Portra 400 exposed at box speed

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by LucRoMar, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    Good evening,

    First time post for me.

    I just received scan from my current lab (portra 400 exposed @400)
    Exposure was center weighted in Tv. Did I underexpose them or could it be bad processing ?
    I find them globaly poor, are my expectation too high for 35mm ???

    0034.jpg 0039.jpg

    Regards,

    Luc
     
  2. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    The first one is great and the problems with the second have nothing to do with 35mm. Anyway, it will be interesting to read the comments from the knowledgeable, which ain't me. I'll just shut up and sit in the corner.
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Can you tell us what it is about these two that disappoint? The colour rendition look OK in both. In the second the whole face doesn't look to be in focus and the light is different but as pbromaghin has said this doesn't look like a 35mm or processing issue.

    pentaxuser
     
  4. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Aside from the scratches, these look good to me. The second one is maybe just a little under exposed. I tend to shoot Portra 400, Fuji 400H or Ilford XP2 all at ASA 200. So basically, every shot is over exposed by one stop. With C41 negative, a 1 stop over exposure is nothing, but a 1 stop under exposure you may notice. Err on the side of over exposure, and you won't go far wrong.
     
  5. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    I don't really know, I find the first one a tiny bit grainy, color wise I find them very good (I love how film renders color)
    maybe te following photo is a better exemple :

    0028.jpg

    In this one I find the skintone to not be very uniform but appart from that the colors are nice.

    at the moment I'm discovering everything and trying to find a good lab too, maybe I'm dissapointed when the lab tell me those scan are good for 8"x10" print with scans that make 1200x1800pxl ;-)

    Tanks for you replies.
     
  6. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    I think I'll try to overexpose them by 1 stop too next time. Indoor is tricky at this time of year too for film... maybe Portra 800 @400.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The backlit shots are struggling a bit. In particular, the last example does show a lot of grain or noise when enlarged.

    I wonder though whether that might be more to do with scanning than the film itself. Backlighting can tend to fool the automatic scanners.
     
  8. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    What do you think is wrong with them ?
     
  9. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    I think as Matt says maybe it is an automated scan from the lab that is not as "smooth" as I expected.

    mmm, I will have to negociated with my OH to invest in a scanner or find a good scanning service here in europe ;-)
     
  10. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    Luc,
    They are under exposed. Probably by one stop or more. I only set my camera for box speed when its a cloudy day. Normally I shoot Portra 400 at 200 ISO.

    Hope that helps,
    D.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Both look good, but the second one is backlit so the subject looks darker. This is not a film problem, rather a metering and focusing problem.

    I use Portra 400 at box speed without any problems.
     
  12. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Personally, I would use a 1/2 stop of fill flash if you want that face to jump out. I suspect at least a half stop of underexposure, check your metering system vs. shutter speed. What did you shoot this with?

    tim in san jose
     
  13. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    Shoot this with an old canon T70 in spot metering, shutter priority, I'll try to shoot another roll outside and compare before changing lab ;-)

    Thnaks for the inputs.

    Great forum, can't wait to play with B/W and darkroom chems lol
     
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  15. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I think all the shots look fine. A bit more exposure would help but they are fine as they were.
     
  16. GKR1

    GKR1 Member

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    They look underexposed. Try meter in spot +2 on the face, I also shoot portra at 320.
    Lastly, the lab did not do a good job in scanning, White balance is off, and scratched.
    Of course, as other said 2nd one is not in focus.

    Keep at it do not get discouraged.
     
  17. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    One stop under, at least. If your meter wasn't set to +1 or +1.5 compensation due to metering off pale skin then that would be your cause. And if you were shooting in tungsten light, there's at least one more stop gone (Edit: that looks like window light, so ignore this).

    The backlit one is just the meter being confused by lighting situation. You should spot-meter the face in this situation.

    If you meter carefully, Portra easily achieves box speed. What you've done here is demonstrate that Portra produces passable-but-not-great results at about EI1200.

    Edit 2: the white lines are probably scratches. The overall yellowed look is probably because the scan operator has a poor sense of colour; the film itself doesn't look that bad unless the lab's chemistry is bad. While some labs try to cut corners on chemistry capacity, poor scanning is more likely than poor processing.

    The grain is definitely worse than it needs to be, but you aren't going to do a huge amount better on 35mm at ISO400 unless you get (and learn to use; it's a long learning curve) a good 4000dpi dedicated film (not flatbed) scanner or if you print optically. Optical printing requires a bunch of annoying equipment (a darkroom!) but will give you great quality with a very short learning curve, mostly because it doesn't really give you any control :wink: Colour printing at home is also staggeringly cheap (excluding your labour costs) compared to any other output process; think 50c per 8x10.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 25, 2013
  18. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    Having fought with negative film scans for many years, and having started optical RA4 printing recently, I would put the blame squarely on the developing and scanning service (except for the ugly white line sticking out of the boy's head in the first image and the strong back focus in the second image). You will see no grain/noise like that if you optically enlarge these negatives, whereas most negative scans will look like grain hell. Accept and embrace grain as something which is part of scanned negative film and switch to slide film if you want grainless. Not because slide film has less grain than negative film per se, but because slide film scans have less grain than most negative film scans. Scanning these negs yourself won't change that, quite to the contrary, minilab scanners are surprisingly good compared to common film scanners. You will find people online who claim they can scan negative film grainless but for some reason these folks are nowhere to be found in those labs we use.

