Grain on faces

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by pauldc, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. pauldc

    pauldc Member

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    Hello everyone,

    my name is Paul and I am new here but I have been following the forum for a couple of weeks and have learnt lots. This is my first post.

    I just wanted to check my experience against those of others in the forum when working on 35mm enlargements up to 10*8. My experience is that I can get really quite sharp and grain free enlargements to this size for most subjects except those that feature people's faces when the face is quite a small part of the enlarged area. Typically I am describing environmental portraits of people that feature one or two individuals that also include their whole body. I guess the face area in these shots is from 1 inch square to even less. It is quite frustrating as the rest of the shot can be sharp and relatively grain free but the face (which of course is the main focal point!) has visible grain and looks far worse in terms of quality than the rest of the picture.

    Now I know that smooth, even tones tend to show more grain than detail and texture. But using my same enalrgement technique for full frame faces does not reveal any grain in the same way on a person's skin. My question is, is this experience usual for people and something I will just have to accept as part of the 35mm compromise (because ironically it is when using 35mm cameras that I tend to get these type of shots rather than my more studied medium format shots) or is it the result of other factors such as errors in focus / exposure / my general technique. Any views gladly received!

    In terms of materials I tend to use apx100 in rodinal (1+50) which, apart from small faces, I tend to find a remarkably grain free combination and FP4+ and Neopan 400 in Aculux II.

    Best wishes

    Paul
     
  2. eatfrog

    eatfrog Member

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    APX100 and Rodinal 1+50 is terrible for portraits, the grain is very sharp and stands out on even lighter tones like sky or skin.

    Try stock D76 or a film with smaller grain. Fp4+ has worked nicely for me.

    /Henri
     
  3. NikoSperi

    NikoSperi Member

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    You have stumbled upon the very reason for the existence of the Banquet Camera. These were used to photograph large (very large) groups of people where photographers quickly stumbled upon the "too little real-estate" to resolve detail. If your subject's face occupies a sufficiently small area of the film, you may have an insufficient number of silver crystals to resolve the details. For groups of say a hundred people, a 35mm film frame may have one or two grains per face.

    Asking your film to offer the fine grain to resolve something so small is also going to stretch your technique and lenses. If you have those, try some Technical Pan, or some Pan F.
     
  4. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    or if you like modern films try Acros or delta 100. in pretty well any dev you will find the grain is WAY finer than rodinal and APX100.
     
  5. psvensson

    psvensson Member

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    Ilford XP2 works well for this. Its grain diminishes with exposure. If you expose it at ISO 200, faces falling on zone VI will look very smooth. It's the lower tones that show grain.
     
  6. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    well presented and very true.
     
  7. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    If you are enamored of Rodinal, try adding 4 grams of sodium ascorbate to the liter of Rodinal 1+50 working solution. The developing time will be as for Rodinal 1+25. Grain will be somewhat finer.

    Faces of the white race and blue sky with cumulus clouds are the tell-tales for grain.
     
  8. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Oh yes master my master, that is fantastic.
    You can also add ascorbate to 1+100 and use the 1+50 times.
    It works great with EFKE films and JC Pro 100

     
  9. pauldc

    pauldc Member

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    Thanks for the advice everyone, I think I will try the sodium ascorbate route first of all and have just ordered some from the net. Are there any trade-offs with using ascorbate - perhaps a small reduction in tonality or sharpness?

    Paul
     
  10. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    If you can't get ascorbate use vitamin C, then add (very slowly) baking soda until the fizzing stops.
    I'm using about 1/2 tsp of Vitamin C for 600 ml.
    Then mix the rodinal in.