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Photography Question 
Jim Zimmerman

Wedding Photography with Kodak Portra

I've noted some recommending exposing their wedding shots at 1 full stop overexposed to "insure there is no underexposure". Thinking specifically of the Kodak Portra 160NC film, what is the general view on this? Do any who are doing so find the photolabs have problems with this? And most important - are the results truly superior? Any thoughts about the 160 vs the 400 if you know the couple will not want any prints larger than 8x10? Thanks everybody!


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2/28/2004 6:56:20 AM

Terry L. Long   I shoot slide film therefore, I can't speak from experience in shooting print film such as your Portra 160NC. However., your meter doesn't care if you're shooting slide or print film, it's still going to read the same. So for white objects, such as the brides wedding dress, you'll need to overexpose to keep it white instead of neutral grey (I'm not sure of the characteristics of Portra 160 but I usually overexpose by 1/2 to 1/3 stops with my Provia 100F). Don't change your ISO to overexpose, just use the f/stop or shutter speed to overexpose. That way your lab won't have any problems. I recommend going with the 160 because the 400 is just too grainy, even at 8x10.

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2/29/2004 6:25:31 AM

Andy J. Lastra   Jim,
While I agree with most of what Terry has written, I do respectfully disagree with the notion that 400 speed film is too grainy. If you haven't already, try Fuji NPH400 film rated at 320 and process it normally at a good lab. do the same with Fuji NPZ 800 but rate it at 640. you'll get terrific color saturation and contrast and enlargements to 8x10 will be fabulous, particularly for the photojournalist type shots during the reception, etc.

I have no experience with Kodak's Portra 160 because I prefer Fuji NPS 160, which I rate at 160 and process it as such. Certainly, you can play with the exposure settings on your camera and bracket your shots but the reality of this is that if you're taking candids photojournalistically, the shot may only be there for a few seconds and then its gone so speed counts and you may not have time for bracketing. Formal portaits, however, allow you the time to over and under expose a third to a half either way and practically speaking, thats what I do with formal portraits. I've had no problems at all with my local lab printing at the speeds indicated.

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3/1/2004 12:04:15 PM

Gene    Jim:
Hopefully I can shed some real light on your question. I not only have been shooting with Portra 160 & 400 film for a few years now, we also operate a professional color lab and I can truthfully say Kodak really did there homework when they came out with Portra film. It is a TRUE 160 ISO, there is no need to adjust ISO settings, it only makes it harder for Your lab to produce a quality print for you. We have seen amazing color results even when Negs have been 2-3 stops underexposed. The same for Portra 400 (also no grain problem).... Your Shooting weddings, so you want to produce the most pleasing skintones possible, no other Film Mfg. comes close. The Dmax (Blacks) have more shadow detail than any of the Fuji films and even the whites are Exceptionally clean.
We have noticed the the Fuji films have a hard time producing clean whites they all want to show a Magenta cast in the Brides Gown when the skintons are correct. This is VERY IMPORTANT: We all want to save money. BUT STAY AWAY from the Grey Market Kodak Films..Pay the extra few cents a roll and purchase from a reliable source, that way you know the film is fresh and has been stored properly. And in closing be sure your lab is processing the film properly and you'll be rewarded with fine prints to show to your Clients.......Gene

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3/3/2004 6:25:53 PM

william    Jim, I use Kodak Portra 400 UC for almost everything outdoors. It has outstanding latitude. The range that it is able to capture detail is phenominal. Skin tones are very accurate and the whites are very white. I intentionally photographed a great white heron standing in front of a large dark green tropical plant in bright sunlight just for a test. There was detail in both the white heron's feathers and the leaves of the plant. I have had 8x10 enlargements done at the local mini lab using a Noritsu processer. There has been no noticeable graininess or color shift. All my prints are printed "normal" at my request, so there is no adjustment of color balance or density. That way I can determine if I have made exposure mistakes. The Portra 400 UC is a fine print film and will allow you a faster shutter speed and use of filters if you wish. It is advertised as having the same grain rating as the 160 that you are using. Try it! Best Regards, Bill

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3/3/2004 7:13:58 PM

Jim Zimmerman   I really appreciate the responses and the good information.

I'd read some good reports on Portra's ability to handle underexposure, so the recommendation I read in a book (to overexpose by a stop) really had me wondering about it. In fact, I was wondering if overexposing wouldn't have negated some of the advantages built into Portra. From what you folks have told me I'll stick to its rated speed (in cameras that I know produce good results at speeds near the film rating). I'll test beforehand (though its hard to replicate the circumstancs of a wedding and reception), make sure I meter and compensate to insure a good white gown, and of course go with quality processing. And I never do gray market film, so that's not an issue. I'm still undecided on the 160 vice 400, so it sounds like I'll also be testing and comparing the two. I've always preferred very fine grain and suspect my personal taste will run toward the 160, though. I'd like to try the Fuji (for my general shooting I often use Fuji products), but the lab I'll be using for this event uses Kodak paper and I am a believer in matching the film to the paper. So for this event that's the way I'll go, and test the Fuji another day.

