Portra 400 @ 1600: Push or no?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by nickrapak, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. nickrapak

    nickrapak Member

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    I have done multiple searches, and each thread seems to give conflicting information. I was called on (on short notice, nonetheless) to shoot a debate on my college campus. I was thinking of shooting Portra 400 at 1600, but therein lies the rub. Most people agree that it shoots well enough at 1600, but there's disagreement as to whether or not to push the film in development. I've heard no, +1, and +2. I've also heard to shoot at 1250 instead, to preserve shadow detail.

    Anyway, consider this a poll: When shooting Portra 400 at 1600, how should I develop it?
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The essence of pushing is giving up shadow detail in exchange for speed.

    I'd give up as little exposure as possible.

    If you have a fast 50mm lens use it, I'm assuming 35mm film.

    Get on stage before the event and incident meter in the actual lighting.

    If you need and can, use a strobe.

    Shoot a couple extra rolls while you are there to test development with, develop the test rolls first, one at a time. Adjust as required.
     
  3. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Totally agree with Mark, except for one thing: Shoot one test roll, cut the roll into thirds, develop one section at at time at the chosen times. Why burn two or three rolls, when you can get the test done with one? (Unless of course you are going to shoot the test rolls at different ISOs, but then you're probably complicating things. I would bet that the on stage lighting, with a decent fast lens, is going to be pretty strong already. You might not have to go as far as 1600.
     
  4. dorff

    dorff Member

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    Is Portra 800 not an option? I know it is more expensive, but it will give you more shadow detail with more normal contrast, I think. On the main question, I cannot answer. My own experience is that shadows are difficult to extract if underexposed and developed normally. So I would lean towards pushing, based on my normal use of the film.
     
  5. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    This is not true! Portra 400 (or any color negative film) won't shoot well at all at 1600. A 1600 color negative film will do well shooting at 400 but not the other way around. So to expose Portra 400 at 1600 you must push develop otherwise your pictures will be very severe underexposed.
     
  6. thegman

    thegman Member

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  7. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    I have done a lot of testing of portra 400, I have found that I could shoot it at 1600 and be fine either developed normal or pushed two stops. At 3200 i would normally push it one stop to save money over pushing it 3 stops. Most of the time for 1600 I would just develop it normal to save money and it was good. It had a red cast at anything above 400.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The examples shown, of the facade of the Pantages, is a poor example for the OP.

    Taking pictures in the light of high luminance commercial facades is very different from stage light settings.
     
  9. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    I would say it completely depends on who's developing your film.

    I shot an engagement session at dusk and asked the lab to push the film. One roll at 800, one at 1600, and one at 3200. I'm not even sure if the lab pushed the 800 roll or if they just faked it. The roll at 1600 was definitely pushed, but when compared to box speed, it was so different that I now question whether I'll ever desire to push color film again.

    I say, push B&W all you want, but color needs to be exposed properly near box-speed in order to look right.
     
  10. Lamar

    Lamar Member

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  11. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    In my own experience from developing myself in Flexicolor, Portra 400 can work well at 1600, and pushing beats underexposing with no push imho.

    I almost never underexpose my Portra, because I mainly use it for portraits. It excels @ box speed and @ 320 in this regard with normal processing.


    Portra 160 did handle underexposure well (1-2 stops) without pushing as well... it was from when I was excited to shoot it as it had just become available and the light had faded too much for normal exposure.



    Invest in a tripod if it's a problem.


    Underxposure and pushing is useable, but make it your last resort after exhausting every other option.
     
  12. Andre Noble

    Andre Noble Subscriber

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    In photo school, 16 years internet forum education and personal experience has taught me one thing: that color negative film does not like AT ALL to be underexposed - no matter how much later you "push" it.

    For your assignment on hand (very low level light), shoot digital.
     
  13. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Having done both with and without pushing on Portra 160 and 400, I disagree.

    It also works well on Portra 800, and is the designated C-41 push film from Kodak.
     
  14. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    You might of learned it back then but they did not have the new portra 400 back the then.
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    cjbecker, Regardless of the film in question, as exposure is reduced, detail is lost. The new Portra is really good but Kodak hasn't found a way to manipulate the laws of physics.

    At a certain point reducing exposure will start affecting the print we expect, period.

    Where that point is for each of us may vary. I'd hazard a guess that you, Andre, Athiril, and I have different photographic sensibilities and expectations.

    In the absence of testing for oneself deviating from box speed is a real gamble.
     
  16. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    When I do shoot portra 400 I normally shoot it at 250, as that's where it looks best to me. But If I'm in a situation were I have to get the picture I will shoot portra 400 up to 3200. I know I'm going to be loosing detail, colors and adding grain, but getting the picture is better then no picture at all. And I have done this on paying jobs where it was dark and flashes where not allowed.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Shoot Portra 800 at 1600, process normally [or push one stop] and let the latitude of the film handle it for you.