BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Joseph S. Oliver

about color

Forgive me,I'm new to the site and anxios to ask all the questions I've buit up over the last year. Where is everyone getting such bright, pure, gorgeous color. I must have shot 70 rolls in the last few monthes alone and can not achieve the color I see in your galleries. Is this the difference between digital and film or am I just completely lost. My nose is burried in books, I cant afford schooling, and spend all my money on equipment to accomidate my canon A-e1. Why are my pictures so dull and yours so brite?

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5/22/2007 12:00:05 AM

Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
It is hard to tell from what you say here just what may be going wrong. It could be a lot of things from the film and equipment you are using to your techniques, to the lab you use for processing. It is NOT inherently the difference between film and digital, but digital does give you the opportunity to make 'digital darkroom' corrections.

Can you scan upload any samples?

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5/22/2007 3:20:07 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  What lenses are you using?

Are your scanning and software enhancing equipment (and techniques) adequate?

Are you using slide film or print film?

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5/22/2007 6:04:43 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Joseph,

Most likely you are seeing differences caused by viewing conditions. A print on paper will naturally appear less vivid than a high quality computer display. You should also know that a projected slide properly viewed, puts both to shame.

A conventional color print consists of transparent dye suspended in gelatin. This mixture hovers over a snow white paper base. To view, a nearby light source is allowed to shine on the print. This illumination must transverse the transparent dyes. As the light filters through the dye layers some frequencies are absorbed and other are passed. The light ultimately strikes the white paper base and reflected backwards towards the viewer. During the reverse trip the light must again run the dye gauntlet. Stated another way, we view a print by light that has made two transits through the emulsion before reaching our eyes.

The two transits take a toll. An original sunlit scene is generally recorded on film over an eight f/stop range. Each f/stop is a 2x light level change thus a negative or slide has a scale of 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2=256 i.e. the typical ratio of light to dark is 256:1. Now when we scrutinize a projected slide, we are presented with much of this entire range of tones. Sorry to report that when printed on paper the range of tones is compressed to 6 f/stops 2x2x2x2x2x2=64 or 64:1.

Now a good, properly calibrated monitor can present an image that more closely resembles a projected slide. Thus pictures naturally appear more vivid on a quality computer monitor than they do on paper.

Incidentally the 256:1 negative and 64:1 print range is only achieved if exposure is on the button and the processing and printing are flawless.

Alan Marcus

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5/22/2007 7:43:52 AM

Kerry L. Walker   There are a lot of things that affect the quality of the color of photographs. One is the choice of film. Some films, such as Kodak Portra NC have very subdued colors - great for weddings and people shots in general but not so great for landscapes. Others, such as Portra VC are great for landscapes but no so good for people. Ultra Color (UC) is very saturated and not bad for skin tones - not as good as NC though. Slide films like Fuji Velvia are great for saturated colors.

Another thing that affects the color of photos is the time of day you shoot, and the weather conditions. In the brightest part of the day, with no cloud cover, your photos will not be as bright. The hour or so just before sunrise and sunset will provide some of the best colors. At other times of the day, a good cloud cover will help too.

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5/22/2007 7:54:11 AM

Joseph S. Oliver   I mostly use just these two lenses, a canon lens Fd 80-200mm 1:4 and a canon FD 50mm 1:1.8.
Tha four images in my gallery have been scanned on a canoScan Lide25. I know I loose color when I scan but the images lack color to begin with. I use only fuji film as I was insructed by my favorite shop Blue Moon camera. I have all my photos developed by them and pay round $20 per roll for developing.

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5/22/2007 12:31:50 PM

Kerry L. Walker   Joseph, I took a look at the 4 photos in your gallery and I don't see a problem with the color. Rust to Mud seems about what I would expect from this scene. The sand looks like what I would expect it to look (unless you shot it on the white beaches of the Florida Panhandle). The surf is a nice green color. Good photo, by the way.

Seaside could have benefitted a bit by the use of a split ND filter, which would have cut down on the exposure of the sky. Cloud cover (over which we have no control) would have been even better as it would have given the light something to bounce off, which really creates beautiful sunsets. They say the most beautiful sunsets occurred when Krakatoa erupted. (No, I wasn't around for that. I'm old but not THAT old.)

Oh, in regard to the other two - really cute kid! Is she your daughter?

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5/22/2007 1:02:30 PM

Joseph S. Oliver   step daughter. thanks everyone for your prompt and informative responses. much appreciated.

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5/22/2007 1:38:08 PM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2006
  I have some of my best color from Fujifilm developed at Walmart. Just make sure you get your exposure right and take advantage of the light. Alot of images are made just before or after the worst weather imaginable, even during a tempest. Sometimes intentional departures from reality (increased or decreased exposure) can alter the saturation of colors in your subject. Some films and developers have tendencies to be better to some colors or others, but make sure you nail the basics and you will get the best color that your subject can afford.

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5/23/2007 2:01:00 PM

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