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Zac Stein January 12th, 2003 12:41 AM

Still photography Questions..
Heya All,

I threw this topic in here because it is not directly related to DV, but i hope i don't sound stupid asking these questions but i would love some help/advice.

My gfriend was nice enough this year to give me an older canon EOS-5 as a present, and i really love it, but i am not that great with still photography, i have always fumbled myself around and managed to get some pretty ok results, but now i want some real results.

Here goes the questions: i do almost exclusively b&w work so i am interested in that a little more.

What type of light meter would be good to use for still shots (35mm), i see spot and incident mentioned a lot, i can't work out what exactly they are?

How does a light meter work, or better put, how does one use a light meter?

I plan to process/develop the film myself, i have done so before a few years ago and i can't imagine it changed at all, but i don't want to enlarge at all, i was hoping i could simply use a neg scanner, is this possible?

With photoshop is it possible to apply the traditional filters eg, 1-5 like when i enlarged or is it more a case of simply adjusting levels/brightness/contrast and so on?

I think that is all.

oh Btw i was given a simple 28-80mm lens with it, would using a much more expensive better lens really give me better results or just more freedom?

thanks for the help


Alex Taylor January 12th, 2003 01:18 AM


I plan to process/develop the film myself, i have done so before a few years ago and i can't imagine it changed at all, but i don't want to enlarge at all, i was hoping i could simply use a neg scanner, is this possible?
That would work, remember you'd still need to develop the film first :)


With photoshop is it possible to apply the traditional filters eg, 1-5 like when i enlarged or is it more a case of simply adjusting levels/brightness/contrast and so on?
It's just brightness/contrast, you can also do much more advanced things like curves and levels.


oh Btw i was given a simple 28-80mm lens with it, would using a much more expensive better lens really give me better results or just more freedom?
That should be fine to start with, generally a lens like that isn't going to have as good optics as other lenses, but it should be fine to start with. I have a normal 28mm plus a 75-100mm telephoto lens on my Nikon, I find that a good combination.

Photo.net is a great still photography resource, go check it out! Their forums aren't as nice as vB is here, but the knowledge is the equivalent of these forums, there are a lot of professionals there.

Jeff Donald January 12th, 2003 06:44 AM

Alex is correct on all his information. The 1 to 5 you referred to was for the filters used for printing. You were printing on mulitcontrast paper. If you didn't use a filter your grade was about a 2 or 3. The filters allowed you to control the contrast of your image in a limited way. Imagine now that you can have many more variables and that it can vary within the image. Photoshop allows you to adjust the contrast, brightness in many different parts of the image, independent of each other. No more one size fits all.

The EOS 5 (A2/A2E in the states and Canada) is a great camera. Canon set many world's first for photography with that camera. The metering is very accurate and I wouldn't waste my money on a hand held light meter. To purchase a light meter better than the built in one would be $300 to $400 USD. If I had that kind of money burning a hole in my pocket I'd buy more lenses. Additional lenses will make your photography more fun and increase your versatility.

If you were thinking the light meter would come in handy for video, search the topic and you'll see most find limited value in one. If you have additional photography questions you can post them here. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Jeff Donald

Zac Stein January 12th, 2003 07:04 AM

heya Jeff,

The reason i asked about the light meter, i took some photos and i found that i either over exposed or under exposed peoples faces or the entire images, and i was really dissapointed. I was using reversal stock and maybe that was my problem.

What i did is set it to apetrure priority, so i opened it full wide to shallow the image out and let the camera set the frame rate, and most of the pictures were out.

Have you got any tips on how i should fix this, should i walk to the person and point the camera in close the the face and take a reading there and pull back for the rest or something similar, i really really want to pull out some pressional looking b&w's, i love the look and memory.


Jeff Donald January 12th, 2003 08:13 AM

Reversal stock (slides, transparencies) has a very limited exposure latitude. Generally speaking, your image can be 1/3 stop over exposed and 2/3 stops under exposed and still have an acceptable image. Negatives have a much greater latitude of exposure. I would suggest that, starting out, you shot negative film. The latitude is about 2 stops over exposed and 3 stops under exposed and still have an acceptable image. You'll be more satisfied with the images and picture taking will be more fun (besides your girlfriend probably wants prints any way).

First, make sure you don't have exposure compensation turned on. I suggest you use a modest film speed, try ISO/ASA 100 or 200 speed film. Try Fuji and Kodak and see what you prefer. Stick with one brand and one or two speeds for the first month or so to reduce variables if you have problems. Find a good processor, usually not the lowest price. See if you can find a discounter using a Fuji Frontier to print and process the photos. Frontiers are very sophisticated and accurate color printers. It helps eliminate the human factor when when printing. Some of the discounters may be using them, call around.

