Shooting lower light and color film - without flash

Discussion in 'Weddings' started by dugrant153, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    I've been incorporating film more and more into my event (and soon wedding) workflow and I love it. I shoot a lot of natural light and love the look that film gives, especially the black and white stuff.

    I've been looking at blogs such as Jose Villa and Jonathan Canlas (true film "inspirators") and I REALLY LIKE the results they get. However, I notice a lot of the weddings are outdoors where there is usually plenty of sunlight and so I can see how they can shoot ASA200 on Fujifilm (or something like that) and get decent shutter speeds.

    My question is, when it gets dark and indoors, what do you folks do to compensate today's color films without using flash? I use Kodak Portra 400NC right now and even in a daytime ceremony, indoor church shots are difficult and the shutter speeds get real low. I usually like to shoot at ASA 320 for my Portra, but I usually have to forego the Medium Format (fastest lens = F2.8) for 35mm (fastest lens = F1.7) and bump up to box speed ASA 400 to get a decent shutter speed.

    Just looking for some ideas! Thinking maybe pushing/pulling color film?
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Fuji Pro 800Z while it is still on shelves, and then Kodak Portra 800 are your choices for pro films. It's a shame that of the two, the Fuji is the one that did not make it. I like it much more than the Kodak, especially for off-neutral or mixed lighting.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree with 2F/2F, 800 speed is the only way to go.

    Jeff
     
  4. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I'd run, not walk, to wherever Fuji is sold and buy any and all ISO800 film,even Superia 800, you can. Very few labs can handle C41 push processing now, so fast film, fast lenses, and minimal stabilization(e.g., a monopod) make up one recipe for low light shooting.
     
  5. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I've had moderate success shooting Portra 800 indoors in nasty lighting. You could always rate it at 2000 and ask for a 2 stop push. I've heard it takes that well, but I've never done it nor seen an example. In my experience, it handles tungsten lighting pretty well, as well as Fuji film. It does show the greens from fluorescents more than Fuji. You'll probably be better off correcting tungsten lighting if you underrate it a bit, like at 640 or 500.

    Of course, if you can pull of Portra 400, I think you'll be a lot happier.

    Oh, and send your film to a good lab for proper development (including pushing) and scans. Richard Photo is one often tossed around. I've been happy with NCPS and am trying out Precision Camera now - they have a special for RFF members.
     
  6. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    I use my local lab for developing and it's turned out pretty good. I've had that lab (Custom Color in Vancouver) push process my Ilford Delta 3200 with pretty decent results. Will have to consider shipping my stuff to Richard Photo Labs soon to see what results I can get... their work looks amazing!

    Usually when I'm indoors, I use Kodak Tmax 400 and shoot from ASA 400-800 (Since development times are the same), but usually stuck at 640 ASA and get decent and usable results. Anything above that gets the Ilford Delta 3200, or by then I resort to flash.

    I tried Kodak Portra 800 indoors and it was not that great for me. I shoot in a lot of mixed lighting and Kodak Portra 400 can usually take it, but I was surprised Portra 800 sucked in all the tungsten green - maybe not underrating it enough, or perhaps it's my scanning technique? Fuji Pro 800Z seems like a good choice but difficult to find and availability is dropping (will hunt for some soon!). Superia 800 even more so! The more I think about it, the more I realize that my options may be quite limited and I'm guessing change in technique and using more B&W film may be the key.

    I can see monopod + Portra 400NC + F2.8 and 1/15th shutter speed being usable for non-actiony stuff. I think this may be the way to go: utilizing Medium Format for brighter or "less movement" situations, and 35mm (B&W film) and digital for all the actiony stuff.

    I'll have to try the pull-processing and see what happens. Shoot at 800 ASA and pull process at 800 ASA?
     
  7. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    When I started doing weddings I took basically whatever came my way. That meant shooting in whatever situation the wedding happened to be in and that was a great way to learn how to shoot in the dark.

    Basically that means "how and when to use strobes" :wink:

    What I did not understand then was that to succeed, I needed a well defined product, like Jose Villa, Jonathan Canlas, etcetera have, AND the balls to say "no miss, I won't do your wedding, it doesn't fit my style (the product I offer).

    Jose and Jonathan target a very specific sub-markets and they don't appear to go outside their styles much.

