Exposing Color Film : How to Meter?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by david b, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. david b

    david b Member

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    I haven't shot color negative film in about 7 or 8 years. I just picked up a couple of rolls of Kodak 160NC and I am wondering what is the best way to expose it? I have a Pentax spot meter as well as a Sekonic incident meter.

    Obviously exposing for the shadows and developing for the highlights is not going to work.

    Any advice is appreciated.
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Use your incident meter.
     
  3. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Comes close though. What I do is expose for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may. You can't effectively pull process C-41. Standard development is already down to 3.25 minutes. Going shorter just buys you some color shifting. You can push a stop, maybe more without color shifting however.
     
  4. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you have a spot meter and or can figure out how to use your reflective/incidence meter to gauge highlights, mid's and shadows try to keep important shadow and highlight detail within 2 stops or so of the mid's. Colour film can capture a larger tonal range than that (or for that matter any other film type), but the paper you'll be printing to is probably going to be in the 5-7 stop range.

    Failing that you can expose for the shadows and let everything else fall where it may or simply take an incident or reflective reading and assume that some of what lands on the film is either going to not be printed or require some dodging or burning.

    160NC is the most forgiving of all films. It can capture a huge range (something in the vicinity of 11+ stops), and does not block up easily (highlight density will slow, but not block-up as the shadows continue to build). I rate it at an ei of 80 develop normal and simply take incident readings for most things. It also has excellent reciprocity characteristics.
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You can use any meter. I like to use all the same meters I use with b/w: Sekonic Studio (actually one if its predecessors, the Brockway), and Pentax Digital Spotmeter, plus in-camera meters sometimes. I always like to use both meters if I have time. I use the incident to measure the light that exists and get a basic exposure, and look at lighting ratios. Then I use the spot to check where things fall at that exposure, so I can make adjustments if I want. You can place tones, but shoot some rolls first to figure out what different tonal placements actually look like in color. They look different than in b/w. You can pull the film a little bit, but not a lot. 1/2 stop will give you perfectly correctable color. 1 full stop will be a bit off, but may be usable for some stuff depending on how accurate your color needs to be for the shot you want. I routinely take off 10% when I have shot in high-contrast light, for a developing time of 2:55. A half a stop helps, even though it is not a lot. Placement (AKA exposure) and pushing and pulling are far more important in color than in b/w, IMO, as you have very limited control in printing compared to b/w. With b/w, you have a million different papers and grades, film developers, paper developers, etc., but with color, there are only three papers that I know of: Fuji C, Fuji P, and Kodak Supra. Kodak Ultra and Portra are no more (although I do still see a lot of Portra on store shelves).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2009
  6. makanakijones

    makanakijones Member

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    c41 film has an awesome latitude, I often overexpose 3 ev without losing detail in whites.
    I enlarge b&w but no color film and you have to overexpose in order to achieve good results with the scanner, I cannot speak about color enlarging.
    My normal aproach is to overexpose the film between one to three ev,s. I choose a grey area and then I make the compensation.
     
  7. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    David, I treat it just like B&W for exposure purposes. It has a lot of latitude so it can take some exposure punishment.

    I expose that film at box speed, or at most 1/3 stop less (ei 125) and---depending on the camera system---rely on the onboard reflected meter with appropriate exposure comp based on the scene; or use incident metering; or try to find a zone IV or V luminance in the scene (LF, spot meter) to place appropriately.

    What are you going to do with the negatives? Optically print? that other non-analog process? :smile:

    All the Portras are fine films. I like the VC line better, along with Fuji 160S and 400H---that's just me.
     
  8. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    This depends. If you are sending it off to Joe's digital minilab, you can pretty much meter it however you want. If you're actually printing the stuff, start with exposing it at 160 and adjust from there based on contrast. Color negative film in general is not that particular. Overexposure reduces the effective contrast when printing at home.
     
  9. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I like 160NC best exposed as ISO 100 and processed normally.

    I meter 'normally', without an additional bias.
     
  10. Excalibur2

    Excalibur2 Member

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    Well all my cameras from P&S to Canon T90 get the exposure near enough correct on auto, and when they don't, the lab machines correct when you get the print.........just watch out for the shots e.g. snow, structures with an expanse of white sky behind etc and adjust.
    If you are stuck on what exposure reading to use, take a reading from green grass or grey pavement (both near Kodak grey) then set the camera. Also any holiday shots with plenty of nice blue sky the camera can handle easily as blue sky is near Kodak grey also.
    With cameras that don't have a built in exposure meter, I used to take a reading from the back of my sun tanned hand (of course with my hand in the sun) with a weston (didn't have an incident light cone), and I do have a kodak grey card and it's about right, and saves carrying a card around (well I suppose some still do).
     
  11. dfoo

    dfoo Member

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    I use an incident meter, and go from there. The biggest thing I find with C41 color film is not to underexpose. It will become horribly grainy, and the colors will be off. If you have to err, make sure to overexpose.
     
  12. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Color negative film has good latitude. Use the meter and metering technique that has worked for you with whatever films you previously used, and you will probably get good results. You might just treat it the same as black and white, at least for starters. (You can't adjust the contrast by development changes - at least not much - but otherwise it works about the same.)
     
  13. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    I get the best results using center-weighted metering. I try to pick up and hold the exposure for the shadows, but I usually bracket exposures -1,0,+1 stop just to be sure. There is a lot more latitude in color negative than in reversal film, so I usually bracket E-6 films 1/2 stop instead of the full stop. You can play with contrast in E-6 by adjusting the first developer, but you will have to scratch-mix your chemistry to control your results.
     
  14. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    At least for starters, expose for the shadows and don't worry about it.

    The Kodak color neg emulsions that I've mostly been using (Portra 400NC and Ultra Max 400) have enough latitude that when I work with meterless cameras I've been doing fine just winging it.
     
  15. Michael Erb

    Michael Erb Member

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    Will someone please explain what expose for the shadows means?

    Do you take a spot reading of the shadow and then shift it several "zones" below middle gray. Or are you setting the camera for the reading that you get in a shadow area? Or are you taking an incident reading in a shady area?
     
  16. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    I generally meter the shadow area and use this exposure reading for color negative. There is enough latitude to over exposure that highlights are still recorded. Reversal film is more difficult owing to its reduced latitude. It is quite easy to blow out highlights and/or to lose shadow detail so you should decide what part of the scene is most important, meter for it, and then bracket exposures to be sure.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    What they all said. C-41 has a latitude similar to B&W; it is not like slide film.

    Steve
     
  18. somak

    somak Member

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  19. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    I have never used 160NC for nighttime work, so really know nothing about its reciprocity behaviour. I am going to have a play with some tonight (in 120). Planning to rate at 80, and I expect an incident metered time of about 2mins. Do you reckon bracketing at, say, 4mins, 6mins and 8mins would be a reasonable first-time strategy? Thanks for your thoughts.
    Ian
     
  20. wendy g

    wendy g Member

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    I usually use Fuji but how I expose the color films has a lot to do with what the subject is. Avoiding color shifts is more important for portraits. Overexposing the shadows up to a stop for portraits is fine. For nature or street scenes overexposing the shadows 1-3 stops would usually be fine.