Color Problem

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by arthur_gottschalk, Sep 8, 2021.

  1. I'm a black and white film shooter who recently tried to shoot color. I've used Portra 400 and Fuji 400H and in both cases the colors I get , mostly shot in bright light, are much too saturated and garish for my taste. I think I want something cool and even pale. I will try Portra 160 and hope that helps. I do see lots of pictures on line that look perfect, so what am I doing wrong? I will not be scanning this point.
  2. AJG


    Are you printing these yourself or is a lab doing that for you? Inexpensive machine prints from pro emulsions are frequently a problem in that situation since the machines may not be set up to print from these films, but are instead set up for more popular (cheaper) amateur films like Kodacolor. I used to shoot a lot of Portra 400 precisely because it was lower contrast and less garish than other color negative films, but one hour labs that I tried never printed it that well. Good custom labs still exist and are worth the money if you're critical about print quality and can't do it yourself.
    SSepan and rodeo_joe|1 like this.
  3. Amateur labs, and unfortunately some 'pro' ones too, tend to give a generous colour development, which results in higher than desirable contrast and colour saturation. Most of their less-discerning customers like this.

    The lab may also be using a printing paper with garish saturation.

    I long ago decided that DIY processing was the way to go, and also saved the postage and turn around time of a lab. Of course, times and chemical/paper prices have changed since then, and DIY processing just doesn't make economic sense these days. But then neither does film use in general.

    In short, find a better lab, but be prepared to pay a premium price.
    SSepan likes this.
  4. Already paying a premium price from North Coast Photographic Services, a lab recommended by Ken Rockwell. I get the impression that quality color these days comes from adjustments in Photoshop and Lightroom.
    SSepan likes this.
  5. AJG


    Try Praus Productions in Rochester, NY--they do excellent work. Ken Rockwell wouldn't be my first choice as an information source on much of anything photographic...
  6. That's at least part of your problem right there.
  7. Indeed. A quick look at his website shows he definitely likes his colour saturation turned up to 11.
  8. I used to use VPS for ordinary family photography, for the less contrasty look.

    But now, almost no-one directly prints color negatives.
    (And if they do, it will be very expensive.)

    The usual printer is a scanner and then laser-scanned printer that exposes the
    paper from the digital image. Any contrast change, along with color balance,
    can be done between scan and print.

    (From the data sheet for Fuji Crystal Archive, they give reciprocity data
    from microseconds to minutes.)

    It seems that Fuji now makes Crystal Archive Digital paper, designed
    only for the microsecond exposures of scanning lasers. No idea what
    happens if you expose it for seconds or minutes.

    In any case, you should probably scan them yourself. That is the only way
    to know the actual contrast. Well, I suppose a densitometer would also work.

    Most of my scanners don't give the right contrast without help, though usually
    it comes out too low. You can scan them, then send the digital files to your
    favorite (or not so favorite) printing place.
  9. Despite the recommendation of KR, NCPS is a pretty good lab, and I've used them for years and have no complaints about their work. They are easy to talk to, and they have called me several times when my instructions on the order form were unclear to them. You might do so and ask about getting scans with a lower saturation setting.

    I also prefer less saturation and mostly shoot Portra 160 for color (I'd prefer to shoot the discontinued 160n) but consider myself a bw photographer. The alternative to working with the lab to get what you want (and probably at additional cost) is to do your own scanning. Since no one is making good quality 35mm and 120 scanners these days, you would have to buy used and you might check prices for a Nikon scanner. Otherwise use a digital camera setup for the purpose. Then there is the little matter of working out a method of getting what you want from post-process software. I would call NCPS first and see what they have to say.

    Good luck.
  10. Unlike black and white paper, which comes in different contrast grades, there is normally only one color paper.
    It might be that you can get other contrasts, but that is rare.

    Panalure, the black and white paper for printing from color negatives does come in three grades.

    In any case, that was only a problem in the days of direct printing of color negatives.
    If you have scans, even if they print naturally at the wrong contrast, you can process them to
    give different contrast.

    Some people seem to say that 400H gives lower contrast with a stop or two overexposure.

    Otherwise, there seem to be many color negative films designed to give unnatural oversaturation.
  11. I’ve read Ken Rockwell as Guy Fieri is to cuisine. He clearly knows what he’s doing, he’s just not doing what I’m interested in. FWIW, I did use his suggested picture style settings when sending my niece her first “real” camera (EOS D40) so that she could have some fun right out of the box on P, and then learn better in her class.
  12. Yeah, I didn't use CN film much until I started scanning it myself, but the few times I did use commercial processing and printing, the color saturation definitely tended toward the "saturation set to 11" end of the scale. I still shoot some color film, but I would never do it if I couldn't scan it myself.
  13. When I was young, my dad always did slides.
    One reason was that it was a lot cheaper than negatives and prints.

    He then got me interested in black and white, and processing and
    printing them myself. I do remember, though, at the time that I started,
    over 50 years ago, that reprints (3.5x5) were $0.07 for black and white,
    and $0.22 for color. Each. That is discount store price, not professional
    lab price.

    Besides 50 years of inflation, it is now not so hard to get reprints
    (from digital images) for $0.10 to $0.15.

    One calculator give the inflation for $0.22 to today of about $.1.50.

    But by 30 years ago, when I was old enough to afford it, I did both
    slides and negatives, slides more for scenery, prints more for family.

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