Monday, March 24, 2014

Color Film

It is my belief that the days of color film being readily available are limited.

So, you are some of the lucky few who will still have a chance to shoot and process your own color film. Yes, you will be developing your own color negative film. The name of the chemical process is C-41 (or the very similar CN-16). Just so you know, the chemical process used to develop slides, also called positive or transparency film, is named E-6.

Here is the current list of 35mm color negative films that Freestyle Photo carries. It is not all inclusive as they don't even stock the perennial favorite consumer film Kodak Gold 400/Ultramax. Here is a current list of 35mm color negative films that BH Photo carries

I encourage you to only work with rolls of 36 exposure film as it is much more costly and time intensive to process a single roll of film compared to black and white film. Essentially, it isn't worth messing with 24 exposure rolls given the work it takes to process a single roll. On the other hand, rolls of 24 exposure may be worth it if the film is very cheap or you want to process shorter rolls.

I am providing you each with 3 rolls of Kodak Ultramax 400. It is the same thing as Kodak Gold 400. There is a Flickr Group dedicated to the film. It is cheap, and perhaps the most readily available locally. BH Photo sells it for just $2.49 for a 36 exposure roll (as of this writing 10/2013).

White Balance
The vast majority of film is of a type called ‘daylight balanced’. It is designed to be shot under lighting that is daylight balanced. Daylight balanced means light that is near the color of daylight at noon. The color balance of light is measured in degrees Kelvin. Daylight film is balanced for 5500K. Artificial lighting such as tungsten bulbs and fluorescent tubes put out light of a much different color than daylight at noon. Tungsten bulbs put out a light balance close to 3200K. Tungsten bulbs emit a very orange light.  and most fluorescent bulbs emit a very green light. The reason that everything does not look off color to us when we are indoor light is that our brain can quickly adjust to varying light conditions so that things look normal. Film cannot.
You have likely received prints back from you photofinisher that appear very orange or green. This is a failure on the part of your photofinisher. It is their task to correct for colorcasts introduced by artificial lighting. You can also use color filters to correct for the most common types of artificial lighting. When using transparency films, you have to make use of such filters, as there is no successive photofinishing steps in which color correction can be performed. Refer to figure 1 for a list of filters to use when shooting under artificial lighting.

80A     Converts daylight film for use with 3200 K lamps                blocks 2 stops of light
            For use under Tungsten bulbs (household screw in bulbs)

80B     Converts daylight film for use with 3400 K lamps                blocks 2 stops of light
            For use under Quartz bulbs (Studio lights such as Smith Victor lights)

FLD    Converts daylight film for use under fluorescent lights         blocks 1 stop of light

The greatest drawback of color correction filters is that they block a lot of light. Often the indoor light is low and the use of a color correction filter may necessitate an excessively slow shutter speed or a larger aperture than desired. When shooting print film, you can choose not to use a filter and rely on your photofinisher to color correct when printing. With a digital workflow, you would then have to color correct the image after scanning. Color correction is both laborious and time consuming. It is always better to make the extra effort to color correct via filtration rather than to color correct the digital image. However, that is not always possible. When shooting slides, color correction must be achieved through the use of filtration, as there is no subsequent color correction unless the slide is scanned. 
Given that you will be scanning all your color film for this class, color filtration at the time of shooting really isn't necessary. 

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