soft focus filters--when?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by bob_hollifield, Apr 2, 2004.

  1. When shooting a wedding, especially when using film, when are you
    likely to use a soft focus filter? More likely with b/w or color?
    More likely with candids or posed shots? A lot of Marc's shots have
    that wonderful soft glow to them, (or maybe it's just my old eyes)
    and it started me thinking. My daughter is getting married in the
    fall, in the mtns, and I plan to also shoot some candid pics with my
    F3 and Pentax 645 and try to stay out of the way of the photog. Tks
    for your answers..this is a wonderfully candid forum. bob
  2. Also meant to mention I have 180 Nikkor 2.8 ED, 35-105 Nikkor Zoom 3.5-4.5, 55mm 2.8 nikkor for F3 and 75mm and 120mm for Pentax. SB16 Nikon flash, 285HV Vivitar and Pentax AF280T flash. Thinking abt buying used Nikkor 50mm 1.4. I was thinking abt shooting Portra 160NC outside and Kodak T400 CN inside. Tks..bob
  3. I would go with Portra BW400,rather than TCN(which seems pretty low con,and flat to me).SF filters are usually used only in portrait type shots.
  4. Bob I think the "wonderful soft glow" that you see in Marc's shots is more a quality of the light than anything else. Soft focus filters tend to make the world look like someone's rubbed vaseline on it. I could be wrong. Perhaps Marc will chime in, but I would suspect that natural light or very subtle flash is a big component in accomplishing that look. It is rather beautiful, isn't it?
  5. And the 50mm 1.4 would be a good addition. It's an easy lens to get the hang of. Even if you don't shoot it wide open, that F1.4 aperture makes for a nice bright image in the viewfinder.
  6. It seems to me that soft Imafe filter use was a popular technique in the 1980's and early 1990's through the influence of Rocky Gunn and Monte Zuker, but has declined considerable in the past 10 years, from what I've seen and read. This may be due in part to the rise in popularity of PJ and Documentary wedding styles. This can be also said of those cheezy double exposures that were once popular. I used to use a Tiffen Soft FX-3 but don't use anything now. Softness can be added in printing if needed. That's just an observation.
  7. If you can, try to have one lens (a 85mm, perhaps) with a Tiffen Black Promist 1 filter or a (older version) Softnet Black 1 filter. Then you can switch a lens, shoot one or two frames with the soft-type filter, and then go back to a different lens and no soft filter images. You will have a choice (and if you want to take a few years off the age of some older relatives, the Tiffen filters do wonders.....) A Tiffen soft filter, grade 3, is somewhat overkill (my observation.)
  8. Call me crazy but I saw the results of my mentor's weddings about 5 years back (she's one of those really high priced photojournalistic wedding photographers who charges $8,000 and up for a wedding) and thought they had an interesting quality and color that I couldn't identify since we used the same lab and the same film. Turns out she uses a Soft Warm #1 filter for everything and does to this day. Occassionally she uses a Soft Warm #2 for portraits. <p> After I saw her work I started shooting everything with a Soft Warm #1 as well. I love the results. It is so subtle that you don't even notice a filter was used but it softens the light and out of focus backgrounds. Plus, since most of my brides are late 20's to late 30's...They don't want super sharp photos of themselves. For subjects 45 and above (women) - I use a black stocking streched across my lens and held in place by a UV filter. Older women that I've shot that way really appreciate how it softens lines and creases.
  9. Most digital images are soft right out of the camera (if you set normal contrast in camera
    and set sharpening to low) PhotoShop is a far more powerful program for achieving
    degrees of contrast and sharpening than any in-camera program could achieve.

    With film, some glass like Leica has a real glow to it on it's own (especially some of the
    older lenses). Razor sharp, but a rich tonality. German glass is often known for this quality
    (see Jeff's Leica M work). Japanese lenses tend to really strive for sharpness by dialing up
    the contrast... sometimes at the expense of tonal gradations. For this reason, I never liked
    Nikon glass for B&W film wedding work. But the D1-X didn't suffer from this as much due
    to the initial softness of the digital image (no flames please, it's just a personal opinion).