    Part of their choice of film is artistic, part is business.

    Edward Olive is another guy that uses a lot of film, found him on Flickr, he shoots in the EU. His choice of film is anything but consistent. From XP2 to D3200 to Porta to ... , it just doesn't seem to matter to him what he puts in the camera. A lot of the fun stuff seems to be from seriously "underexposed" frames. I'm not suggesting he made mistakes, just artistic choices.

    One of the reasons Jose Villa uses film is that the workflow is efficient. It moves a lot of work off his shoulders and onto the lab's shoulders.

    Other successful shooters use strobes, even studio strobes, to light an entire ballroom if that's what it takes.

    The point I'm trying to make here is that all the highly successful shooters have all designed products for the markets they wanted to serve and found films/tools/methods that fit that are very reliable and repeatable and well defined to fit that very specific market, they did not design their products around the afternoon sun; their market was probably already having weddings there.
     
  9. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    If you were getting green, that's most likely not from tungsten lighting but from fluorescents. Not that that fixes your problem...
     
  10. Markster

    Markster Member

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    Is Kodak Portra 800 the line you find in supermarkets, or is it a higher-end? I've used Kodak's consumer line of 800 speed and find it quite grainy. It gives you that ability to shoot indoors (which I really like) but sometimes the end product/print isn't very good.

    I was just curious if there was another Kodak 800 that I should try or not.
     
  11. Ottrdaemmerung

    Ottrdaemmerung Member

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    Markster: Kodak's Portra line is higher-end. In supermarkets you'll most often find Kodak Gold 100 and 200, and Kodak Max 400. Ektar and Portra are higher quality.
     
  12. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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  13. Markster

    Markster Member

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    That looks about as grainy as the stuff I was using, the over-the-counter Kodak 800 stuff I bought as a Walgreens last December.
     
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  15. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Well, so be it. It was expiring as I shot it, but I don't know how it was stored before I got it. I think it provides a lovely pointilist effect personally.

    If you hate grain though... go get a Mark II and shoot it at 1600 all day with perfect results.
     
  16. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I've had good results with it like I said. Yes there is grain - it's 800 speed film. But not too bad. Use fresh stuff, don't underexpose, and get it processed/scanned at the right place.

    You can see other sizes here:
    flickr example
     
  17. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Yeah, that looks much better. The 3 things you mentioned are all true; and mine probably fell short on all 3 to some extent.
     
  18. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    This point struck home to me and perhaps I'm trying to grab a big chunk of the market instead of defining myself and picking out a work-able niche for me.
    I really like the way Jeff Ascough takes images, and I find I like a lot of B&W. And much like London, Vancouver gets a lot of grey days and rain... hence the necessity for higher speed ISOs. I could probably get away with TMAX 400 underexposed at 800, then Ilford Delta 3200 for further... color... well, I'll have to figure that part out.

    Still a work in progress!


    Yar. I think even my digital gets confused by this lighting. May be best to just stick to B&W for indoors for the most part, or color-corrected digital.


    Btw, I did have a chance to shoot 800Z and it's some great film. I shot an expired roll (2006!!) at 400 ISO and got great results! However, ASA 400 is pretty difficult for natural light in some of the darker areas I shoot.
     
  19. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I'm glad, these were hard won lessons for me.

    Deciding what jobs are important for you to do, and which jobs others can do more efficiently, is important. It is really tough to do it all well and efficiently and the tasks don't all pay the same.

    Paying a lab "a few measly bucks that the bride is already footing" means I get to spend a week marketing and selling new work instead of processing.

    Sales pays more, in fact selling something is the only way to get paid if you are working for yourself. It it the most important job a pro photographer has, bar none.

    That's the magic of Jose's workflow, he get's time to go sell.

    Has the niche you want to sell to actually defined that, or is that a guess?

    As are we all.

    Color doesn't have to be normal to work. http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwardolive/2902284127/

    Strobes are fun once you learn how to "bounce". :D
     
  20. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    Duly noted! I find I spend a lot of time scanning (my lab's scans are nowhere near the quality I'm able to get out of my Epson 4990). But otherwise very little time in the "Develop" module for Lightroom.

    I think the look I go for and the types of environments I shoot in require this approach.