Aperture priority is a good mode to use. But it is not set it and go. Depth of Field is much shallower in 35mm than DV. I shoot most images around F5.6 to 11 for average scenes. This is the optical sweet spot of most lenses, before diffraction limits set in. People (portraits) I do around F2.8 or 4 depending on the subject to background distance.

Exposure in film is different than DV with zebra pattern. You meter is basically set to properly expose scenes based on 18% reflectance. The assumption is that the average scene reflects about 18% of the light that strikes it. This works for the majority of scenes. However, there are times when a meter can be fooled. A polar bear on an ice field. The camera will under expose the scene, trying to make it 18% reflectance. Ever see snow pictures with blue/grey snow. Guess what it got under exposed. Same with a black cat in a dark hole. The camera will over expose trying to make it 18% grey. No more black kitty, hello grey kitty.

There are many things in the natural world that reflect 18% of the light. Green grass and the real dark blue part of the sky are two. You can use them to set your exposure (as long as your subject is in the same light i.e.. not shade). Caucasian skin reflects about 1 stop more than 18%. If you were metering of the faces, that would account for some of your exposure problems. Meter off your hand (must be in same light as subject) and add one stop.

The easiest way for you to do the metering is to use the exposure compensation function to change your exposure. Use aperture priority, point the camera at green grass, camera reads F16 @ 1/125 sec w/100 ISO film (it's a sunny day) point camera at subject and it says F16@1/30 sec., (2 stops overexposure) change exposure compensation to minus 2, meter now reads F16@1/125 sec. Take picture. Set exposure compensation back to zero.

Have fun and take lots and lots of pictures. that's the best and easiest to get more experience. Find some other photographers that are better than you and go out shooting with them. The fastest way to improve is to shoot with people better than you. Ask questions, I'll help.


Zac Stein January 12th, 2003 08:22 AM


Cool advice dude,
I actually had the reversal cross processed, it was kinda cool, i just totally sucked at it...

I was planning on doing b&w pretty much exclusively, so i was going to buy Ilford, is that a decent brand to buy?

In my past i always used 400 iso film, but that was because i was obsessed with grain.

Also i appreciate the idea about which lab to find, but i was going to process/develop myself, i have all the equipment from years ago to do the film, just no enlarger or anything for blowing up.

Any advice directly related at b&w you could give me?


Jeff Donald January 12th, 2003 08:40 AM

I should have suspected cross processing. That's what all my younger students (16-30 year olds) ask about. Cross processing blows out the high lights. Try shooting on flatter, lower contrast days and avoid a lot of sky in the picture.

Ilford is great film and is one of my favorite B&W films. I would start with the 400 ISO again. HP 5 is the older stuff, fairly grainy depending on developer etc. If you want to experiment try the newer Delta 400 and SFX 200 (real nice film). Read about them here http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/bw.html

Once you get a little familiar with your camera I'll talk about the Zone System. For now if your doing straight B&W (no cross processing) make sure you shoot all your images with a filter. Never shoot bare or your images will be flat (low contrast, no black, blacks, no white, whites). Use either a yellow, or orange filter on all your shots. If you want something more dramatic try a red filter combined with a polarizer (it will turn your sky's dark grey). Filters lighten their own color and darken the rest (in B&W). Yellow or orange improve skin tones and overall contrast.


Zac Stein January 12th, 2003 08:48 AM

You talking about the focussing zones inbuilt into the camera?

This one seems to have 7 of them...

Yellow or Orange filter? would there be one over the other you would suggest?

Anyways, thanx heaps, you have been a great help.


Jeff Donald January 12th, 2003 09:10 AM

Nope, the Zone System was made famous by Ansel Adams. A famous US photographer of the American West. He, Weston and several other members of F64 developed an exposure system or method involving the camera, negative and print. You can read about it in his books under the same names.

I prefer orange, slightly more contrast, yellow might be better for people,


Zac Stein January 12th, 2003 09:15 AM

Thanx for you help,

I have been reading up on the ilford site, seems all pretty much straight forward... it seems to say that most of the time to push the camera 1 stop up, i have a bit of experience with b&w and really love the look.

Ohh well looks like i am off to have some fun with the camera.

Thanx heaps,


ps. if you wanna chime in with more advice, feel free.

Mark Austin January 12th, 2003 12:15 PM

I used to shoot Kodak until I shot some large format (8"x10") Ilford 200. It was a defining moment in B&W photography for me. I have never used Kodak B&W since. I have been using Ilford PAN F (ASA 50) exclusively for my black and white photography for a year or so, and believe it to be one of the best B&W films ever made. I can do 16x20 prints from a 6x4.5cm negative with virtually no grain at all. I also used the ASA 125 & 400 film once when I ran out of PAN F, and was surprised that it was so hard to tell them apart.

