If you’re a photographer just starting to dabble in the world of film, there’s a lot of foundational knowledge and jargon about the medium you’ll want to understand. Even if you’re a seasoned pro, it’s easy for the basics to escape you as your focus shifts to developing your artistic vision. To give you a hand, Richard whipped up a little quick-reference blog defining some of the foundational elements of film formats! Use it as you start experimenting with film, or if you’re in need of a few refreshers (plus some additional deets you may not have known).
Psst... Instead of listing these definitions alphabetically, we’ve grouped them into categories so you can easily compare them.
NEGATIVE FILM VS REVERSAL FILM
NEGATIVE FILM: Captures images as a “negative”, in which colors and values are inverted. Good for preserving details in high-contrast situations.
REVERSAL FILM: Also known as “slide film”, it captures images as a “positive”, replicating color and values directly. Because of this, it captures a rich range of colors. It’s also quite clear, with less grain than negative film.
135 FILM: Also referred to as 35mm (the width of the film), although that designation is typically reserved for 35mm cinema stock—the term 135 actually refers to the metal cassette the film is enclosed in. Standard frame size is 36x24mm, with a standard of 36 exposures. The film is perforated on the edges so that it may be wound to and from one spool.
120 FILM: Much larger than 135 film, it is 61mm wide—the larger size allows images to appear less grainy as they are enlarged. Standard frame size and number of exposures are: 6x4.5cm/16 exposures, 6x6cm/12 exposures, 6x7cm/10 exposures. No perforated edges—the film goes from one spool to another. Film has protective backing paper on it.
220 FILM: Identical to 120 film, but with 1) twice as many frames per roll, and 2) NO protective backing paper. The lack of backing paper allows the longer film to fit on the same sized spool as 120 film, and the resulting thinner film requires a different pressure plate to achieve the best focus. Some cameras require a separate insert for this film type, while others come with different settings to accommodate both 120 and 220.
MEDIUM FORMAT: Film (and camera) type in which a single frame is larger than 135 film (36x24mm) but smaller than 4x5 inches. Typically 120 or 220 film types.
LARGE FORMAT: Film (and camera) type in which a single frame is 4x5 or larger (5x7, 8x10, etc). The film is also known as “sheet film”. Because the film is larger, the subsequent images can be printed larger without as much grain.
C-41: The most popular chemical developing process for color films. Color film has multiple layers of light-sensitive emulsion, each being sensitive to a different color.
B/W: Black and white film, which has it’s own specific developing process (different from that of color film). Black and white film typically has only one layer of light-sensitive emulsion that is only sensitive to the value (or density) of light, not the color. Find tips for shooting black and white film here.
E-6: The chemical developing process used for color reversal (slide) film. E-6 film has multiple layers of light-sensitive emulsion; during processing, multiple developer baths are used, as well as a reversal bath that turns the negative silver image on each layer into a positive image.
CROSS PROCESSING: Deliberately processing film using a different chemical process than the film is designated for. Typically used with E6 film in C-41 chemistry to increase contrast and generate random color shifts.
If you shoot film, whether as your full-time love or as half of your superstar hybrid status, you’ve heard the term “color profile”. There’s a lot of talk in the community about it because, well, every film lab and their mother is saying that they can apply a color profile to your film scans these days. Other phrases or words that are thrown around to describe a color profile include “custom scans”, “personalized scans”, “color preferences”, etc. We’ve heard it all! But the truth is, not every color profiling process is the same—and the differences in how your visual preferences are communicated and applied to scans can be monumental!
You see, when it comes to the characteristics of your scans, everything is relative and subjective. If you say you want something lighter or warmer or bluer or whatever-er, the scanning technician is still just speculating at what that means to you. And if something is up for interpretation, it’s likely to also be misinterpreted at some point. That’s why Richard strives to provide a more thorough and accurate process to understanding and executing your visual tastes.
Richard is the “godfather” of color profiling, if you will. 20+ years ago, Richard’s main clientele was composed of high-end commercial photographers working in music and entertainment photography. Their photos were being used internationally for major promotional material, and photographers (and the major entertainment production companies often employing them) needed their iconic pop-culture imagery to be both consistent and on-brand. Richard recognized that these two components were valuable to all professional photographers, and introduced the concept of custom, frame-by-frame review to the world of high-end wedding & event film photographers facing the start of the digital revolution in the late 1990s. With so many years of expertise under our belt, the crew at Richard has refined and mastered the process of creating and implementing what is referred to today as “color profiles”.
