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  1. #1

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    Pushing colour neg for dark skin?

    I've recently been working on some portraits with Portra 400. With one subject in particular, who has dark skin, I found myself having difficulty with exposure - first time I've worked with this kind of skin tone.
    I rate Portra 400 at box speed and in this situation I'd stopped down to f/11 on the Hasselblad, and had to give a stop extra. This was in a conservatory and the subject was basked in uniform sunlight - when the clouds finally shifted!

    I don't like pushing more than a stop and having a 'black and white mind' I'm still a little cautious with colour neg expansion/contraction.
    To get that stop back, is pushing to 800 advisable with such a subject? Or will this only result in added texture to her face - i.e. accentuated specular highlights/pores?

  2. #2

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    Why push process? Just give a little more exposure. The biggest thing you want to avoid is having dark skin go slightly greenish.

  3. #3

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    She has very dark skin and I suppose I'm having difficulty with my judgement of tonality. Should have the negs back tomorrow and will provide examples to see what people think. Because I'd stopped down so much to get a background in too, my exposures ended up at 1/30 and then 1/60 when the sun was completely clear of cloud. I suppose I'm not comfortable with such slow shutter speeds for portraiture.

  4. #4

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    I am no colour expert but I can't think of any reason why you'd need to process Portra differently for dark skin. It has to be designed to capture dark skin well under normal processing, surely?

    What did you take your exposure from?

    If you are not comfortable with 1/30 or even 1/60 then I think that Portra 400 will still produce good prints rated at 800.

    You may be worrying unnecessarily.

    pentaxuser

  5. #5
    labyrinth photo's Avatar
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    it's is advisable to give the film a bit more when shooting people with dark skin, a stop extra is about right however you choose to achieve this,
    Labyrinth Photographic Printing
    121 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 0QN
    020 8709 9961
    http://www.labyrinthphotographic.co.uk/

  6. #6
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    Doesn't pushing color neg film cause color cross-overs?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by labyrinth photo View Post
    it's is advisable to give the film a bit more when shooting people with dark skin, a stop extra is about right however you choose to achieve this,
    The books usually seem to say that taking an exposure from a grey card is the right thing to do, be it B&W or colour neg and in both cases shadow detail( really dark areas) is improved by erring on the side of overexposure which I think is being suggested above.

    However if and this "if" is crucial to what I am going to say, the exposure meter gives a reading for 18% grey(zone V) then as dark skin is registered as the equivalent of zone V rather than say zone IV it would seem that a reading from the dark skin should give the right exposure, be it B&W or colour neg.

    On this basis a caucasian skin on a colour neg film requires more exposure to lighten it so taking a reading from Caucasian skin requires a stop extra and dark skin requires no extra exposure.

    Do I have this wrong and if so how would one judge dark skin's correct exposure from a spot meter or correct exposure for a white wall with texture on colour neg?

    pentaxuser

  8. #8

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    I wondered about this too. My skin happens to be almost exactly 18% so no problem taking a shot of myself but....

    Assuming everything around the subject is not extremely bright or dark, is there anything wrong with metering person's skin and put it on zone V where most detail can be captured? On the same token, knowing the difference between white skin and black skin from zone V is only one stop on each side, is it that important that we compensate for this?

    I think the darkest of the dark skin and lightest of light skin can vary as much as 2 stops from zone V. In such cases, do we still measure zone V or split the difference?
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  9. #9

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    What's difficult with thinking the zone system in colour, is that caucasian skin is traditionally placed anywhere from 5-7 depending on lighting conditions. For a more somber image in black and white, say in a dark room where a white face is the highest tonality, ZV can work a treat. In colour, I think you can get away with a certain amount of tonal experimentation with white skin, but feel it's difficult with very dark skin in particular.

    That said, I've been looking at an African photographer recently, please take a look - http://www.vivianesassen.com/#/flamboya - The image of the woman sat on the tree in this series ('Spring of the Nile') is particularly striking. She works with shadows on her subjects to great effect.

  10. #10
    Rick A's Avatar
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    Whenever possible, take a reading from a 18% gray card placed in front of your subjects face in the lighting you are using. Skin color should not matter, as you are using color film, and will get an accurate rendering from the light reading.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum

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