Not the film look

Started 4 months ago | Discussions
Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,615
Not the film look
1

There's a lot of talk about the "film look", but it was never something I liked. I had no choice using film, so now when I'm scanning my old film, I'm using all the post processing I can to "fix" the film.

Anyone else?

Here's a couple I've just been working on.

Parliamentary Sunset.

That's an HDR merge of two negatives, with a lot of noise suppression and tone mapping, as well as perspective correction. It still needs a lot of work to fix some artifacts.

Tower

A lot of tone mapping, and average noise suppression.

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DrBormental
DrBormental Regular Member • Posts: 265
What's not to like?
2

Barry Twycross wrote:

There's a lot of talk about the "film look", but it was never something I liked. I had no choice using film, so now when I'm scanning my old film, I'm using all the post processing I can to "fix" the film.

Modern film emulsions are extremely accurate, with subtle pleasing tints, and when scanned and color-inverted properly, require very little post-processing. Here's Ektar 100, for example. DSLR-scanned, hand-inverted. And here's Fuji 400H Pro , inverted with Negmaster known for its neutral approach. Portra 160 - same thing, zero post-processing after an inversion. On B&W front, here's HP5+ and again - it looks quite "digital" in its appearance, i.e. nobody ever asks if these are analog. If you think this is limited to pro-level films, here's a boring shot on Superia 400 from Wallmart, it's not too different from a typical iPhone photo.

I can go on and on. Every emulsion I have tried looks drop-dead gorgeous and doesn't require major surgery to look great. In other words, a color negative is not a final image. It requires competent scanning or printing, and that is a separate issue.

What you're referring to as "film look" is - I suspect - a combination of other factors. None of them have anything to do with film itself. For example:

  • Historical perspective. Old emulsions weren't as good, and probably faded a bit over time.
  • Cheap "dry" same-day mini-labs of the 90s and god-awful prints they produced.
  • Modern automatic film scanning by Noritsu/Frontier scanners with auto-color / auto-level "enhancements".
  • Poor scanning at home using flatbeds with so-so Silverfast skills.
  • Any other variation of poor scanning or poor printing

All of the above is on display in various film communities, like on /r/analog. I don't even know what needs to go wrong to make Ektar look like this. But no, modern color film does not look this way.

What *is* different is slight variations in color balance, saturation and grain. Also, film tends to handle highlights very differently from digital: film has a shoulder vs a straight line, as evidenced in photos like this when highlights roll up all the way to the sun.

DenWil
DenWil Veteran Member • Posts: 4,458
There is a wide variety to the 'film look'.

Barry Twycross wrote:

There's a lot of talk about the "film look", but it was never something I liked. I had no choice using film, so now when I'm scanning my old film, I'm using all the post processing I can to "fix" the film.

Anyone else?

Here's a couple I've just been working on.

That's an HDR merge of two negatives, with a lot of noise suppression and tone mapping, as well as perspective correction. It still needs a lot of work to fix some artifacts.

A lot of tone mapping, and average noise suppression.

Some attributes of the film look-  often associated with  35mm Tri-X  i.e.  high contrast / amped grain / blown highlights ,  I avoid completely. Like the plague.

I use only 100 ASA and slower  120 (67) film stock, carefully  moderated exposures, optimum lighting  and processed   with the aim of excellent  tonality and tight grain. That is the  film look for  me.

Other than manual dust removal ,  my  film work  requires  little  more than a quick tweaking in PS.  All single originals with no  extra revisions or major corrections. At a glance the color scans  on the screen  look identical to the  transparencies on the light box.  I have to account for the differences in viewing  the digitized medium  but essentially there   is nothing  to fix.

All 1990 and later.  All the B&W processed by me,  the E6 farmed out and delivered sleeved but uncut.  Same two labs (one in Irvine / one in Tucson)   during that entire period. All scans by me.

-- hide signature --

dw

Bags27 Senior Member • Posts: 1,251
Re: There is a wide variety to the 'film look'.

Robert Parker has a famously accurate palate. Nevertheless, he quite wisely always refused to taste blindly. He knew what he liked when he knew what it was. True for most of us in most things.

So, I'd never say that I could tell a typical digital photograph from a well made film photograph.

However, one thing that a lot of digital photos have that most film photos do not are sharp edges around the main subject. The edges seem artificial to me, and often become "pop" (most famously produced by Leica and Zeiss).

Film can produce this sometimes, too, but digital has taken it to excess. Someday, we'll think of it like bell bottom pants or cars with massive tail fins.

The miracle (and unreachable for me) lens is the Leica M 50 f/2 APO. Yes, it isolates the main subject, but the falloff is so gradual, so integrated that it produces both a digital and filmic look simultaneously. The very new Fuji GF 80 f/1.7 also has this. But such modern lenses on digital cameras are few and far between.

sybersitizen Forum Pro • Posts: 20,756
Re: Not the film look
1

Barry Twycross wrote:

There's a lot of talk about the "film look", but it was never something I liked. I had no choice using film, so now when I'm scanning my old film, I'm using all the post processing I can to "fix" the film.

Anyone else?

Depends.

