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.
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I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
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
Where ever you are, there you be.
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
I think all the shots look fine. A bit more exposure would help but they are fine as they were.
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.
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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 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 polyglot; 02-25-2013 at 10:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Trying to be the best of whatever I am, even if what I am is no good.
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.
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.
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