There are two decisions that a film photographer can make right out of the gate that will have a major influence on the final look of their photos: film stock and exposure.
So, Richard is breaking down the most popular pro film stocks we see at the lab, showing multiple exposure settings of each, to get you started! This will not only show you how film choice and exposure affect your final image, but it will help you find your sweet spot—what is "normal" to your light meter might not be "normal" to you. We're including snaps of the film negatives, too, so you can see how the physical structure of exposed film translates into a scan. #negsaresacred
BONUS! Here's a high-resolution download of everything so you can get up close and personal with the scans and negatives! This will be the best way for you to see the amount of grain in each stock and exposure setting, too.
Before we get to the good stuff, a note: please don't consider this to be a license to blindly overexpose your film. Yes, film does well with overexposure. But, overexposing without metering is NOT a good idea. You risk overexposing your film to drastic proportions, and you lose consistency in exposure by not measuring the conditions of different setups and adjusting accordingly. That means your shots will be overexposed by different amounts, and your scans won't be consistent.
For the purpose of this blog, we used a Mamiya 645AF camera with an 80mm f/2.8 lens and shot during late morning in open shade. We metered using a handheld incident meter, bulb out, turned back toward the camera. All images have been scanned on the Noritsu with a neutral color balance and density preference to reflect the qualities of the film and exposure setting as accurately as possible.
FUJIFILM FUJICOLOR 400H
We rated Fujifilm Fujicolor 400H at box speed. This film is very "light hungry", so Richard recommends pumping it up one stop. Typically, photographers rate this film at one to two stops overexposed—as the test shows, this film can do that really well without any color shifts. Note how the greens on Fujifilm differ from those on Kodak...
KODAK PORTRA 400
We rated Kodak Portra 400 at box speed. You can see that as you overexpose more, red tones start to creep into your picture. So, it is really best to rate this film close to box speed.
KODAK PORTRA 800
We rated Kodak Portra 800 at box speed. This is another "light hungry" film—overexposing one stop gives you a negative with rich density and no color shift.
KODAK PORTRA 160
We rated Kodak Portra 160 at box speed. To Richard's surprise, this film was the most flexible of the color films tested—it looks great at a lot of different exposure settings, even underexposure (if you want a "moody" look)! We recommend scanning this film on the Noritsu. Kodak Portra 160 can sometimes produce digital artifacting when scanned on the Frontier due to the silver retention.
KODAK EKTAR 100
We rated Kodak Ektar 100 at box speed. The most significant change we saw with this film was the appearance of color saturation. Check out the hair color! However, it is wise to note that saturation of other colors, like the blue dress, don't change as much in saturation as they do lightness. Just like Portra 160, Ektar 100 can sometimes produce digital artifacting when scanned on the Frontier due to the silver retention.
On to the black & white film! We wanted to show an added stop of exposure to give you an extra frame (wink) of reference for the range of values and grain you can get with these films—download the high-resolution files so you can zoom all the way in on that grainy goodness.
KODAK TRI-X 400
We rated Kodak Tri-X 400 at box speed. This seems to be the most flexible of the black & white film stocks, but the most even tones are still found at box speed.
We rated Ilford HP5 at box speed. It has much richer blacks than Tri-X film, so Richard recommends shooting at +1.
ILFORD DELTA 3200
We ignored the box speed for Ilford Delta 3200 and rated this at 1600, because it is generally agreed upon by the film community that the "normal" speed for this film. This film is very grainy, and that only increases as you get farther from box speed.. Richard recommends shooting at +1.
Once you’ve chosen a film stock that might be a match for your style, go out and shoot a test roll or two! Testing exposure settings in a variety of lighting conditions and shooting different subject matter will give you an even better understanding of how to create film negatives that yield the look you love.
This is how images become heirlooms. Step inside the lab and learn what a true fine art print is, how long they last, and how we make them at Richard Photo Lab...
Looking through a camera can change your point of view. And the theory of defamiliarization—presenting what's commonplace in a fresh way—is what drives photographer Ashleigh Coleman. With her camera in hand, Ashleigh engages the southern landscapes she calls home to craft her sometimes-haunting and always-stunning imagery.
Today in Richard's Photog Spotlight, hear Ashleigh's journey from gallery girl to professional photographer, the camera that changed her career trajectory, and how film is an integral part of her family life!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Ashleigh Coleman: Even though he works a nine-to-five job, my father always had a camera in his hands. When I was younger, he talked to me about what he was doing—setting the aperture, composing, etc. I loved watching him. Naturally, I wanted to emulate him. During the spring of my "gap year" between high school and college, I went to Europe and he entrusted me with his 35mm Canon. After that, I was hooked.
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
AC: Post university, I worked in an art gallery for several years; however, after getting married and moving to Mississippi, it wasn’t feasible to continue gallery work while living in a rural community. My husband gets the credit for encouraging me to take my passion for photography more seriously—it had been relegated to the hobby category previously. I will be frank, I watched a lot of CreativeLive courses and read lots of photography books and studied the work of other photographers, as well as talked to any photographer in the area who would give me the time of day. When I think about those first sessions with clients, I am incredibly grateful to them for trusting me to capture that season in their life!
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
AC: Oh sheesh. What don’t I love to photograph? I photograph my children, when they let me. I also love riding around—exploring small towns and dirt roads and talking to people along the way—to photograph what I see, to try to make sense of what I see.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
AC: For me, just being able to shoot film itself is creatively fulfilling. Without adding to my workload, it lets me create while juggling three children and editing work for clients (I primarily shoot digital for clients, unless they request film). The film is shot, sealed up, and kept on the counter until I have time to mail it off to the amazing and wonderful Richard Photo Lab. Then, scans arrive in my inbox all ready to go, thanks to the Color PAC process I went through in 2015. Win win!
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
AC: My favorite camera is the Hasselbad 500c/m with a Zeiss 80mm that I inherited from my husband’s uncle. The format and weight of it just fit. I was shooting a Mamiya 645e when I visited Uncle Bob in Wyoming one fall. He asked if I could still get film for “those old things.” Then, he disappeared into his office, returned with a box, and said, “I think you will put this to good use.” This past January, when I had my first two-person show at Fischer Galleries, it meant so much that Uncle Bob and his wife attended the opening to see images taken with that camera! It still floods my heart with gratitude when I think about how that unexpected gift changed the trajectory of my career.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it today?
AC: My first memory of shooting with film is in 2001—being in Rome and loading black and white film into my dad’s camera. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it!
As I mentioned, I have three young kids, so shooting film gives me a creative outlet that doesn’t tether me to a computer screen. It is also the undercurrent in exploring—camera always in tow, but building memories with the family.
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
AC: Like any other relationship in life, unexpressed expectations lead to disappointment and frustration. When I communicate regularly with the lab (Albany, in particular), we all stay on the same page and we all are happy with the final results, me especially! It almost goes without saying that my work is made easier by the quality, consistency, and cheerful service of Richard Photo Lab.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
AC: I make sure I have on deodorant! Ha.
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
AC: Right now it is "Aftergold" by Big Wild.
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
AC: Chocolate, if I have to...
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Breakfast or Dinner?
AC: Breakfast—if someone makes it for me.
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
AC: Cold weather.
R: Early bird or night owl?
AC: Night owl, hoot hoot.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
AC: Historical non-fiction, but really contemporary fiction.
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
AC: I’d be an interior designer with a side passion for horticulture—dreamers can dream!
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
AC: To tesser! (AKA to travel in time, from the book "A Wrinkle in Time")
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
AC: My favorite word is "grace"—we all need it.