Yes, it’s about to be here. Simple Film Lab will start accepting C-41 color negative film for processing and scanning in the month of June, 2018.
Color is a lot harder to do than Black and White, and it took a while for me to figure out how to do C-41 color negative film in a way that would be repeatable and have fairly accurate colors, but still allow the character of each film to come through once scanned in.
I’ve been able to process C-41 film for a long time and even had my own Adobe Photoshop based color workflow, but it really only worked for one film: Kodak Ektar 100, and it wasn’t really viable to do on a large scale or for other people. If this is to be a service I want to offer to others, then I need a way to provide an equivalent to what you get with RA-4 analog color prints, but digitally in Adobe Lightroom which is a fully color managed environment.
So, lots of research, lots of testing, lots of studying the DNG spec, lots of code tweaks to Simple Image Tools (the film scanning toolset developed by me for Simple Film Lab), and a lot later than I would have preferred, it’s done. And it works.
So, what do you get? Basically, the same as my Black and White film processing service, except the output is in full on, glorious, 32 bit floating point, linear light color, as an Adobe Digital Negative file. It is the color film vision that I’ve had for a while, and in my humble opinion, is the best hybrid workflow for color negative film. Bar None.
What you get from other labs is inferior if it is not at least correctly color conformed Adobe DNG files. Jpegs and tiff files have their uses, but frankly, if that’s what the lab you’re using is offering as the output of scanning your film after processing it, then they are not doing you or anybody else a favor. Like it or not, anybody who takes any serious amount of pictures uses Adobe Lightroom and should demand to get Lightroom native DNG files of their film scans. Anything else can be an option, but should not be the default. Period. End of Discussion. If you are a film lab and you are reading this, consider this post as a notice. The film scanning gold standard is correctly color conformed 32 bit floating point DNG files that behave the same way as a DNG file from a digital camera. If you don’t know how to do that, then please go figure it out and start doing it before your customers figure out that what you are giving them could be so much better and become my customers.
Film scans from Simple Image Tools does things like make Lightroom’s color temperature and white balancing actually accurate. A daylight film shot during the day has whites that look white. Did you shoot your daylight film indoors under fluorescent lights? No problem, just select that type of lighting under the Lightroom WB drop-down, or use the eye dropper to change it. Did you shoot your Tungsten balanced film outside during the day? Also, no problem. Just select “Daylight” in the WB dropdown tool. It actually works the way it’s supposed to work.
The same goes for the exposure. In fact, all of Adobe’s Lightroom Develop Module tools work the way you would expect them to work as if you shot the picture digitally, but in reality, it was shot on film.
So what is this going to cost? Well, I’m still crunching the numbers. C-41 chemistry is quite a bit more expensive than black and white chemistry and I’m still working out what the real cost per roll is, however, expect me to have it worked out and have an order form available for download within the next few days. I’m looking to follow the same model as I do for Black and White film processing, just to keep things simple.
With that all being said, yes, C-41 color negative film processing is about to happen at Simple Film Lab.
Kodak Ektar 100? Yes.
Kodak Portra 400? Yes.
Kodak Portra 160? Yes.
Fuji PRO 400H? Yes.
Pretty much any C-41 film? Pretty much Yes.
The above image is super cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200.
Color checker charts are one thing. What about real pictures? I’m glad you asked. I’ve been uploading sample images to my Flickr account and plan to create tech sheets with full DNG sample files to download for all the Color negative emulsions currently on the market today.
I’ve already shot Ektar 100, Portra 160, Portra 400, PRO 400H, Gold 200, Ultramax 400, and ColorPlus 200. I have Portra 800, Fujicolor 200, Fujicolor 400, Fujicolor 800, Lomography CN100, CN400, and CN800 in my possession and queued up have sample images shot, developed, and scanned and plan to search out and acquire as many other C-41 emulsions as I can to generate sample images for.
If you have a preferred C-41 emulsion that’s not on this list that you’d like to see, then let me know via the contact form and I’ll see what I can do about it. That being said, C-41 is very standardized, and once you get one emulsion working with Adobe Lightroom, the same thing pretty much works for every emulsion. There are differences between the emulsions (just like there are differences between digital cameras), but once you understand what those differences are and how to deal with them in a standardized way, it stops mattering and just works.
So, keep an eye out for an updated order form, and I look forward to processing your C-41 color film really soon.
Let’s look at the image above for a minute. Look at the light. Study the complexity of color for a few minutes. What do you notice?
Clearly this image was shot in a studio with strobes, but, would you say it totally looks like it was lit with strobes? Why does it look this way?
Lets break it apart a bit and see how we got here.
We’ll start with a simple truth: White light is a lie. Since when does white light occur in nature? It doesn’t. What we call white isn’t actually all that white, it’s largely just a way for us provide a point of reference to describe other colors of light.
Would you believe me if I told you that the above photo was actually lit with 3 different strobes and they where all different colors of light?
It’s true. Let’s walk through it.
