OP may be seeing digi prints that tend to blow the reds quite easily.
Perhaps all the usual suspects... he hasn't specified. Regardless of the mode of reproduction, the inherent problem with color negs per se is that they're like having power steering on a narrow road.
A little too much tweak this way or that, and you're off the road entirely! To use another analogy, it's
like someone tone deaf who keeps singing louder and louder, even though they can't hit the right pitch
or properly differentiate the respective notes to begin with. By merely saturating (so easy nowadays it
seems), yet being unaware of how this affects the nuances of the gamut, all the related subtlety in the
hues gets blocked together, and the power of the color realtionships is killed. Sometimes less is more.
This should not be confused with the concept of contrast per se. I can work with either soft or highly
saturated hues, and still retain a very clean range of distinctions between similar hues. But how one
goes about this is somewhat different when printing color negs versus chromes. The problem is not
really one of analog versus digital reproduction at all, but more about how the ubiquity of the very low
common denomintor of the web has created a generation which is almost color-illiterate.
Loss of detail is due to clipping at either end (highlights or shadows) of one of more colour-channels. It's pretty easy to do in digital by cranking the saturation slider and there are plenty of people not paying attention in their postprocessing that will produce technically poor images. A saturation increase is a deliberate pushing of the channel values away from the grey line in colour-space and that will typically push values out of gamut especially near shadows and highlights. Values out of gamut means colour clipping, which means loss of detail.
RA4 absolutely can produce high saturation. I have a few wet prints here from Ektar and they are eye-bleedingly saturated, about on par with Velvia* though obviously the paper can represent much less total dynamic range. Yes, it has visibly more saturation than Provia. For example that image is a scan from the negative whereas the wet print is more contrasty (the tree reflections are close to black unless I dodge) and more saturated. There is no loss of detail anywhere in it.
It also helps that the only papers easily available in sheets are high-contrast, which increases saturation slightly. So even if you're printing with a lower-saturation film, the results are pretty strong-looking. Obviously though if you're shooting a high-contrast scene, you're going to struggle to get the whole image onto the paper without dodge+burn because the contrast is fixed (save for some rude tricks in developing the neg or print) and high.
* obviously it's the Kodak palette with strong reds instead of the Fujichrome palette with strong greens & purples.
^ I think blown highlights are tempered (but not always possible) with luminosity, not commonly saturation. Blown highlights won't necessarily respond well to tweaking; if they're gone, they're gone: re-shoot the scene.
A scene with Velvia, for example, can be over-saturated with the indiscriminate use of a polariser (particularly awful with Velvia 100F where browns turn a ghastly red and greens shift to mush), and in doing so it will also flatten the illumination, introducing more problems. I strongly favour fitting the film to the scene; that is to say, one film will not be universally suitable for every scene; thus I freely inter change Provia 100F if I have reason to politely record the scene's colour's with not so much garish overtures v.i.z., Velvia.
I don't get blown highights or blocked shadows in any of my scenes because I've tweaked multi-spot metering and everything is accounted for: highs, mid-tones and lows. Water with blown highlights is a very common malaise; where it is involved and highlights are desired to be controlled, my trick is to baseline shift a meter reading from water and give —0.5 stop from an overall metered scene matrice. Colourimetrics and printing is thus very straightforward.
And now...it's Friday! The cameras are packed, the go-kart is primed and I'm ready to shoot through to make the best use of the remaining summer-like days of autumn. Bon voyage!
Control in general is an acquired skill and necessary througout the workflow. And yes, I too always start with a spot meter and very good idea of what my chosen film is, and is not, capable of. As
Clint Eastwood famously said, "A man has got to know his limitations".
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Thanks for the responses, and my apologies for not responding sooner! I've been putting a darkroom together in my basement and haven't touched the computer for a little while!
The reason I've asked in the first place was mainly to anticipate the kinds of issues that I might see when the darkroom is done and running.
Someone already said this, but I don't need it look like a box of crayons. I want it to look real.
The images that I see that make me wary are scanned and probably manipulated. I just wondered what they'll really look like after printing instead of on the monitor.
Thanks all for posting your responses, I think I've found them all to be very helpful in managing my expectations.
I have an angle that derives from laziness, trust, and, resigning myself to the idea that's there just isn't much film these days to even consider the question. So I boil down all the pontification surrounding the matter and settle on what I would have; or should have used in the first place. By whatever name EK named their good stuff. At one time it was Ektacolor, then Vericolor, now Portra. Soon to be nothing, I'm afraid. Frankly a roll of Kodacolor was always good enough for me. When Kodak is gone, I suppose all we'll have is some Fuji of whatever they might still make. Any of it is preferable to doing the digital deal.
As someone pointed out don't try to judge image quality by looking at internet pics.
If you do color negative printing in your darkroom, you can choose different films to give you different levels of saturation. For example, Kodak Portra films for modest, Fuji Reala for higher and Kodak Ektar for the highest. I have used all of these printed on Kodak Endura paper (now discontinued in sheets) and Fuji CA II paper (still available) and all combinations give pleasing results with no loss of detail at any saturation level.
The important thing is to expose the film properly at the correct exposure and color temperature, and use care when developing and printing. You won't be disappointed.
Last edited by RPC; 04-20-2013 at 03:43 AM. Click to view previous post history.
A couple thoughts.
First is that "all things are relative" and second is that "each medium has its own pallet".
So to the first point, I find that if I want colors to look richer, that printing slightly darker helps, this isn't really changing the saturation but is changing the relationships of the tones to our world. Conversely by printing slightly or even significantly lighter you can make things look more pastel. These effects can be applied locally or globally and this can control detail too. The other control I find fun here is color balance. For example in the real world cars that are supposed to be "red" many times lean toward orange, red, but too yellow for my taste. I can print it with more blue and by my standards "improve the red". Similarly you have to decide which version of real color you want. If you are shooting in a bar where the lighting is warm, do you really want destroy the mood and reality of the scene to correct the skin tones to studio perfect normal? I'm not suggesting one or the other is the right way, simply that both are actually, truly, and absolutely correct answers, your preference is the judge.
Second is the color pallet thing. I really enjoy Portra, and I enjoy Superia, and Fuji Pro films, and have done shots I really like with Kodak disposable cameras that I didn't know what film, other than ISO, was inside. Unless you have very specific expectations you will find that most films give very good results. Sure, if I do a wedding gig I'm probably going to order fresh Portra for the job but if the shipper runs over the package with a forklift I'd happily reach into my fridge and grab 20 rolls of 5-year-old Superia 400 and do the job. What I understand is that most of the problems I have with any film are failures on my part, say scrimping on exposure or forgetting to set exposure or setting exposure without remembering that I have a polarizer on or not considering that films respond to different colors differently so in that bar under nice warm light I might forget that I need a bit more exposure. Did I mention exposure?
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
So I'm doing an RA4 printing session this evening with some Pro 160S (a very neutral film) that expired in 2007 (thankyou to whoever on APUG sold it to me on the cheap!). It's a tad dense and requires much more cyan filtering due to its age but the colours are still accurate and (on the papers I can get) slightly more contrasty and saturated than I want for a portrait. It looks like a mildly-boosted digital photograph with similar punch to Provia. Getting enough saturation is not a problem, personally I find getting it down to an acceptable level more difficult.