How exactly does Richard build your personalized color profile? You’ll fill out a questionnaire telling us all about your shooting habits, equipment, inspirations/mentors, and your business as a whole. We will also have you gather lots of source materials and samples of your work. Then our General Manager, Bill, will chat with you one-on-one in great detail—this guy has decades of experience and boatloads of know-how in building color profiles, and together you will meticulously nail down your vision! Details about your profile are closely managed throughout testing/execution and tweaked over time as your style and methodology evolve.
But wait, there’s more to it than just understanding what Richard can do for you at the scanning level! There are a number of variables that affect the appearance of your images outside of the scanning process. Bill will coach you through them, revealing the root causes of the visual components you love (or hate) and discussing your shooting techniques, equipment you use, environments you shoot in, and more.
When you create a custom color profile with Richard, it is just part of a multi-faceted occupational toolbox known as the Richard Color PAC (or Personal Account Consultation). Why would you want to get more than just a color profile? Because when you choose to be a professional photographer, you’re no longer just an artist, you are a business owner. Having brilliant-looking images just isn’t enough! To be in business means strategically working towards profitability and sticking around for the long haul—it is your livelihood we are talking about here. There are also instances where hobbyists find this part of Richard’s consultation useful because we serve as a sounding board for ideas to take any venture to the next level (paid or unpaid!). It’s focused around setting and strategizing how to achieve your personal and professional goals. #winwin
Hence, the most distinguishing feature of the Color PAC is the invaluable professional acumen you get during the business consultation portion. In fact, you’ll go through this process before you even begin building out a color profile. First, as part of a virtual workshop online, we’ll review with you the common pitfalls that put photographers out of business (and how to avoid them), the foundations for success we’ve witnessed firsthand that photographers use to elevate their business, and the role your lab plays in building your art, your brand, and your bottom line. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, so we also do a Q&A to make sure each photog has the fundamentals down before moving to the next step!
Then, you’ll have a heart-to-heart with Richard’s lab owner, Brian. With decades in the industry at all levels as well as a noggin built for business, Brian will dig deep to address your entrepreneurial woes and uncertainties. Perhaps your number of bookings has plateaued. Or you are working a ton but just barely seeing a profit! Perhaps you’re having trouble gaining brand recognition through your current marketing efforts. Maybe you’re investing tons of man-hours in one area of your business and it’s throwing off your workflow. Or perchance business is booming but you don’t have a strategy for what to do next! Whatever the case, we’ll analyze and clarify your current circumstances and then prioritize tactics for strengthening your business.
BONUS: You’ll have a trusty Account Manager walking you through the entire process from start to finish, while also serving as your educational resource, professional advocate, and go-to guru for all things Richard.
Not sure how to know when you are ready for your very own Color PAC? There are a few signs to keep an eye out for that might clue you in:
- You love the lab! After testing out some labs, you’ve been working with Richard consistently for at least a few months—you dig our skills and we fit your workflow, so you’re ready to make us your forever lab. The Color PAC process is a commitment that both the lab and you enter into, and you’ve got to be committed to get the most out of it!
- You’ve tested all the variables. After lots of experimentation, you’ve narrowed down your favorite film stock, light to shoot in, scanner, and aesthetic style, as well as doing lots of exposure testing to get the best negatives you can. If you’re not absolutely solid in these areas, you can’t get consistent scans—no matter how much we work on your color profile.
- You’re already financially invested. The Color PAC process requires an upfront deposit of $450 that will be returned to you in the form of a lab credit after you spend $5,000 in one year on any products/services with Richard. If you already happen to be investing that much with us for your professional shoots, not only are you probably shooting enough volume to consider elevating your business with a Color PAC, but you can also do it risk-free.
- You’re not a Color Profile newbie. You’ve tried out existing color profiles and you know what you like—but you’re still spending valuable time tweaking your images to achieve the look you want.
- You’re ready to take your career to the next level. You’ve built a solid foundation for your business, but you feel it’s time to go one step further. Now you need a comprehensive analysis and consultation as an entrepreneur from someone who knows the business of your industry.
Does any of that sound familiar? Or, do you just want to learn even more about Richard’s Color PAC process? We’d love to hear from you! Just email email@example.com with the subject line “Tell me more about the Richard Color PAC!”
Psst, you can also grab a step-by-step infographic for the Color PAC process here.