    When shooting women with a Hasselblad and film, especially with certain lenses like the
    100/3.5, I often use a Zeiss Softar I ( Softar II if the subject was older). The Softar is a
    unique filter that retains detail and hyalites the highlights to produce a soft glow without
    destroying the fine details like a normal diffusion filter would. Being a Zeiss design, it's
    very expensive. B+W and Heliopan offer them, as does Hasselbald.

    A really amazing type of diffusion filter are the Lee Net Filters. I sometimes use a Black
    net, White Net and my favorite, the Flesh Net. To hard to explain here... but beautiful

    Finally, in the end, the quality of light has a huge effect on the appearance of "glow".
    Hard, spectral light is great for some objects, but not the mother of the bride. Soft,
    diffused light is much more flattering. The larger the initial source the better. Diffused
    sunlight is the very best IMO... the overcast sky is the Universe's largest soft-box ( unless
    you're shooting on Jupiter ; -)
  10. Here's an example of a really broad light source. A 7' Octabox placed just outside of the image area. The white shirt is the test of it's soft light ability, as it would be with a Bride's wedding dress, especially a satin one.
  11. You can buy black netting at any yardage store and rubberband it over your lens. That saves quite a few dollars and you can change sizes and double mesh it. The netting comes in many sizes and in white also. It is very cheap and is sold by the yard, or less. The idea of a Soft Image #1 is a good. I had one once and it's barely noticable.

    The big problem I had with soft image filters was outdoors. With backlighting I got serious haloing which would actually cut into the hair and face, and sometimes this haloing was a blue tint. It looked awful! Anyone else have that problem?

    The black netting does not cause this problem, and one layer over the lens gives a nice mild feel to the photo.

    I don't like the very heavy "fog" diffusion that was once very popular.
  12. Black netting is basically what a Black Pro Mist is. The White Pro
    Mist is what gives the haloes, aka the 'Barbara Walters' look. (Or
    Robert Redford in "The Horse Whisperer" come to think of it.)
  13. Tiffen has two kinds of filters like what was mentioned above: the black net filter and the black Pro Mist filter. The black net is simply black netting material sandwiched between two pieces of glass. The Pro Mist is a haze of tiny black dots across the glass. The black net produces less haze effect than the Pro Mist. Again, you can make a black net filter by just buying black netting. I just found my 62mm UV filter in my box of photo junk, and I'm going to get some black netting to attach to the filter and give it a try. You can also make a black Pro Mist style filter by taking a UV filter and a can of flat black paint. Spray a puff of paint in the air and quickly pass the filter through it. Don't overdo it. A little goes a long way. If you make a mistake, just remove it with paint thinner and try again. I tried a real black Pro Mist filter once and I didn't like it. Too hazy. The black netting is more subtle since the open spaces allow sharp imaging to pass through.

    I try to make whatever I can. Call me "cheap!"

    I like Mary's idea of keeping a Soft FX-1 filter on all the time for weddings and portraits. I'll have to try that, unless it halos in bright sun. I can't make one of those!

