Film choice, Developing & Drum scanning
For those that are new to shooting film, it can be difficult to navigate the maze of film choices, and the various service providers out there. That is one of the reasons why I have created this page to share the knowledge I have on this topic, as well as the service providers that I work with. There are many great labs out there that develop film so definitely check with the businesses that are located in your community, but if you are looking for a service provider and you don't have the benefit of a local lab, I can wholeheartedly recommend the companies and products listed on this page.
Color Landscape film
Though I have dabbled into black and white photography, I deal primarily with color film because I am drawn to subjects with color contrast — especially ones that are photographed in beautiful reflected light. Below are the three primary film stocks that I use, as well as information on how to meter each film, and several sample photos.
Fujifilm Velvia 50
Vivid Color and Contrast, Well Suited for Indirect Light
This is by far my most commonly used film. It is an E6 processed color transparency film that has enhanced contrast and saturation. This film has a relatively narrow dynamic range, so I most often use it in low contrast situation such as reflected light or open shade. In those situation, the color rendition is quite natural.
However, you need to be careful when using it for already colorful sunrise/sunset situations. That is where the color can get out of hand, and I usually prefer Provia for those situations.
When it comes to metering Velvia 50, I expose my brightest important highlights no brighter than 2 stops above my metered reading, and my important shadows no darker than 2 stops below my neutral reading. Be aware of reciprocity failure, and also the fact that the film has a tendency to pick up a blue cast in the shadows.
Fuji also makes a film called Fuji Velvia 100. Though that film deals better with long exposures, it has a tendency to take on a very strong magenta color cast that is difficult to remove in post. I have worked with Velvia 100 in the past, and found that the magenta cast was a big problem.
Velvia 50 in the 4x5 and 8x10 format is not available for purchase outside of Japan, so you must buy it through other means. I purchase mine through Amazon Japan, and it ships very quickly. For more information on how to order this film, please watch Alan Brock's Video on the topic.
Fujifilm Provia 100F
A More Pastel Color Palette, Great for Long Exposures
I have only recently started using Fuji Provia 100F, but it has earned a spot in my lineup. Much like Velvia 50, Provia 100F is also an E6 processed color transparency film. However, unlike Velvia 50, Provia 100F has a softer color palette and less contrast. It also deals very well with long exposures. If you check the reciprocity failure numbers, you will see that Provia doesn't need any correction until your exposure reaches 4 minutes. By Comparison, Velvia needs correction after only 4 seconds.
I use Provia 100F for long exposure dawn/dusk grand landscape scenes. Unlike Velvia, Provia will keep the color very faithful in these situations, and tends toward a more pastel representation which is quite pleasing. Though Provia does okay with reflected light in the canyons of the southwest, sometimes the color rendition is a bit cold and lifeless, so I prefer Velvia or Ektar in those situations. Adding more warm and saturation to Provia does not yield the same result as Velvia or Ektar.
Much like Velvia 50, I try to keep my brightest subjects no brighter than +2 on my spot meter, and the deepest shadows no darker than -2 on my meter.
Kodak Ektar 100
Well Suited for High Contrast Subjects
Whereas Velvia 50 and Provia 100F are color transparency film, Kodak Ektar 100 is a C-41 process color negative film. This means that it is tough to scan, but can hold a great deal more dynamic range. Ektar has very fine grain, and holds an enormous amount of detail in the highlights. It is almost impossible to overexpose the highlights of Ektar, but you can certainly underexpose the shadows. My strategy for working with this film is to meter the darkest areas you wish to hold detail, and put it no darker than -1.5 on your meter. Let the highlights fall where they fall, and chances are you will be fine. I have had the highlights at +4 and beyond without issue.
Ektar is a film that craves contrast, and needs to be used in a situation with bright highlights and deep shadows. If you use it on a low contrast scene with a limited dynamic range, you will find that the resulting photo is often very muddy and tough to scan.
Since Ektar handles highlights so well, grad filters are not absolutely necessary, but I still try to use them when possible. In all my years of using Ektar, I have never once overexposed a photo on this film, but I have certainly underexposed many sheets. If it doubt, error on the side of a brighter exposure. You won't regret it.
large format Film Developing
North Coast Photographic
All of my color film since 2011 has been processed by my local lab, North Coast Photographic here in Carlsbad California. They handle E6, C-41, and B&W processing. Though I drive my film there and drop it off in person, they accept film by mail. Turn around time is quite fast (usually one or two days for me), and the service is great. If you are looking for a great lab, please contact these guys.
North Coast Photographic
5451 Avenida Encinas, Suite D
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Epson Perfection V700
It wasn't long after I shooting large format film that I realized the need for a scanner. I did some research, and saw that a lot of people were recommending the Epson line of scanners.
At the time, the Epson V700 was one of the best options available on the market. In addition to its abilities as a regular flatbed scanner for prints and documents, it can scan 35mm, medium format, 4x5 and 8x10 film. It includes film holders for 35mm strip film, slides, medium format film, and 4x5 film. For those that are crazy enough to shoot 8x10 film, you are given only a film area guide that serves as a mask.
This leaves a lot to be desired when scanning 8x10 film because the film must be placed directly on the glass, which results in scans with horrendous newton rings.
The solution is to suspend the film above the scanner glass. Several years ago, I created a custom film scanning mask that allows me to tape the film to the mask, then place it on the scanner glass. For more information on how to make your own scanner mask, please refer to the Print Project video included in this section.
The Epson V700 has since been replaced by the Epson V800. If you are in the market for a Scanner these days, please check out the V800. That is what I would buy if anything ever happens to my V700.
Drum Scanning service
My Choice: Michael Strickland
For the best possible print quality, you will need to have your film professional drum scanned. This is a process that provides superior film flatness, sharper detail, better shadow and highlight tones, and more nuanced color than a flatbed scan. Even if I think my flatbed scan of a particular photo is fantastic, it pales in comparison to a quality drum scan.
When a customer orders one of my prints, I have the film professionally scanned so I know I am providing the best possible print. All of my drum scans are done by Michael Strickland. Not only is he great at scanning, he's also one heck of a large format photographer and a great guy. Feel free to reach out to Michael if you have any questions.