    The white lines running parallel to the film in the second image indicate scratches introduced during the development or scanning step. Check the negative strips for these and bring this issue to the attention of your lab. If they don't care, switch to another, more professional lab immediately.

    Next is exposure: the definition of ISO speed says that with negative film you have about 4 stops below your metering before you have unstructured blackness. If you spot meter into shadow area, you will have great detail in these regions, too, but if you use center average metering for a back lit portrait, the face will lack detail and structure. Since the face is the first (and sometimes only) area we look at in a photo, it is crucial to have detail there and you must meter accordingly. Note that all these hints "I shoot it at EI 175.23" don't mean squat if you aren't told which areas are metered.

    Next thing you must take into account is that C41 film was originally meant to be enlarged on photographic paper which had more or less a given contrast. This means regardless of scene contrast your images came out looking normal in the correctly exposed regions, blown out in the overexposed regions and as dark blobs in underexposed areas. There were few ways to alter contrast and these were generally not available to Joe Shmoe holiday shooter. Fast forward to digital scanning and it was suddenly possible to adjust contrast at will, and that's exactly what your scanning service did: they compressed the dynamic range until it filled but not overextended the dynamic range of the JPEG format. In a back lit scene you have huge contrast, so after contrast compression your scanned image inevitably lacks contrast and punch. Unless you can tell your lab to redo the scan in specific ways you must account for this when you shoot the image and avoid high contrast scenes. Which is a shame because negative film has huge dynamic range.

    It takes some time to master this medium but it can be very rewarding if you get it right.
     
  19. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    Thank you all for all the inputs, I'll keep trying and being more careful with my exposure.

    for the lab, I dropped the film at my photo shop, I don't know how much I can ask of them, I know of another lab that only does Dev/darkroom printing, I'll try them.

    Looks like finding a good lab is not that easy.

    I currently starting to build a darkroom with a BW enlarger that I got cheap, I always tougth that color was really hard to optically enlarge.

    This is a wonderful medium, and even as I struggle I still find qualities in the output that I don't find with my digital photos.
     
  20. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Colour printing requires only:
    - a colour enlarger ($50?)
    - no safelight (annoyingly dark)
    - warmer processing (for most papers) but temperature isn't critical

    It's not much harder than B&W, just takes some practise to learn how much to adjust the filters to get the colour right. Once you're used to the B&W, by all means give it a go.
     
  21. LucRoMar

    LucRoMar Member

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    I would really like to try it in some time. I think I'll keep using a lab for now and start to do my B/W dev @home
     
  22. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    I totally agree with this. Certain films scan very well, including Portra 160 and Ektar; I'm not sure about Portra 400. But I have had a lot of problems with "grain aliasing" on many other film stocks. I've all but given up on scanning negatives. My preferred route going forward is to make a contact sheet of a film to see what is worth enlarging; then print the worthwhile pics, and scan the prints if I need to share the images digitally.

    I think it's all part of a secret plot to make people think that film is inferior to digital, when the truth is, I believe, the opposite.
     
  23. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Porta scans well.

    "Grain aliasing" comes from the silver which is on black & white film only, not color.
     
  24. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    Grain aliasing is a function of an electronic sensor receiving information on image detail above the level that it can interpret properly; the result is the functional equivalent of a moire pattern, or a lower level (coarser) depiction of what cannot be processed properly. It's not black and white specific and applies equally to the grain pattern of color films.
     
  25. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Perhaps you want to call it "dye cloud" aliasing when referring to color neg film, since all the silver grain is gone. I think that's what Sirius Glass was alluding to.
     
  26. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I fully acknowledge that this discussion has gone way off topic for APUG by now, but since it concerns the viability of negative film as a photographic medium I would like to add some more: grain aliasing can only happen with a scanner that has a sharp lens and a low res sensor. With my V700 the opposite is the case and scanned negative film still looks grainy, while equally sharp slide film does not. The big difference between negs and slides is that different contrast ranges are mapped into RGB color space, and if you expand the small contrast of negative film (like RA4 paper does) you get an extra dose of punishment from scanner sensor noise.

    The difference between an optical RA4 print and a negative scan is profound, but I still make negative scans to serve as contact sheets. One can get moderately sharp 4x6" prints from simple 35mm negative film scans and knows that much bigger enlargements are possible for those few winning shots that are worth the optical RA4 effort. Reminds me of the Ansel Adams quote: the negative is the score, the print the performance.