I just try to make my own slide scans look like the slides themselves, unless I screwed something up when I shot them decades ago, in which case I'll do some correction.

When I scan the much older B&W negatives (many formats ranging from 35mm to 4x5) that I've inherited from parents and grandparents, I try to do them justice with the most 'realistic' interpretations I can manage.

When I scan the mountain of 'drug store' prints that my wife and I accumulated in the years before digital, I use a high speed bulk scanner and just go for good enough.

JohnnyLuddite Senior Member • Posts: 1,570
Re: Not the film look

Well each to their own, and I think you're getting into artistic interpretations rather than more standard photography.

My experience is that my audience do recognise the film look, and therefore I minimise how much I'll do in post to it. For another thing, there's often less DR latitude to do so anyway, although I love the built-in highlight protection of film.

I do appreciate post when it comes to color cast corrections from ageing and removing defects, things like that.

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Andy1712 Forum Member • Posts: 63
Re: Not the film look

The Parliamentary colour grade is utterly beautiful.Is there any way to describe how you pulled up the blues, green and purples? I assume the original neg, was not so rich.

I ask for a verbal description because I would love to achieve this 'look' with group of video shots. So a different program will be used.

Andy1712 Forum Member • Posts: 63
Re: Not the film look

I just looked at is again and I like it. Have you ever seen the Youtube video of, (Paraphrased) Films from 1898 to 1902, restored at 60 fps...... He's a Russian computer whiz who speaks for 4 minutes then astonishes with his restored footage.

You may like it.

Tri-X Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: Not the film look
1

To me these images look like neither film nor digital, but do look like hyper saturated illustrations that started life as photographs. What matters most is that you’re having fun. đŸ™‚

OP Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,615
Re: Not the film look

Andy1712 wrote:

The Parliamentary colour grade is utterly beautiful.Is there any way to describe how you pulled up the blues, green and purples? I assume the original neg, was not so rich.

I ask for a verbal description because I would love to achieve this 'look' with group of video shots. So a different program will be used.

Thank you.

There's versions of the originals below. I just used Affinity Photo's facilities. I did a HDR merge, then a tone map. The tone map turned the saturation all the way up, and a lot of local contrast. Then I ran it through the tone map again to turn the saturation up some more.

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
Panasonic GX850 Fujifilm GFX 50R Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +9 more
jaeae Regular Member • Posts: 257
Re: Not the film look

Can't help thinking that those particular 2 shots are somewhat underexposed, and that's probably not the "film look" many are after. Quite opposite, many like the look of overexposed color negative

OP Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 4,615
Re: Not the film look

jaeae wrote:

Can't help thinking that those particular 2 shots are somewhat underexposed, and that's probably not the "film look" many are after. Quite opposite, many like the look of overexposed color negative

The first neg is quite dense, particularly the sky, as was my habit of overcooking them. The second one is exposed for the sky, so under the bridge is a bit thin.

 Barry Twycross's gear list:Barry Twycross's gear list
Panasonic GX850 Fujifilm GFX 50R Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Fujifilm GF 110mm F2 +9 more
broodrooster Senior Member • Posts: 1,034
Re: What's not to like?

DrBormental wrote:

Barry Twycross wrote:

There's a lot of talk about the "film look", but it was never something I liked. I had no choice using film, so now when I'm scanning my old film, I'm using all the post processing I can to "fix" the film.

Modern film emulsions are extremely accurate, with subtle pleasing tints, and when scanned and color-inverted properly, require very little post-processing. Here's Ektar 100, for example. DSLR-scanned, hand-inverted. And here's Fuji 400H Pro , inverted with Negmaster known for its neutral approach. Portra 160 - same thing, zero post-processing after an inversion. On B&W front, here's HP5+ and again - it looks quite "digital" in its appearance, i.e. nobody ever asks if these are analog. If you think this is limited to pro-level films, here's a boring shot on Superia 400 from Wallmart, it's not too different from a typical iPhone photo.

I can go on and on. Every emulsion I have tried looks drop-dead gorgeous and doesn't require major surgery to look great. In other words, a color negative is not a final image. It requires competent scanning or printing, and that is a separate issue.

What you're referring to as "film look" is - I suspect - a combination of other factors. None of them have anything to do with film itself. For example:

  • Historical perspective. Old emulsions weren't as good, and probably faded a bit over time.
  • Cheap "dry" same-day mini-labs of the 90s and god-awful prints they produced.
  • Modern automatic film scanning by Noritsu/Frontier scanners with auto-color / auto-level "enhancements".
  • Poor scanning at home using flatbeds with so-so Silverfast skills.
  • Any other variation of poor scanning or poor printing

All of the above is on display in various film communities, like on /r/analog. I don't even know what needs to go wrong to make Ektar look like this. But no, modern color film does not look this way.

What *is* different is slight variations in color balance, saturation and grain. Also, film tends to handle highlights very differently from digital: film has a shoulder vs a straight line, as evidenced in photos like this when highlights roll up all the way to the sun.

Amazing shots there!

Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 2,712
Re: Not the film look

Barry Twycross wrote:

I much prefer this, as is, to the processed one.  Sometimes the U.K. is just pretty grey

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