The Humble Egg

A walkthrough of how a still life composition of an egg is lit with studio strobes.

The Egg

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.

Enjoy!

Ilford HP5+ Film Profile Updated

I’ve updated the Ilford HP5+ film review and moved it to its own tech page along with all the other films I’ve generated tech pages for.

Just as a reminder, if you want to use Simple Film Lab to get your film processed and scanned, please consult the published tech sheets so that you’ll know what to expect for results.

Next Up: JCH Streetpan 400

Ilford FP4+ Film Review Published

Just a quick note, I’ve completed and published the tech sheet for Ilford FP4+ Film.

If you send your film in to Simple Film Lab, you can now see what you’ll get if you shoot Ilford FP4+ film and send it in to us to process and scan in. Check the review out here. I’ve included a characteristic curve, a slideshow of sample images, and downloadable sample Adobe Digital Negatives of what you could get if your film was handled by us.

Enjoy!

Updated Film Tech Sheets

Just a quick update:

Kodak T-MAX 100, T-MAX 400, and TRI-X tech sheets have been updated to reflect development with replenished Kodak XTOL developer with Rotary agitation at 24 degrees C and scanning at 0.56 Contrast Index.

The tech sheets are located at:

I’ll be uploading new sample images and making sample DNG files available over the next few days. Any film sent in to Simple Film Lab will be developed as described in the tech sheet unless requested otherwise on the development order form.

If there’s any specific films anybody would like to see tech sheets generated for, please let me know and I’ll bump it up in the queue of films to do.

Enjoy!

2018 Changes For Simple Film Lab

2018 is going to be a great year!

We’ve updated or are in the process of updating the pages for Simple Film Lab and the new updated order form should be online and available within the next couple of days.

Here are the highlights:

Standardization

We’ve introduced a new standardized film development regime based on XTOL and standardized our scanning protocol so that film you send in to us can easily be either printed onto photo sensitive paper in a darkroom, or can be scanned in using standard contrast indexes that correlate to black and white paper grades. This makes things much simpler and leads to other things listed below.

All Black and White Negative Films

We can now develop and scan in all commonly available black and white negative films in 135, 120, and 4×5 sheet formats, so send them in and get them processed! This is huge for us and we couldn’t have been able to realistically do it without standardizing our development environment.

Custom Film Development

Yep, we do that too. In addition to XTOL, you can request that your film be developed with D76, HC110, and Rodinal with custom dilutions, development temperatures, development agitation scheme, and development times. You can pretty much go nuts, though be aware that doing so can lead to unpredictable results.

Custom Film Scanning

Want your film scanned in with the equivalent of a grade 3 paper instead of the standard grade 2? No problem. We have a range of available contrast indexes that you can have your film scanned in at. It’s the digital equivalent of printing on said paper in the darkroom except you get a Digital Negative file instead. Combined with custom film development and you can get really creative if you want to.

Other File Formats

Don’t like Digital Negatives? No Problem. You can now request other formats without actually going the custom scan route.

There’s more than this, so check the Lab pages as we’ll be getting those pages updated with whats going on for 2018!

Film Review: Lomography Lady Grey 400 B&W Film Profile

Introduction

Today, we’re going to take a look at Lomography Lady Grey 400 Film, or LOMO_BW_400. This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, and 120 roll. Lomography repackages emulsions from other manufacturers to sell as their own, and research on the internet shows that at one point LOMO_BW_400 was Kodak’s 400TMY2, however, as of mid-late 2017, the emulsion is the same emulsion as Foma’s Fomapan 400. In addition to Fomapan 400, this film is also repackaged as Arista.EDU Ultra 400. This review will serve as a review for all three films as they’re the same emulsion.

Development

There are many ways to develop LOMO_BW_400. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop LOMO_BW_400 with Kodak D-76 mixed at 1:1 for one-shot usage. The development time is 10:00 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in a Paterson daylight tank with 1 inversion every 15 seconds. We use a 1:4 water:vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.

Characteristic Curve

Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for LOMO_BW_400:

LOMO_BW400_characteristic_curve

The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading via a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. As a safety measure, I’ve extended the curve by a couple of stops on both sides of the scale to account for variances in development and scanning, though the film, development process, and scanner is generally very consistent.

Exposure Guidance and Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude

LOMO_BW_400 has a good amount of dynamic range, though by my estimate, it’s barely a 400 speed film, at least in D-76. You can safely shoot it at ISO 100-400 using the development process described above. The film base plus fog starts to happen most of the way through EV -4 and is fully clear film base by the time we hit EV -6. On the highlight side, it stops getting denser most of the way through EV +10 and doesn’t quite make it to EV +11. This gives a dynamic range of -5 to +10 EVs as a worst case.

For exposure guidance, if developing this film as described above, or if sending it in to be developed by Simple Film Lab, I recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting two stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 400, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops.

If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected.

If you want to add an additional stop of light to the shadows and push the blacks down so that they’re blacker, then you can subtract one stop from the darkest part of the scene you want to capture detail in instead of two stops. LOMO_BW_400 has enough over exposure latitude that this will still result in a good image once scanned in and density corrected for all but the highest contrast scenes.

With that being said, having good blacks requires that the film base plus fog not start to happen until EV -5 at least, so if you want that while shooting this film, then treat it like a 200 speed film and you won’t be disappointed. If you want that dreamy old time film look, then by all means, shoot it at ISO 400 or ISO 800, which will really accentuate the film fog in the blacks.

Resolution/Grain

LOMO_BW_400 has OK resolution for a 400 speed film. Lomography doesn’t publish a spec sheet for it, but Fomapan does for Fomapan 400. At 50% contrast, Fomapan 400 is about 25 line-pairs per mm of film. Putting a 135 format frame up side to side next to 400TX in Adobe Lightroom at 1:1 viewing shows that it doesn’t look to have as much spatial resolution as 400TX (both frames shot through a Sigma 35mm ART prime lens, it’s a really sharp lens). I’d rank it as ever so slightly on the softer side of middle of the road for resolution.

In terms of grain, it’s in 400TX territory as far as grain size is concerned, though 400TX grain is a bit smoother and more pleasant looking than the grain of LOMO_BW_400. In short, in 135 format, the grain is very present but not obnoxious. In medium format 120 roll, it’s significantly less visible but still there. Overall, it has a very film look to it and is quite pleasant.

I personally don’t shoot a lot of LOMO_BW_400 as it’s better suited to candids or street photography and most of what I shoot is studio work with strobes where I go for maximum resolution and/or shoot in 4×5 large format.

Sample Images

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Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Lomography Lady Grey, Fomapan 400, and Arista.EDU 400. I’ll add more images as I have them available.