for.
The first pack I started with was the film negatives. This pack contains many of the basic consumer and pro film stocks that offer a lot of versatility and broad usability. The big names here are the well-known films such as Kodak Portra, Fuji Pro, Agfa Vista, etc.
I immediately noticed that many of these presets seemed slightly more subtle than the same offerings from VSCO. This is neither good nor bad per se, but I can see this being more useful for a lot of my work. I am a big fan of VSCO, but many of their presets are quite intense and dramatically change the look of the photo. RNI seems to create a more subtle look with its renditions of films like Portra and Fuji Pro, while still creating a good looking image with compelling contrast, saturation and tones. Essentially with RNI, you can create a compelling image with a film look, without looking like that is what you’re trying to do.
All of the above photos have somewhat difficult lighting: either mixed lighting or just poor lighting. This is the true test of how a preset performs, because any presets can be made to work on photos with perfect lighting. I was happy with how RNI performed here, creating very natural looking images requiring very minimal modification on my part to white balance and exposure.
RNI’s black and white pack, like many of the offerings from VSCO, is excellent. It works well for both casual, raw snapshots, and more polished studio work. Ilford Delta 3200 and Kodak Tri-X 100 seem to be my favorite at this point. With film presets, B&W often seems to have the highest rate of one-click success without the need for further edits. This is because with monochrome, you eliminate the need to correct for white balance, hue, saturation etc.
I think I’ll have a lot of fun with RNI’s vintage film pack down the road. I immediately stumbled upon Agfacolor XPS 160, which can add a really nice orangey warmth and vibrance to images. The vintage pack also contains the highly revered Kodachrome series, a classic of Americana. RNI is one of the only preset companies that I know of to offer simulations of this iconic film. Overall there are over 40 Kodachrome presets included, for a wide variety of usages.
Slide films offer a great look with high contrast and strong saturation which works well for travel, landscape, and street photography. There is something about how the colors pop that make this series damn fun to work with. RNI offers a good collection of films here and this will certainly be one of my new favorite packs to explore in the future.
Before testing out RNI, I had never used presets for instant films. They add a very heavy, obvious, and unmistakeable look to photos, though this works great for quick snapshots, giving them a gritty and raw feel.
Overall, RNI has done a great job with their pro pack of film presets. I would certainly recommend this to other photographers. On the basis of cost alone they clearly have VSCO beat with their complete collection for only $122.
As I mentioned before, RNI has many presets - especially in the film negative pack - that create a more subtle effect than VSCO, which depending on your style could prove to be useful.
Another thing I noticed is that while VSCO tends to add a warmer cast to images, RNI tends to have a less severe effect on color temperature. If anything, RNI changes temperature in the other direction making images appear cooler and slightly more desaturated. As I mentioned above, this can be an advantage for images with mixed or poor lighting; RNI will often make the cleaner more usable image, whereas VSCO will often create an image which requires more color correction. On the flip side, there are some images where VSCO outperforms RNI and adds a warmth and vibrance that I wasn’t able to immediately achieve with RNI. Though a quick raise of the saturation slider corrected this with minimal effort.
Even after only a few days of use, the RNI pro pack has added a few staples to my preset library and I’m glad to have it in my arsenal.