The key light is to camera left. It’s a pretty standard 45 degrees over and 45 degrees up. It’s a Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning strobe in a LumoPro 36 inch Octo-box. Nothing special there. Where it starts to get interesting though is that it is gelled so that the color it emits is red. Specifically, 15 units of Rosco CalColor Red.
Wait. What? Why isn’t everything red then? Well, if that was the only light being used, it would be, however, we’re mixing colors, so lets look at the other two lights.
The primary fill light is another Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning. I’ve put a 180 degree reflector on it and pointed it at the giant white wall behind the camera. I then gelled it with 90 units of CalColor Green, and 60 units of CalColor Blue. This results in a really greenish bluish color if used alone, and because of its position, it basically fills every crack and crevice with this light.
There is a secondary fill light in the form of a LumoPro LP180 speed light pointing at the white wall to the camera’s right and it is gelled with 90 units of CalColor Blue.
Where the magic comes in is how all the lights mix together, because what we’re doing is mixing colors to get a resultant color. Even though all the strobes were metered at different levels, combined with the various gel strengths (this is the reason I use Rosco CalColor gels, they’re calibrated and it’s fairly easy to figure out how much you need for a given light level) in RGB terms, the resulting color is basically 255 red, 170 green, 85 blue. If you plug that into pretty much any RGB color calculator online what you’ll end up with is what looks like about a 1/2 CTO gel.
So why not just do that? Put a 1/2 CTO gel on all the lights. You can, but it wouldn’t look all that interesting.
This is where the chromatic complexity comes in. Each color is coming from a different angle and hitting the subject at a different angle. Where all three colors are hitting the subject, you get the effect of having a CTO gel, however, in the areas where only two or one of the lights is hitting the subject, the color of the light is dramatically different.
Take a close look at the shadow side of the subject’s face. It is most definitely pushing to blue. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The shadow side is lit so that it’s 3 stops down from the key side, so even though the strength of the gels is pretty high, the effect is actually very subtle.
Now, this is how I think about light and how I light. There are many ways to Rome. You can accomplish something very similar by actually just putting a 1/2 or full CTO on the key light and a full CTB and 1/2 plus green on the fill, and in fact, a lot of very experienced photographers do just that and get more than acceptable results. I prefer the CalColor gels because it allows me to be quite a bit more precise, and that’s just how I roll.
Kodak has re-released TMAX P3200TMZ film and seeing as I shot the images you’ll probably soon see at various online retailers, I though I’d give a brief walk through of a product shoot lighting setup. It’s not as sexy as shooting people, however, if you do it right, a lot of people see it and steal it.
I keep it extremely simple. It’s really easy to go wrong. The point of most product shoots is to accurately depict the product without anything distracting the viewer from looking at the image of the product.
For this particular shoot, it’s mostly for online catalogs, so the overriding concern is that product be on a white background and not have any weird shadows or reflections happening. Some retailers, like Amazon are pretty specific about what constitutes a valid product shot.
With that in mind, it was shot on Savage Universal super white seamless paper with one light. The light used is a Paul Buff X1600 White Lightning in a LumoPro 36 inch Octo-box placed overhead and slightly behind the subject. The super white paper acts as a light source so you don’t want to get the light too far in front of the subject otherwise the reflected light tends to wash it out a bit.
That’s it! It really is that simple. You can do a similar thing for less cash outlay by using a speedlight in an umbrella placed overhead and replace the seamless white paper for white poster board, but again, the poster board tends to have a more glossy reflective finish, so keep that in mind.
A walkthrough of how a still life composition of an egg is lit with studio strobes.
It’s been a while since I’ve shot anything in the studio outside of film profiles, so I thought I’d spend a couple of hours today and shoot a proper fine art/still life in black and white.
This was shot digitally, however, I also went ahead and shot a number of images on Ilford HP5+ 120 roll film.
This is obviously lit, so as a learning exercise, lets walk through the lighting set up.
I used two lights. The first and most important was the base fill light. I took full advantage of the super reflective white wall behind the camera and turned it into a giant fill light by pointing a Paul Buff White Lightning X1600 strobe at it with an umbrella reflector that throws light 180 degrees. This was metered to f/2.0.
With that done, I then took another Paul Buff White Lightning X1600 strobe, mounted a 36 inch Octo-box on it from LumoPro and placed it camera left. I positioned and rotated it until I had the light feathering right across the background and then metered it to f/8.0.
For the composition, I kept it simple. A basic white egg cup, an egg, and a seamless white paper backdrop from Savage Universal.
Once that was done, I shot it at f/16.0 on a tripod with an APS-C camera and a 50mm prime lens. The camera/lens system make is pretty irrelevant as you can do this with pretty much any camera that has a flash hot shoe and interchangeable lens.
If you want to do almost the same thing on the cheap, you can substitute the real studio strobes with smaller and significantly less expensive portable speed-lights. Put the main light behind a nice big photo umbrella, though you’ll still need a white wall. For the seamless backdrop, you can substitute a white poster board for a significant cost savings, however, it tends to have a shinier almost glossy finish than the matte finish of a real backdrop paper from Savage, so keep that in mind. You may need to use a flag (black foam board) to feather the light on the backdrop.