Opinion and help!

Hey guys!

I am new to film photography and developing/scanning at home so I would like to ask your opinion about my setup and workflow. I also attached a picture from my last developed and scanned roll of Portra 400.

When I see shots posted on reddit or even Instagram, I have the feeling my photos are not coming as they supposed to. Mostly regarding sharpness, noise and exposure.

I’m using a Nikon FA with a 50mm 1.4 AIS lens. For my last roll I used Portra 400 metered at 200 so overexposed. (I’ve read and seen a lot of reviews on internet and Youtube where they say Portra needs more light). The shot in the attachement was made at F8, I use apperture priotity and multi pattern metering (not center weighted)

For developing I use Tetenal Colortec C-41. I followed the table in the small book coming with the kit and since I reached my 4th roll, I developed the film 9 minutes (first 30 seconds with the stick rotating, then turning rotating gently 3 times every minute). I then used the Blix for 8 min (same agitation technique like for developing), then 6 min rinsing, and then 1 min for the fixer. The temperature I tried to keep for all chemicals 30 degrees ± 0.5

For scanning I use my XT3 with a Canon FD 50mm 3.5 Macro lens with extension tube to reach 1:1 magnification. Kaiser Slimlite plano is my light table. I use the Lomography Digitizer for 35mm as a film holder. (However I do not cover the part of the light table that I dont use when scanning. Maybe this is also one problem?)

My settings for scanning:
F8, ISO 160, SS 1sec (is this too long?)
-I’ve read that its better to expose to the right when scanning negatives to get the whole information from the shadows.

  • I shoot RAW only
  • I try to focus on the grain using focus peaking

I then import the scans in Lightroom and use NLP with the Frontier +3 Saturation. The conversion turns out very well, altough I must say I cannot see a big difference between the colors of for example Kodak Gold or Portra 400, altough I know from looking at so many Portra pictures how the tones should look. I must say I am a bit disappointed after this last roll, especially because it’s my first Portra roll and maybe I expected something different. I find too much grain, not sharp or clean enough, and quite noisy. (Is it also noisy because I use a Fuji camera with Lightroom)

I know there could be a lot of things that lead to a noisy, grainy unsharp not so clean picture. Maybe my Nikon is overexposing? Maybe the lens is not sharp? Maybe my macro lens is not sharp?

Anyways, I’m looking forward to your answers and opinions guys.

Thank you very much!


EDIT: Here is a link with the image https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3cffzhmc4zoeeqt/AAA5DXf1eysbZ2-k_LZAUHlXa?dl=0
It somehow didnt want to upload here.

Welcome to the forum, Bodgan.

Digital cameras have only one kind of film and it cannot be changed unless you buy a different camera.

Shooting film - on the other hand - offers the possibility to change film and experiment with different brands, exposures and ways of processing, a fairly big collection of variables and degrees of freedom!

If you don’t like what you get, you can either change something in your analog steps or else in digitising or post processing. More on this below.

I’ve looked at your sample image and apart from some dust and lint that you could remove in Lightroom, it looks good to me. Obviously, your expectations seem different. Do you want more saturated colours? More or less contrast? A sky with less of a cyan touch? Can you change any of this in Lightroom or do you want things perfect on film already? What look are you after?

My advice (apart from the things hinted to above) is: Cycle through the following steps

  1. Find out if your images should look like someone else’s or suit your own taste
  2. Start with simple things that don’t cost extra money (play around in Lightroom)
  3. Make a preset from the settings that you like best and see if it works on other images too
  4. Go back to step 1

Hey Digitizer!

Thanks so much for answering!

I think I may have too high expectations from film🙈 It’s just when I look at other peoples film shots especially Portra 400, they have a specific tone of greens and warmth, finer grain etc.
Because I’m new to this… Am I wrong in thinking that after scanning and converting with NLP the characteristics of the film should come out?

If you say there is nothing wrong with the sharpness and the noise than I feel already better…:smile:

NLP applies (amongst other things that I don’t know of) a profile that depends on the camera used, a scanner emulation (if selected) and some magic that changes the R, G and B tone curves in order to invert the negative.

The second step allows to influence colours in the direction of what you select with the “film” button and all the other options but offers no way to make your images look like “Portra”.

Sharpness and noise…hmm…are more of subjective/matter of taste things for me, at least within (un)certain limits. Impressionist paintings don’t look sharp, although each brush stroke is precisely and intentionally put. And although each pixel is sharp in itself, the complete image can look blurry. Does it matter? Is sharp image of a boring thing better because it is sharp? Be your own judge.

Thanks a lot for your answer!:slight_smile: I agree with you that an image doesnt need to be perfect to “say” something or make you feel in a certain way!
Many thanks for your help, I feel more confident about my workflow and my “tools” :slight_smile:

You’re welcome.

Further than that, I found this page with information that I find useful incl. downloads of samples of several film: https://adrianbacon.com/simple-photography-services/simple-film-lab/films/

That’s really awesome! Thanks for that!:slight_smile:
I would like to also ask your opinion about some other shots made with Portra 400, if I may…

For example this one:

Do you find that in this picture, there is a specific color cast that gives the look? I’m trying to figure out what exactly it is. Of course the colors of the scene play a big role but I think it was also intentionally/unintentionally a color cast that was not fully corrected. I dont know if you understand what I mean…

or here:

Thanks again and looking forward to your answer!

I’m only going to talk about technical things related to NLP and Lightroom and in this respect, the sky in the second image looks strange. A few weeks ago, a similar case (blown sky) was discussed - I cannot find the post though - and Nate’s recommendation was to crop the blown areas away before converting.

Also, changing pre-saturation can make your conversions look different. When I made my first serious steps with NLP, I wanted to see how the different conversion settings worked. So I took a shot of a negative, made 4 physical copies and 5 virtual copies and started converting to get this:

Vertical (red) copies of the shot
Horizontal conversions with pre-sat going from 1 to 5

Be aware that your mileage may wary. It may well be worth a) looking around the forum for other hints and b) making your own test series.

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