    Marc, have you tried any such filters on your digital cameras, and what "filter" option in PS will give a similar effect?
  14. I usually use soft focus filters on bridal close-ups or bride and groom close-ups, mostly the posed ones, but sparingly in both situations. Sometimes, if the image fits (if it is "romantic" or the ambient light is soft or backlit), I use it on full length shots--usually of the bride and groom. I don't usually use them on black and white shots because the halation effect is not so pleasing in black and white. I use Softars only, which do produce halation. While I don't own any Leica cameras, I do think Leica lenses have a special quality (that glow) about them, and my Zeiss lenses do too. I don't see any need to use the extremely subtle black net type diffusion. I use Canon lenses for 35mm and they are no slouches, but as Marc has stated, Japanese lenses have a needle sharp quality--Nikon more than Canon. Just my opinion. Most of my clients don't like the soft focus, but usually will tell me to try just a few after seeing some samples. Even the most PJ oriented clients usually admit that some of the soft focus shots are actually nice. Best to ask your daughter whether she likes soft focus or not, and maybe find out if the hired photographer is going to use soft focus, because if you are trying to stay out of his way and he uses soft focus, you could just leave it up to him. I would think most of your shots would be candid. Also, you can add soft focus later if you scan your images.
  15. This is an interesting topic. I had a situation come up that might be of interest to some that are getting their printing done from optical equipment rather than digital.
    Diffusion from the camera and diffusion from the enlarger are different in that (with neg film) on the camera, light is spread to create a "halo" effect to the image. This makes light areas scatter around and invade dark subjects with light. In the darkroom, if you diffuse an image, since the light being scattered is negative, the light from the exposure creates a dark halo effect invading light areas. The look is entirely different. I had a customer at the lab I worked at have a 16x20 made and wanted it diffused. He did a lot of diffusion then with his camera, but didn't use it for this particular shot. I made the print and I thought it looked great. He came in and said he hated it! It didn't look like his normal diffusion! We reprinted it undiffused for his customer. He didn't want something different from his norm.

    Something to consider. Of course with scanned negs it makes no difference anymore, but it was, I thought, a good tale to tell.
  16. Folks, thanks so much. I printed this stuff out and between now and the fall will try some of them. I like the black netting idea Todd came up with. Also Mary that soft warming filter #1 sounds interesting. I'll go to Goggle and see what I can find. Marc, you're right $300+ for that filter. As Nadine said, I'll do the little things and leave the major stuff to the Pro. I think I will get my daughter though and experiment with netting, soft focus filter, and the soft warming filter if I can find it...just to see how she likes it. That may help her give the photog some indication of what she likes also. Well everyone I can't express how much I appreciate your input and time...I read these threads two times a day. Best of luck to all...bob
  17. Another nice effect is rear diffusion - Placing the netting over the
    rear element of the lens. They do that often on motion picture
    shoots. They cut the netting to fit and hold it in place with snot
    tape. (Yes, that's the real name!)
  18. Show and Tell: The first photo is a 1 by 3 foot piece of black netting I bought today for 33 cents. The second photo show that I cut a piece of the netting the same size as the outer diameter of the filter. I rested the netting on the lens and screwed the filter on. Since the netting was the size of the outer diameter, it folded into the lens barrel and held it's shape. This is just one idea. As mentioned, doing this on the rear element is also common. I've used Nikon soft filters in the past with considerable success. I avoid filters that produce halos in bright sun or backlighting. Is that "halation?"
  19. There is a piece of netting behind the filter. You might be able to see it. You can put these on in layers. Experiment.
  20. BTW: the netting technique will reduce the light so it's best to use TTL metering.
  21. Todd...really appreciate the "show and tell". That is very helpful. I'm going to give that a try tomorrow. Can't beat the price either. Tks..bob p.s. like your photos.
  22. Kevin, I'll try that rear element trick also. Appreciate the ideas...tks again bob
  23. Next time your wife or girl friend runs a pair of panty hose grab them. If they're flesh
    colored, you'll have a "flesh net" filter to experiment with. Of course, you have to trim
    them to size and attach with a rubber band. A whole panty hose hanging off of your lens
    might raise a few eyebrows ; -)
  24. Marc...I was wondering about that, especially for the flesh color. I'll give it a try also. tks..bob
  25. Another inexpensive soft focus filter is created by using an UV filter and then, as mentioned earlier with the black spray paint, use some hairspray and spray it from a distance of about 2-3 ft. down onto the glass. Different amounts produce different results. Use windex or warm water to wash off if not happy with the results. Use an 81A or similar warming filter to achieve the look Mary speaks of. Aerosol hairspray works best. One other note to be aware of, the longer the focal length, the stronger the effect. Make sure you try it out on all of your lenses you intend on using.
  26. What I mean by the longer the focal length the stronger the effect is if you use any soft focus on say your 180, it will produce a softer effect than with say a 28.

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