    Oh, I've done a lot of bounce flash with my digital. But slowly, that changed to no flash when I realized I was destroying the mood by letting a mini-lightning strike go from my camera :wink:

    I will use the flash for reaaaaaly dark times (like neither I or the camera can see anything!) and occasionally for other specific effects. But still prefer the natural light look.
     
  21. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    Are you developing at home? If not, how much are you paying? I might suggest you either use NCPS, Precision Camera, or Richard Photo Lab for your developing and scanning. At $10-12 per roll for the first two and big scans, you could save yourself a significant amount of time...

    I'm waiting for 10 rolls back from Precision. First time I've used them and am looking forward to seeing what their 4000x6000 scans are like in person. I've seen smaller stuff from them online and it looks pretty good.
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    That's a lab issue, replace the lab, problem solved.

    Jose Villa does a very nice business and provides great quality.

    He doesn't scan for himself.

    I can tell that you care, but does your market care?

    I'm going to go back to Jose again.

    He says that he "directs" most of his shots, very little is candid.

    Candids are fun, even great for marketing, but they aren't where the money is, for Jose his signature shots are where the money is.

    Weddings are very predictable.

    Jose and every other successful wedding shooter has a set of standard shots that they will get at every wedding, normally they don't even need to meter for these shots. Backlit by sun ISO 400 F4 at 400, next.

    These "standards" are what the bride was sold, why she might pick you, and what goes in the album.

    The other thing that I've found is that at weddings people expect flash.
     
  23. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    To be honest, I'm not sure as I haven't really marketed myself this way too much yet. But it's the way I'm very passionate about shooting and I know it's what I excel at. Film does justice in creating a look that fits it :smile:
    I'm hoping that I'll create a certain niche for myself - more documentary with a couple of posed shots. I'm definitely going to try to shoot that way. We'll see :smile:
    I guess the way I see things is that the market is already flooded with a bazillion "wedding" photographers. I just don't want to be another grain of sand on the beach of photographers, so trying to differentiate my look with very flash-less photography. So far, atleast with my digital, it's worked out.

    Speaking of lowlight, I just shot some scanned shots on my Pentax 645 with Ilford Delta 3200 @ 1600 ASA. Wow. I think I found the ultimate low-light beast! LOL


    I have the lab develop. It's about $5.50 + $1.50 for pushing or pulling per roll of C-41 or normal B&W. I then take the roll and spend the evening scanning it. The beauty of my Epson scanner is that it batch scans 35mm (but only two 120 shots at a time. DOH!), so I set the scanner up, let it scan and walk away to do laundry or something.


    On a separate note, I just emailed Richard Photo Labs, but I'll have to check on the others. My current lab does decent processing and I just do the scans myself since I find I do a pretty good job extracting all the detail myself. However, would be nice to have someone else do this for me :wink:
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Being passionate about your product is important.

    Just FYI/reality check, the documentary style with just a few posed shots has been the dominant marketing style for years now.

    Don't mistake "what client's say" for "what they actually want".

    It is my firm belief that whatever you show a prospect when selling the job becomes the defacto "semi-posed/planned shot list" that you better darn well get and that what they really want is simply not to look deer in the headlights in all those "semi-posed/planned" shots.

    Jose Villa is obviously a master at this.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2011
  25. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    @Markster The stuff you got off the shelf in the local drug store was probably "Kodak Gold Max 800" that came in a yellow box with a green end on it. That is the same film that they use in disposable cameras, you do not want to use that stuff at a wedding where they have cameras on the tables because your photos will not stand out from them.
     
  26. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I would seriously consider one of the three labs I mentioned. I think Richard Photo is around $20/roll for dev and scan. They certainly have the reputation for good stuff. NCPS and Precision Camera are about $10-12. NCPS gives back good stuff, 2000x3000 scans at that price with pretty good color. They also have a reasonably fast turnaround. Precision Camera does 4000x6000 scans, but there turnaround seems to be a couple days longer. I've yet to see their scans firsthand. I'm waiting on an order this minute - should get here in a day or two. I suspect they will be good judging by other results I've seen.

    With the basic scans out of the way, you can always tweak a couple or rescan ones that you think need it, but the bulk of the work would be done. Seems to be worth it for around $5/roll extra.