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The Simple Film Lab film processing order form has been updated to include C-41 color negative film processing.
Please download it and start sending in your color C-41 film to be processed.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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!
Spending some time with Google shows that there are numerous comparisons between Kodak Tri-X (400TX) and Ilford’s HP5+ film. Are they the same? Are they different? Is one better than the other? On and On and On. Let’s take as objective look as possible between the two emulsions and see what the deal is here.
Cut to the chase
If you don’t want to read any further, and just want a fast answer, then here it is: Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5+ are so close to each other that I can say that they are totally, completely, one hundred percent interchangeable. This means that you can shoot and process them exactly the same way in the same chemicals for the same development time. The end result will be close enough that you can’t tell the difference.
We are going to evaluate the two emulsions on two criteria: Tonal range, and granularity.
To evaluate the tonal range, we’ll shoot an 18% grey card on each emulsion, and shoot it from 7 stops under to 11 stops over normal exposure in full stop increments with a studio strobe. The exposure will be set via a Sekonic light meter incident reading and shot through a T-Stop rated lens, with the light meter reading within 0.1 stops of the actual amount of light hitting the grey card. To evaluate the density values for each stop of light, the emulsion will then be digitized with a DSLR using a studio strobe through the same T-Stop rated lens.
From there, the raw captures are evaluated and the average sample value from a 256×256 square in the middle of the scanned frame is calculated. This is done for each emulsion. This will give us a good idea of the density level of the emulsion for a given exposure value.
This is done exactly the same way for each emulsion. The camera position relative to the gray card does not change between each emulsion, and the focal point does not change between each emulsion.
For granularity, this is actually pretty straight forward. Look at the scan of the correctly exposed 18% grey card for each emulsion in Adobe Lightroom at 1:1. The scans are just over 4200 dots per inch, which is more than enough resolution to actually digitize individual grains.
To ensure that we’re as close as possible for each emulsion, they’re both developed in Kodak D76 1:1 at 20 degrees Celsius +-0.1 degree in the same daylight tank at the same time for 13:00 with 1 fast inversion every 15 seconds. There was a several minute pre-soak at 20 degrees of the tank/emulsions to get everything up to temperature. A 1:4 vinegar/water stop bath was used to stop development. Both emulsions were fixed in Kodak Fixer for 10:00 with constant agitation.
Obviously, this is not up to scientific standards, however, it is within the tolerances that I can bring to bear with the equipment available to me, and I feel that my tolerances are tight enough to use with a reasonable amount of certainty in the results.
Below are the results for each item being evaluated.
Here is the chart of the two emulsions.
When looking at this, there’s a couple of things to remember: It’s not the actual values of each density step that matter because those will vary a bit due to variations in the the power of the strobe firing during the exposures, variations of power of the strobe firing during the scanning, and how many specks of dust and fibers there are on the emulsion in the scanned sample area, which will affect the average calculated sample value. In fact, I’ve repeated this test twice exactly the same way and have even done multiple scanning passes of each emulsion for each test and gotten different but similar results for every single density step. This is the nature of the medium. There’s a lot of moving parts and things that can affect the outcome.
The key takeaway here is the shape of the curve for each emulsion. I’ve included a combined curve that is the average of all the scanning passes of both tests for both emulsions with each end slightly extended beyond sampled values.
In short, both emulsions have the same tone curve and tonal range if developed in the same developer at the same temperature, for the same amount of time and same agitation.
OK, what about the grain? I’ll let the image below speak for itself. You can right click on it and download the full image to look at it at full size if you want to look at it really close.
So, what are we looking at? A comparison of each emulsion scanned in at 4200+ dpi side by side at 1:1 in Adobe Lightroom. The grain structure is readily evident, and frankly, to me, the two emulsions are close enough in their granularity that at sane enlargement levels, they’re nearly if not completely indistinguishable.
With black and white film, the tonal range and granularity are really only the two things that matter, and as I said in the cut to the chase section, if Tri-X and HP5+ are shot and developed the same way, they’re interchangeable in terms of tonal range and granularity.
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.
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.
Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for LOMO_BW_400:
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.
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.
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.