Technical questions….

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a bit technical. A reader asked in a comment about how I treated the images in the previous post, so here’s the answer, since it is probably more than a comment response can handle.

Just in case you either didn’t read the previous post, or didn’t get down to the end of it, the images were shot on a Mamiya RZ67, which is a medium format camera that produces 10 6x7cm images per roll of 120 film. The black and white film used was 100TMax, and the color film was Portra 160.

If you shoot much film, you might know that negative film likes to be overexposed by about a stop. Normally, I would rate the TMax at 50, and the Portra at 80. But here, I was going for more muted colors and a more muted look in general, so I rated the films as they are, which in a way means that I was underexposing by a stop. So I was shooting the TMax at ISO100, and the Portra at ISO 160.

The film was processed normally. I processed the TMax myself using Sprint developer, and the color film was developed by Philadelphia Photographics.

I then scanned the negatives using an Epson V700 flatbed scanner. The scanner came with two software packages: EsponScan, and SilverFast. I feel that the Epson software is easier to use as a batch scanner, and it also can pull a better dynamic range off the film. Silverfast, on the other hand, has some excellent film presets that really streamline the process of getting scans to look right. For example, the reader mentioned above says that he feels Portra often comes out a bit yellow. While this is not my experience–perhaps because I am usually shooting in cooler color temp spots such as shade and window light–, the software does have an option for Portra film, and many other films, so the color correction is somewhat automatic. Both pieces of software allow for fine tuning of colors and curves and all that jazz.

For these scans, I used SilverFast, with the Portra 160NC preset. I scan all 120 film at 2400ppi, and save them as tif files. I name the files based on the date of film development, negative preserver number, and frame number (e.g. “1304220209.tif” for an image captured in 2013, April 22, roll 02, frame 09).

Images are then imported into Lightroom, where they are given some development tune-ups as needed; very often I find myself lightening the blacks and shadows a bit. I also add about 30 point of clarity, and a bit of vibrance. Other development decisions come on a frame-by-frame basis. Usually, because of the preset in SilverFast, there is no additional color correction needed, except for perhaps knocking down the greens a bit (the greens are a result of taking a negative image of the magenta tinge of the film base).

Dust spotting negative scans is pretty much the reason all of us got into photography. Amiright or amiright or amiright? The image goes over to Photoshop for retouching, which includes both getting rid of dust and hair, as well as doing things such as a bit of skin smoothing and removing stray hairs. localized dodging and burning might take place at this time as well, as the image needs it. The images in the previous post were retouched fairly simply. For burning, I like setting a duplicate layer to “Multiply” blending mode, inverting the mask, and then brushing in the darker tones with a soft-edged white brush set to a flow of about 3-5%. For  dodging, a duplicate layer set to “screen” will do the trick.

A couple of the images have vignetting applied; I use a curves layer to darken the image overall, and the lasso tool to create a mask of the area I want to be lighter.

The color images also have texture file applied. These were captured digitally on a Nikon D300S. The files were processed as black and white images in Lightroom,and then brought into Photoshop, where they were inverted and then set to “screen” blending mode. Opacity was adjusted to get the preferred effect, and then a layer mask was used to brush the texture off anywhere it is unwanted. The first image, you might notice, has two different texture files.

So that’s about it. It probably sounds more complicated than it actually is. The summary answer is that I don’t do anything really zany to the color scans, but rather just let the software do its job, and where anomalies arise, just go with the flow. Having shot a bunch of expired film, I look forward to the occasional curveball emulsions in bad condition can throw you. For this project, though, the film was fresh, and behaved just the way it always does.

Hope this answered some questions. I appreciate everyone’s feedback, input, thoughts, and wonderings.





  1. I am much obliged for this thorough explanation. However, my question still remains – did you see any yellow cast/hue when you use the portra 160? I used the film once and quite honestly, I feel that the film has a tendency towards yellow. I rated the film at 160 ISO … I am guessing its because of the film was processed at a one hour lab rather than a real pro-lab?

    The Ektar that I shot with, was pin sharp and didn’t really show any tendency towards any particular color. It was more balanced.

    Just wanted to know your opinion on it.

    Thanks much!

    • I don’t see Portra as being yellowish. That might be a matter of me largely shooting it in open shade situations where things are naturally a bit bluer,or it could be a matter of me using the film presets on the scanner that correct for color. I’m not sure. One thing I can say is that Portra is not as sharp as Ektar. But I prefer Portra’s colors to Ektar’s. That being said, I also love shooting slide film if I am going for popping-bright colors.

      In what kinds of shooting situations do you find Portra going yellow on you?

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