Using reversal film for flash photography is not the most obvious choice but there are a few characteristics which make using Kodak’s new Ektachrome E100 for flash photography very interesting. Besides slide film’s saturated, there is one other feature which stands out. The fact that the shadows tend to merge into the dark makes it a beautiful choice if you love contrast and photos with a punch. Something which can be very nice for nightlife photography.
Essentially, a very beautiful color palette with deep blacks and no need to do any grading.
I experimented with expired Kodak Ektachrome before the relaunch of E100 and recently started using the newly re-released film for one specific job; shooting portraits during a Saturday night event in downtown Amsterdam.
In this article, I’ll be providing you with examples and notes on what I’ve learned and how I go about using new Kodak Ektachrome E100 for shooting nightlife flash photography, as well as developing and scanning it.
The one issue where it gets complicated is the limited dynamic range of slide film in general, so your metering needs to be precise. In my case, the skin needs to be balanced, the rest is not that important. Interestingly, I also tried Fujifilm Provia and Velvia but did not manage to keep the highlights under control. They were blown out. Ektachrome E100 manages with the exact same settings.
I can’t say how nightlife flash photography translates to every single film camera with a flash but I’ve worked successfully with both a Canon EOS 1-V with the most modern Speedlite flash 430III and an Olympus Mju I.
The Mju I only works for close portraits as the flash is not strong enough for larger scenes and 100 ISO film, but the not-that-strong flash makes it also balanced for reversal film photography. The Mju I’s point and shoot flash setting comes out fine within a range of 50-80 cm. See below:
For the Canon flash, I set it to “-1”, although recently I leave it on full but use a diffuser. Setting it to “0” without a diffuser or tuning it down will give you overblown highlights.
I develop the film in my home lab using the Tetenal 3-bath E6 kit which is available hopefully for future generations since the good news that the 172+ year old company has been saved. There are 6-bath kits available from Fuji and probably soon from Kodak but I’m not sure any different result will be visible.
To develop a few rolls of Ektachrome at home takes about an hour.
I scan the film with a macro DSLR setup using an enlarger lens, an LED lightbox, my digital camera, an old Pentax bellows and some M39-M42, M42-Canon EF adapters. This setup cost me €50 in addition to stuff I already had laying around.
Using a DSLR to scan film is faster and the sharper option in my experience.
I hope you enjoy the results I’ve posted here and would love to hear from you if you have done something similar already, or plan to follow this quick guide to try for yourself.
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