Portra 400 with night scene - what happened?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by RaymondC, Dec 15, 2020.

  1. With film I have shot mainly with slides. So this time I am trying out C41 films. I got my first roll back from the lab - Kodak Portra 400. This is the unedited scan after it was passed thru my Epson V700. Did I managed to overexposed Portra 400 despite it having overexposing characteristics? It was 30mins after sunset with the sun fading behind the buildings and there is a hill there as well. Summer here in New Zealand. The rule I usually use with slides is ISO 100, F8, 10secs. So with Portra that means 2.5 seconds +1EV for the film's latitude and +1EV again for reciprocity. I've now read reciprocity doesn't kick in until 8 seconds for 1 stop correction so I might only needed 1/3 of a stop.

    Daytime images came out very nice esp for portraiture though. :)

    Like to know your views on this


  2. First of all, it's not clear to me what you see wrong with this picture. You saw the scene with your own eyes, I didn't. So to me, there is nothing obviously wrong with this picture.

    Let me also clarify something - Kodak Portra (and C-41 films in general) is known for being tolerant to overexposure, but yes of course it is possible to overexpose this film. I know there is a trend online where people recommend overexposing, but Kodak will tell you that this film performs best when exposed at "box speed".

    You should not be using a fixed exposure "rule". You say that with slides, you use "ISO 100, F8, 10secs". Are you saying that you use the same exposure settings regardless of the prevailing light conditions? But of course light conditions change! You should meter the light, and expose accordingly. What camera are you using? (How) are you metering your scenes?
  3. I shot it with a Hasselblad 500CM with the 80mm lens. The body and lens was also recently CLA'ed due to fine tuning the focus and I did the CLA thing with it.

    I did go out this evening with my digital SLR to take the same shots and the same settings since I wrote them down. Picture attached underneath. This was taken at the same time today as of yesterday, the more correct exposure with the dSLR seems to be ISO 100, F8, 5 seconds. I don't use fixed rule for all, because with night photography the spot meter on my Sekonic 758 might not be that reliable. Many I read also don't use a light meter at night. After tonight. Maybe my ISO 100, F8, 10 seconds was more for night time cityscapes at a viewing platform further away, today I found out I should had been 5 seconds or 1 stop less. I usually use this rule for a typical night scene where there are deep shadows and bright highlights but in the past it has been further away

    The issue I have with the photograph is that it is too bright, it doesn't look like it was taken 30mins after sunset with the shops lights turned on. dSLR image attached I took tonight which is the 1 stop darker, 5secs ISO 100, F8. Also the sky has gone too white.

    Yes I have read C41 films has more latitude. If the difference was just 2 stop over or 3 stops over if I didn't need reciprocity would that be asking too much for the film to handle and still get an image from C41 film that looks as it was there ie a night scene? 3 stops because I was a) 1 stop over compared to my dSLR image. B) I also overexposed it by 1 stop deliberately ie film rated as 200 ISO, C) I added reciprocity if it was not required.

    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  4. arthur_gottschalk likes this.
  5. I found it to be Ok'ish to overexpose with daytime the brighter areas where the sun hits is a bit too bright but the skin to my eyes was pretty much the same. I collected the film from my lab today. I asked the owner in the film days what wedding photographers rated their film at and he said 1 stop overexposed ... Shrugs .....

    In the above scene where would you point the spot meter and would you use any exposure adjustment? I've always found night time tricky to meter and I question myself. I am thinking spot meter off the bottom left area of the frame , bottom floor of the building above that amber brown window on the wall there?
  6. Yes, that Kodak datasheet doesn't say anything about an exposure speed longer than 1 second. It says to to your own testing.

    I found the Portra reciprocity from this webpage. Assuming with box speed that was 2.5" with my initial anyway I wouldn't had needed reciprocity at all. But compared to my dSLR it should had been 1.25 seconds anyway ... Hmm..... I will do box speed next time.

    Kodak Portra Lovers
  7. I wouldn't be so fixated on exposure adjustment, for no reason other than hearsay of Portra being tolerant of overexposure. I would just rate the film at box speed. By all means, overexpose half a stop or a full stop for reciprocity failure if you are exposing for several seconds.

    Personally, I wouldn't use a spot meter. I would use a centre-weighted meter, or even just meter with your DSLR - nothing wrong with that - it has an intelligent multi-zone meter built in. Have a read of this document from Kodak:
    https://www.pittsfordschools.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=5101&dataid=32070&FileName=accurate exposure.pdf

    You actually said yourself that skin tones turned out the same regardless of overexpsure, but highlights were too bright in your opinion. So this suggests there is no reason to overexpose.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  8. It's just overexposed in the scan.
    A simple tweak with the curves tool in an image editor got me this:
    The sky's still a bit blank, but I don't know if, or how much, it had any detail in it to start with.

    Basically you've shot it 'night for day' and the scanner software has mistakenly, but understandably, 'printed' it as if you wanted full shadow detail.
  9. Thanks Joe :)

    I was able to do this inside Lightroom and be quite crude with my sliders. I think it is somewhat similar to the evening I shot it in. With a longer exposure for the darker buildings the brighter faded sky might had became brighter. Does colour negative film make parts of the image areas a bit more brighter?

    When you say I shot it night for day you mean maybe my exposure was overexposed in camera? If one did meter correctly can one get an accurate scan or does the software still think you want full shadow detail?
  10. Color neg is basically gonna record what's in the scene in the same relative quantities as to what's there. Except for what is known as "reciprocity failure," a defect that can occur in films under certain exposure conditions (digital capture is essentially immune to this problem).

    I pretty much concur. Same thing would've happened to you back during the years of optical mini-labs. Back then, if you had reduced the film exposure the likely result would have been similar, except that the optical prints would not have solid blacks - rather they would be grainy shades of gray. Unless you could have told the operator, "hey, these are night shots! And I want em to look like night." Then the operator would override the auto system and force them to print darker. Or even darker until you were satisfied (provided that you were willing to keep paying for the prints).

    The same basic situation exists for your scans.

    I'm sure it would be possible for the software people to try to interpret a scan as a night scene, and then give a night-like representation of same. But I guess they're mostly not doing it yet. Heck, they don't even do that good a job on auto-color, in my opinion.

    So I'd say you gotta just make the adjustments to your taste. Fwiw they'll probably look more night-like if you remove most of the color from the darker parts. Our vision behaves like this - we simply can't see color in dim light. But a long film exposure DOES see the color. So it's largely your artistic call as to how you want it to look.

    You might get some benefit with color balancing filters on the lens, depending on the makeup of the lighting. The standard color neg films are balanced for "daylight," a color temp of around 5500K. So if you filter to balance the ambient light closer to this you'll probably have a better starting point. I don't know how big a deal this is, though.
  11. Took my scanner off auto exposure, results better :)
    andylynn likes this.
  12. Yes, exactly.
    A common trick in movie filming is to shoot 'day for night'. That is, to underexpose in bright daylight and use a blue filter to emulate dusk or night-time lighting.

    You've done the opposite and made night-time look like daylight!

    Underexposing loses a bit of shadow detail, but perceptually this is how we see darkly-lit subjects.
    RaymondC likes this.

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