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Photography Question 
Diane T. Phillips

Incorrect Skin Tones

I'm not sure what the reason is, but I can have barns, sunsets, rainbows, etc., processed and be happy with the color. When it comes to people, I am constantly having to have them re-printed to remove "yellow" or "red". I used to think the yellow was an indoor/florescent thing, but it also happens in outdoor sittings. I am using an N-80 w/SB50DX on a Stratos with omnibounce. The clothing is accurate, just not the skin tones. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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10/21/2004 7:51:37 AM

David King   Diane, you didn't say how you were having your film processed, but first I'd make sure it was going to a good professional lab. Often consumer labs print toward the warm side because most people think it is more flattering. Then, do a quick test. On the first frame of a series, include a Kodak 18-percent gray card in the scene and make it a MAJOR part of the frame. Tell the lab it is there and have them print for neutral gray on that card and use the same settings for the rest of the roll.
It is strange that the other colors are "accurate" though. Sunsets and such are often better when warmer but the clothing ought to show the same color cast as the skin. You didn't mention what film you were using but if you are using negative film try one of Kodak's 'Portra' series and see if the problem continues.

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10/24/2004 6:47:55 PM

Diane T. Phillips   Thank you for your suggestions! I am using Kodak 400 Hi Definition Film. Most of my work is done outdoors in different areas of exposure to light. I've heard of gray cards, but not sure how to use one. If I use the card to get a reading, would I need to do that each time we change locations? I generally move around a park taking different poses. I've tried processing with every place in my area. (very rural). Most of them send out to a lab called Qualex, some use a Fuji lab.

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10/25/2004 8:05:50 AM

David King   The gray card can be used to take a meter reading but at 18% gray it works best if your system is calibrated to it since most reflective meters are designed to meet ANSI standards of 10% to 14%. For consistent "perfect" exposures you ought to calibrate it all anyway.

What I had suggested however was that you include the gray card in a first frame as a neutral color reference the lab can use to adjust their printing. It gives a known "color" that is one of the hardest to reproduce; the theory being that if the gray card is correct the rest of the shot ought to be too. Of course the operative word is "ought." Many pros include not only a gray card but a specific color standard (such as a MacBeth Color Chart) in that first shot to really see how things are printing. This has value primarily if you are using a pro color lab where their own system is constantly tweaked to keep up with the latest mods in the chemistry and paper. It may or may not accomplish much in a typical consumer-oriented one-hour place. You would do another lead-in shot of the card(s) whenever the lighting changed and sometimes whenever the clothing changed especially if you were shooting wool items and some other materials that can have a tendency to produce really strange color on some films if the right light frequency strikes them. The cards let you know that you are not going crazy and that the lab work is OK; it is just the material.

BTW, several companies make "gray cards" and most of them are pretty accurate at being 18% reflective. But in a number of tests, only Kodak's cards were consistently truly neutral gray since they are made from a special pigment. So for color work, be sure and get theirs.


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10/26/2004 8:03:01 AM

Diane T. Phillips   Again, I thank you for your time and advice. I'll pick up a Kodak brand gray card on my next trip to the city. BTW, upon closer inspection of the clothing, it appears that there are variances in the colors. Wasn't until I had reprints made that I was able to see the different shades of red & yellow. Now I can make myself crazy trying to decide which one was more accurate.

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10/28/2004 2:48:42 AM

J.E.    I experienced exactly the same problem with the reddish color particularly noticeable with skin tones. I use Kodak Portra 160NC all the time. I solved the problem by having my film developped by a Kodak lab. The reddish tone is gone since that. Previously, I went to a nearby photo shop that used a Fuji system. So, if you use Kodak film, go to a Kodak photo finisher. They may also use a Noritsu Photo Cd machine... perfect and with about 2000 lines resolution, you can do almost any enlargement you want.

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10/28/2004 2:17:09 PM

Diane T. Phillips   Thank-you J.E. for taking the time to offer your advice. I have to admit that I've wondered about Fuji processing Kodak and vice versa. I've beat myself up over whether or not it was my equipment? My latest thought was maybe I need some sort of filter? Have also wondered if the OmniBounce could be the culprit? Atleast I have the comfort of knowing I'm not the only one who has had these experiences.

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10/28/2004 3:28:40 PM

Doug  Elliott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/18/2004
David and J.E. are correct. Pound Labs in Dallas is the pro lab I use. On the front of their processing envelopes they ask what type of film you are sending them to process. They have a Kodak line and a Fuji Line; there is a difference in the color chemistry and the films. Now they print everything on Kodak paper. In the many years I have been a client I have only had to send back a few photos for them to print to my standards.
A Graytag/Macbeth color Chart cost about 75.00 but if you want consistent color it and your Kodak Card in the first frame will allow the lab to read it with their equipment to produce the color you expect.
Hope this helps.
Good Shooting

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10/28/2004 7:54:10 PM

Lisa Lenderink   Hi Diane, I was having problems with skin tones too. I was also using the hi definition film (have since stopped) I was using a retail lab for my studio work which is where I was getting yellow faces & hair. I've since started using the kodak portra film on all my work. I will say though that my pro lab uses fuji processing and I've never had a problem with them printing my Kodak film. It's a lot more expensive for me to go there, but it is SAVING MY HEALTH and SANITY. I was reviewing my proofs 100 times and truly was making myself ill because the printing was so poor. For me, the pro lab & pro film was the way to go.