Growing up, Blenda Montoro never thought she would be a gifted artist—she couldn't draw. But it turned out she had knack for capturing true emotion and natural ambiance with her photography, merging both a fine art and photojournalistic approach. Now, Blenda uses the picturesque island backdrop of Kauai to create incredible imagery that has been featured in Style Me Pretty, Pacific Weddings Magazine, Magnolia Rouge, Buzzfed, Wedding Wire, Snippet & Ink, and more. Today we're chatting with Blenda about how her upbringing in Peru influenced her start in photography, why inspiration shoots are vital investments, and the film stock she likes in low lighting, all in Richard's Photog Spotlight!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Blenda Montoro: My passion for photography was really fueled by a desire to better capture/record my own life. I grew up in Lima, Peru, and having a camera in the family was a luxury we couldn’t afford. Because of this, I only have a couple photographs of my childhood. I remember going to friends' homes and seeing little family photo albums and really wanting that for my family, as well.
I vividly remember a coffee table book we had, though, with pictures from China. Even as a young child I remember being mesmerized by the photos of another place. So, I guess the fascination with photos started at a young age—even though they weren’t photos of myself or my family. Having family in the USA, I was able to move to California when I was 24 years old. I made it a point to get my own camera and start recording memories that I could show to family and friends.
Richard: 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?
BM: I initially studied web design when I was at Santa Barbara City College. I always had a love for photos, however. After I took a few photography classes, I finally felt what it was like to be passionate about one’s subject of learning and realized I needed to change my major. A friend of mine who was a ‘second generation’ wedding photographer first encouraged me to explore wedding photography, saying it can be a great career if you are dedicated.
There are so many types of photography, but wedding photography has become my niche. Several people (as well as an interview I read with Jose Villa) helped steer me in this direction. Photography truly became my career when I moved to Kauai to be closer to my then boyfriend/now husband. Being in a new place, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to being just a photographer, and I was lucky enough to have some guidance from a successful person in the industry on Kauai. There were some tribulations at the beginning, and I was taking part-time work on occasion doing things I wasn’t interested in to make a living, but my dedication paid off and now I get to do what I love full time!
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
BM: I love to photograph my family when I’m not shooting clients. As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t have a camera in my family growing up, and now I take constant advantage of my equipment to document our lives. With two young boys, taking photos of them brings me such happiness! Seeing the smiles on their faces when they are playing at the beach or just having fun at home is so priceless.
Living on the island of Kauai provides so many beautiful things to photograph, as well. Incorporating the fun my family had in these beautiful spots is my favorite, but sometimes I also just need to show these spots when they are uninhabited to appreciate how beautiful they really are. Whether it’s the waterfalls on the north shore, or the Waimea Canyon out west, or some of the amazing hikes around the island.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
BM: When I’m trying to do something a little different and creative, it’s usually during an inspirational shoot that I’m using for marketing material. I think these shoots have a similar feel to the weddings that I shoot, but I am able to do things differently then if I were on a strict timeline, using someone else’s vision. These creative sessions help pay the bills in the future, though, because I try to get all this work published online to market to brides. It’s definitely fun and creative, and there’s risk since I’m not getting paid, but it's an investment that leads to more work down the road because it shows my creative side as a photographer.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
M: My favorite camera is my Contax 645. The lighting on Kauai is rarely consistent, but there are certain moments when everything is just right—in those moments, the photos with the Contax are incredible! However, because of the constantly changing light, I use a lot of different cameras during a wedding.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?
BM: My first memory of shooting with film was at a wedding workshop on Maui—getting to shoot there and experience firsthand how much fun the different cameras were to use... and then worrying the photos would turn out terrible because it was my first time! I also became friends with another participant who was very instrumental in getting me to buy my first film camera and encouraged me to keep shooting.
Once I saw how the photos looked, I was blown away. There were a few bad photos, but I was amazed with the good ones. I felt so much anticipation waiting those two weeks to receive my photos and see what they would look like. Finally viewing them and seeing the quality was such an amazing feeling.
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
BM: I feel that continuous communication leads to consistency. After working with Richard on my Color PAC, I now get a very consistent product that I’m super happy with. At times, there are little variations, and I can call up someone at Richard and ask what happened. You’ve really helped me get to know my equipment better and made helpful recommendations on different types of film. Once when I visited the lab, the Kodak representative was there at the same time, and he gave me some Kodak 800 to try—I’ve been very happy with this film in low light conditions!
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
BM: When driving to the wedding, I like to say a prayer for the couple and for the big day. It helps me get calm before the business of being at a wedding starts.
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Urban or rural?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
BM: Warm weather (that's why I'm so happy in Hawaii!).
R: Biggie or Tupac?
BM: Who are those guys? The only Tupac I know is the Inca from my country.
R: Early bird or night owl?
BM: Night Owl.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Breakfast or dinner?
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
BM: Historical Non-fiction.
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: Truth or dare?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
BM: A chef. I love to cook!
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
BM: Salsa music.
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
BM: X-ray vision.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
BM: "Love"—because love is my Muse.