I have been working on a book project of angel headstone monuments & statues for about a year now, and decided at the onset that PAN F was the only way to go. I shoot gray stone monuments on gray overcast days, and the Ilford has a depth and sensitivity that I have never been able to capture with any other B&W film. I have not used that much of it in 35mm, mostly 6x4.5, but what I have shot at 35mm is consistant with the medium format film.

On the zone system; if you want to really learn about exposure get a copy of The Zone System Craftbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Zone system of Exposure and Development by John Charles Woods. It starts out easy and non technical, then gets to the nitty gritty as you progress through it.

my 2 cents

Zac Stein January 13th, 2003 06:11 AM

Heya Jeff,

I had a look around at some filters today, and have a couple related questions.

I saw round filters that screw onto the end of my lens, and others had a small matte box where you could slide the filters in, does one take preference to the other, which is preferable?

Ohh to open up another can of worms, been looking at film scanners, will the epson 2450 produce decent results, is b&w less demanding than colour on a film scanner?

The reason i ask about all this is because i am not sure my budget could allow for a dedicated film scanner, infact i am almost sure it can't, so any suggestions, maybe there is a particularly nice used model i should be looking for?


Jeff Donald January 13th, 2003 06:26 AM

If you saw the Cokin http://www.cokin.fr/ filter system, that may be a good way for you to go. You could use the same filter system for both 35mm and your PD150. You might want to look at their P system, as it accommodates larger filter sizes should you get adapter or larger lenses.

This might help you on scanners http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...&threadid=5691 The new 3200 is out, about the same price and maybe a little faster. Flatbed scanners work fine for negatives, they're just slooooow. However, in comparison the dedicated film scanners aren't that much quicker. It just takes patience.

If your looking for a deal maybe the 2450 will be reduced now that the 3200 is out. Just a thought. considering the quality of these scanners, they are a bargain at $399 USD.


Zac Stein January 13th, 2003 07:36 AM

Heya Jeff,

Those were the exact filters i were looking at, that little holder, was nice and cheap too.

About the scanner i just read a couple reviews and it looks like a very reasonable scanner for the price, the only other one they said to look at was the benq (acer) scanner, but i always had a thought that acer was cheap crap.

I might wait and see if the 3200 pops it head into our market it is not quite listed yet, but most likely will follow very soon, the epson here works out to be around $370 USD on the street which is a fine price if it does as well as it does, my main use will be for scanning 35mm and printing at A4 size, which i don't think will be a problem. I did read it had some software problems causing noisy images with 35mm negs but i think that has been resolved now.

So this little cokin will work with my pd150, that is really interesting, one thing i will have to do i guess is be careful with white balancing. I have always wanted to use some filters on my camera to get some wild effects, i do have a polariser for the pd150, but i have seen a lot of nice footage on tv lately, and it almost looks like it is overexposed, but really the colours are just very very vivid, and the skin tones are quite softened, it is not diffused just has this kind of smooth sheen over it, and quite a lot of yellow.

Anyways, I'll keep looking around, i really like the idea of using that sfx200 film and a deep red filter to really play with peoples mind. It seems to say all over it that the camera's meter will be 2 stops down, so as you said should i let it get a reading, use it's suggested reading then use that compensator to push it up 2 stops?

anyways, i am enjoying this i feel like a dino talking about still film and in black and white! but good things last for a reason.


Jeff Donald January 13th, 2003 07:48 AM

My experience with exposing SFX200 is that it is quite variable. Some experimentation will be necessary to find the optimum exposure for what you want. What you've suggested is a good starting point from my recollection. Keep some written notes on the exposure of the first roll or two so you can figure out what your doing if the exposure is off.


Zac Stein January 13th, 2003 08:43 PM

Heya Jeff,

From what i have read on this thread, wouldn't it be easier for me to simply do a meter off a gray card, like 18% or 13% than find some grass? it just seemed logical all of a sudden.


Jeff Donald January 13th, 2003 08:59 PM

Grey cards are fine as long as they are in the same quality of light as your subject. That's not always possible because of distance or safety factors.


Ross Milligan January 14th, 2003 08:39 AM

<<<-- Originally posted by Jeff Donald : the Zone System was made famous by Ansel Adams. A famous US photographer of the American West. Jeff -->>>

Now your talking..... I did a project on Adams over 25 years ago while at photography college. In this digital age I still point my students in his direction if they want to see B&W at its best.

I look forward to your post on the zone system.... it was tough 25 years ago to grasp - is it any easier now that I'm bald I wonder ???.....


Zac Stein January 14th, 2003 08:44 AM

Yeah Yeah, I agree!!

Explain this zone system to me, make me understand, pick my brain, i wanna know!! heh heh


Jeff Donald January 14th, 2003 09:07 AM

I'll have some things for you to read this weekend.