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11/3/2004 8:28:26 AM

Diane T. Phillips   Hi Lisa, thank you so much for your input. I noticed that you said "studio work", and wondered if Portra is most effective with studio lighting. I should also add that my lens is a 28-200; 3.5-5.6 Is the Portra that you are referring to 160 speed? Not sure if it would work in low light situations? I have a wedding to do where flash photography is prohibited during the ceremony. Any advice on that kind of thing? Thank you again

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11/4/2004 1:19:48 PM

Lisa Lenderink   Hi Diane, I guess I so liked the way my outdoor prints turned out with the portra vc that I also use it inside w/ strobes. I use 400 speed because most of my subjects are constantly moving (small kids, etc.) Weddings aren't something that I do but I would think that you will have to use a high speed film since you can't use flash. Will you be using a tripod? The highest speed I've ever used was 800 and it worked well in low light. Sorry I can't be of more help. Do you have a local camera store? I've found that I get great advice from the people at my lab & camera supply store. Wishing you the best! Lisa

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11/4/2004 3:46:45 PM

Diane T. Phillips   Hi Lisa, I have to laugh because I live in such a rural community that they don't even sell Portra film here. I will probably have to go to one of the big cities. Sorry, I didn't realize it came in 400 sp. Sounds like something I will definately try. I almost always use a tripod. No camera stores here either. I do have my house on the theres hope for me yet. lol

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11/4/2004 6:41:44 PM

Lisa Lenderink   You made me laugh! I didn't realize how thankful I should be with so many pro sources I have close to my house...
You might want to check out some of the higher speed films though....I don't even think 400 would probably be fast enough for lo light in a church. Do you have to worry about the lighting casting a yellow glow?

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11/4/2004 6:53:40 PM

Diane T. Phillips   Hi Lisa,I will probably try 800 speed during the actual ceremony. I plan to do alot of posed "mock" shots afterwards so I'm sure I should be able to nail it one way or another. You asked if I need to worry about a yellow glow? I worry about EVERYTHING. Yellow, Red, Blinks, Focus, Camera malfunction. Seriously, I've had the whole yellow thing before in churches where I was able to use flash. Wish I knew why and could correct for it.

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11/4/2004 8:59:15 PM

Lisa Lenderink   There are filters that you can use to correct for the lighting....the 80 series filters are bluish in appearance and are used in situations where the light is too warm for daylight-balanced film. I guess I've never paid attention to the lights in my church....not sure if they are fluorescent or not. I got the above info from "Beginner's guide to photographic lighting by Don Marr. I have bought many many books on lighting and have them with me all the time. They've really helped me and are great for reference. I've gotten a lot of books thru Amherst Media and have really learned a lot from them.

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11/5/2004 5:53:25 AM

Diane T. Phillips   Another great suggestion. Thanks Lisa !
I'll try to let you know how it all turns out. take care.

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11/5/2004 4:35:27 PM

Lisa Lenderink   Good luck w/ your shoot and yes, would love to hear how it goes! :)

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11/5/2004 8:09:54 PM

David King   Diane, remember that if the light is very low either because it is on a dimmer switch or, perhaps, it really IS lit by candles, then that color temp is too low even for Tungsten film and you will probably have to add filtration just as you would shooting incandescant light with daylight film.

But don't go too far. if you balance perfectly for the light, colors will be accurate -- meaning they will look as if you had lit with daylight -- but the charm of that sort of lighting is the slightly warmish look our eyes perceive. I'd do some testing with tungsten film and various densities of filtration for the perfect "look" and exposure then you can blaze away with confidence that at least the techy stuff is all going to be OK.


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11/5/2004 8:10:42 PM

Terrill Province
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/19/2004
  Diane, I shoot ceremonies non-flash with Portra 800 and Ilford Delta 1800 BW, all hand held. As to the yellow cast, my lab corrects this beautifully upon reprint. So, for those times when the yellow is present in the proofs, I'll have a few reprinted to illustrate the correction to clients.

As for portraits in available light I love Portra 160VC and TMAX 100 and 400BW so that everything can be color processed. In addition, you can order all films over the internet and have them shipped to you. Although I live in a capital city, pro photo resources here leave a lot to be desired. Therefore, I researched a ton of out of state labs and currently use three different ones. They are an incredible resource, but I am having problems with the 2 color labs maintaining their quality. I received a 16x20 yesterday and the lab has tilted the image. Now, I believe that to be a rather grave mistake and don't understand how they could ship that kind of work out. So, if anyone could recommend a really good color lab, I would really appreciate it.

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11/19/2004 10:40:46 AM

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