I have always had a love/hate relationship with color film. I think it’s mostly because I rarely got the results I wanted or imagined and that “light and airy look” of overexposed Portra promoted by various wedding photographers made me sick to my stomach.
So, over the last 2–3 years I shot 90% black and white film, sometimes venturing into a roll of Ektar here and there and, if I really needed color, I shot digital.
About 6 months ago, B&H had a sale on Fujifilm Provia 100F and being curious, I bought a roll…
I went for a walk, shot that roll with some friends, and sent it to be developed, not expecting much out of it. How big my surprise was when I got the roll back and saw in on the light table — my heart skipped a beat. The colors were amazing, the light had a welcoming warmth to it, the highlights and shadows in the most boring scene made it worth looking at.
I decided, I would get some more rolls and experiment with the portraiture.
This maternity shoot was of the first where I used Provia 100F. The weather was pretty moody, so I used black and white Kentmere 400 for the most of it. But as we were about to leave, the sun came out, becoming the perfect time for the light-hungry 100 speed slide film. You can see a bit of a loss of detail in the shadows — what I think is a narrow dynamic range of a slide film, not my failure to meter for the shadows — but I was absolutely amazed by the colors and tones. Slide film was a keeper!
I am absolutely willing to experiment with slide film, so ever since that maternity shoot, I am always taking a roll or two of slide film whenever I am shooting something. I use it mostly for portraits, and mostly in sunny weather. I have tested it in various scenarios, and here are some examples.
Sunny weather // Portraits
Sunny // Street
I also had a fair bit of, let’s say, not so perfect occasions to shoot slide film.
First is a shoot in the park. The sun almost set, I had a roll of Velvia 100 and the beast that is the Fujica GL690. Seems like a perfect setup! I shot handheld at 1/15 of a second, introducing a lot of blur (and, as I noticed later, some light leaks from not rolling the film tight enough).
The second is another evening shoot, this time pre-sunset. It was the first time I had to compensate for the backlight, so, while the results are pretty good to my eye, I still consider it a bit of an experiment
The third instance was after shooting a roll of BW film with a yellow filter on, followed by a roll of Velvia — without taking the filter off.
The “how much”
I buy mostly Provia 100F or Velvia 100 and I like Provia a bit more, the vibrancy of it. In most cases, they cost about $6.99 to $8.99 at B&H, so almost twice as much as your Superia or other films, and about the same price as Portra.
Luckily, B&H often has a sale on slide film, when it’s either short-dated or barely expired. In mid-August they were selling single rolls for $5.99, because the film expired in May. But it works for me. Moreover, the processing at my lab is only $7, which is cheaper than pretty much everywhere, so I can enjoy even more slide film.
I tried buying expired slide film (Fuji Sensia 400) to experiment with but did not like the results — in more favorable conditions(at the beach) it becomes super grainy, whereas it falls apart in more challenging situations.
You can also buy an Arista E6 development kit if you want to venture into processing film at home – I personally am not ready just yet.
All in all, I have to admit, I am absolutely a sucker for slide film now. I shoot it at every possible location and I get restless right after I drop my rolls off for processing. There is, obviously, a learning curve to it, and I am still in the process of learning, but I don’t think I have enjoyed any type of film as much as I enjoy E6.
Thanks for reading,
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