Again, thank you all, you help and advice is greatly appreciated by this guy just starting down the professional path (after years of shooting portaits and weddings as a favor to friends and generally losing my shirt on the deal).



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3/3/2004 7:18:42 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003
I agree with Andy, I've been shooting weddings for 13Yrs -- generally using medium format. I have used both the Kodak Portra and Fuji Professional films. After comparing negs from several weddings shot Portra 400 and Fuji NPH 400, settled on sticking with the Fuji because of the exposure latitude. Using the same exposure settings the NPH captured more highlight detail in wedding gowns, and more details in dark areas such as tuxedos. (I know Kodak would want to argue with me, but that's my real life experience.) There's no reason not to use ISO 400 or even 800 for images up to 16X20 shooting 35mm -- the grain technology is just too good. As far as over or under rating your film check with your professional lab doing the printing. My lab, Pounds Inc., says to rate my Fuji at the stated ISO -- they should know, and I'm am totally happy with the prints they do. Remember that as soon as you start over exposing film you increase the grain effect.
God Bless,

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3/3/2004 9:18:30 PM

Roy A. Meeks   Jim, I shoot 40 to 50 weddings a year here in the Mississippi Delta using nothing but Porta 400NC inside and outside. I have gotten outstanding results using 400NC. Have tried all of the Portras, even the 160, but still go back to 400NC. Prints as large as 30x40 look great and not grainy. I just find that the portra films do everything I need to do shot at the recommended settings with no adjustments in ISO

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3/4/2004 2:45:38 PM

Jim Zimmerman   William, Greg, and Roy -

I'm astounded at the capabilities of both the Kodak and Fuji that you are describing (being primarily a black & white guy, I never much followed the happenings in color negative films). Huge enlargements from not only the 160 (which I'd expect), but the 400 (or even the 800 Fuji) too? It sure sounds like these recent films were a huge step forward ... sadly, probably just in time to be eclipsed by digital. But now I'm anxious to try them!

Again, I can't thank everyone enough for weighing in on the subject - your info has me actually getting excited about the testing I'll be doing!


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3/4/2004 3:34:11 PM

Andy J. Lastra   Jim,

WHOA on the comment about the films being "eclipsed" by digital. Don't buy into the marketing hype by manfacturers of camera equipment trying to get you to switch to digital. Certainly it has its place...its a TOOL just like using different formats is. Fuji for one is hard at it developing new products and rumor has it they're listening to folks who have thought out loud about developing an ISO400 Velvia....would be pretty cool. Prime example of why not to get so caught up in the marketing blitze: about seven or eight years ago, Olympus came out with the Stylus Epic point and shoot for about $180.00. when it came out, equipment gurus thought it was the next best thing since sliced bread....a point and shoot with a 35mm lens with a constant 2.8 and a spot meter? No way. Olympus knew what they had and still do. you can find the little camera STILL for about $ a kit it sells for just under $100.00.

Load this little sucker with 800 speed film and it'll blow your doors off. I know some PJ folks who carry it everywhere because of the outstanding lens and image quality even in low light. Pound for pound, its the best film camera in the digital, no hype, just film and superb image quality.....and its not going away any time soon. See, its sort of like what jewelry dealers have done to us......we've been SOLD on the idea that an engagement ring has to be a diamond...brilliant marketing......but years ago, couples simply chose what they liked....sapphires being very popular, but like sheep, we kept following this marketing trail. IMHO Kodak is making an enormous mistake by converting much of its focus to digital.......For me, it doesn't matter much because I only shoot one Kodak film as it is.....Portra 400 Black and White.............otherwise I shoot black and white slide film from Agfa, black and white negative film from Ilford (XP2), and color neg film from Fuji. Now I realize that there are many, many people who will take issue with what I just wrote and thats terrific because thats the kind of dicourse we want to encourage. Just keep in mind that some of the most accomplished shooters in the world shoot both film and digital and to a person, they have no intention of switching completely to digital.........personally,I, like many out there, would rather spend the time shooting than sitting in front of the computer downloading and fixing images and scanning, etc, etc, takes a heck of a lot of time in front of a computer. In the three days it takes for me to get my slides and prints back from the lab, I've been out shooting more stuff and talking to my son and doing some woodworking and enjoying the company of my fiance. go get an Olypmpus Stylus Epic for $79, load it with 800 speed film and shoot the roll and then see if you can get that kind of resolution and color saturation with a digital won't. See ya.

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3/5/2004 5:26:07 AM

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