Rhett Allen January 14th, 2003 03:15 PM

Light meter suggestions
I have and always use a light meter. I have 2 Sekonic light meters the newest one, and the one I use most is an L-508 Zoom master. I believe the newest one is a L-608 but it is pretty much the same. The nice thing is that it also has settings for Cinematic shutter speeds. The metering in your camera will probably give you acceptable results under most circumstances. I shoot mostly slide film and it is not very forgiving so I always double check the exposure. I also shoot under strobes so I use the meter to set my lights.
If you want to test your camera to find it's strong and weak points buy a couple of rolls of 36 exposure color slide film and shoot the northern sky at mid-day without clouds at every stop on your camera (with the approriate shutter speed). Process the film normally and view the frames to see which are most acurately exposed. You can also do this with B&W film and compare it to a grey card. It will show you where and how the lens is performing at different appatures.
As far as lenses are concerned, most "fast" lenses use better glass and will give you better results. A fixed focal length lens will usually give better results than a zoom lens will also. Having said that my lens arsenal consists of a 28-80 f2.8, 70-210 f2.8, 50 f1.4, 100 f2 macro, 85 f1.4 my favorite, 300 f2.8, 400 f4 and a few other duplicates and teleconverters. As you can see I use the zooms for a lot of "quickie" stuff but the "fixed" lenses are for portraits where I want the best quality and don't need the range of zoom.
The nice thing about buying a long fast telephoto lens (400mm) for a Canon 35mm is that if you stick it on an XL1 it works out to be HUGE (3200mm)!

Have fun!

Dean Sensui January 14th, 2003 05:41 PM

I look forward to your post on the zone system.... it was tough 25 years ago to grasp - is it any easier now that I'm bald I wonder ???.....

Ross -->>>


The zone system is, to summarize, a method that integrates exposure and processing to get repeatable, predictable results with a particular type of film, developer and paper.

By carefully documenting the tonal range of a particular film at a specific ISO setting, and under a specific development process, the photographer can determine if that film/development combination will have the right tonal range to record all the important elements of a particular scene.

Under normal exposure and development, the ideal would be to get 10 stops of range, from brightest white (no detail) to darkest black (again, no detail). By changing the combination of exposure and development, you can reduce that range to 8 stops or extend it to 12. The range can vary depending on the film and developer (and dilution) used.

If the scene is flat then the photographer has the option of exposing less and developing more. The middle grey (zone 5) stays exactly the same while the white and black points move inward.

If the scene is contrasty, then the photographer can expose more and develop less. Again, the middle grey (zone 5) stays right where it's supposed to while the white and black points move outward, capturing a wider range of brighness.

You can really only take full advantage of this if you have more than one 35mm SLR body, have removable backs on a 2-1/4 camera or shoot sheet film. Each piece of film will have its own specific ISO setting (Tri-X can be set anywhere from ISO 200 to 1600, for example) as well as its own development requirements. You will also need a spotmeter, preferably one that can memorize at least three readings to readily determine brightness range and where middle grey is.

It's a painstaking process to profile each film/developer combination but it makes the results repeatable. It also allows you to print on #2 paper most of the time. By the way, it also requires that you profile and document the paper/developer combination, too. And thermometers aren't optional.

A really good book that details the procedure is The New Zone System Manual by White, Zakia and Lorenz, published by Morgan & Morgan. Don't know if it's still in print.

Dean Collins used a similar procedure for his "Chromazones" system. It allowed a photographer to document what each gel did when it lighted up a sheet of black background paper. By shooting a series of slides under controlled conditions and under a variety of exposures and films, he could create a sample book from which an art director could make a selection. Collins would use the associated setting to reproduce that same background hue.

Hope this helps clear some of this up.

Dean Sensui
Base Two Productions

Ron Johnson January 16th, 2003 11:24 AM

A few posts late...

My current favorite for a B/W film, try Fuji Neopan 100 Acros - great resolution, range and saturation. You should meter for ISO 80 though for better exposures.

Ron Johnson
Portland, OR

Zac Stein February 3rd, 2003 07:22 AM

Jeff guess what i have a new question.

Now i am not trying to show your age, but i assume you did photography during the 1970's, i am trying to find some still colour and b&w that can emulate the look of that stock.

I have some examples here, please excuse the crap scans here.






Any help would be great, i really want to get that early 70's look.

Especially a point in the right direction of which film to use, like brand, type and so on.

okies well hope to hear from you soon.


John Locke February 3rd, 2003 08:49 AM


I'm a photographer from the 70s too! Jeff will have some solid info for you for sure, but I can throw in my two cents.

As far as the 70s go, I remember grain...and a slightly golden hue (sometimes extreme, but often hinted at)...and soft backgrounds...and near natural lighting (like the Winston ad you mentioned).

Look for Richard Avedon photo collections...also go to vintage book and magazine stores and look for old copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

The flip side to this "golden soft" look was the "Laugh In" wild color look...aka the homogenized psychedelic look. Search the net for "Laugh In", and "Brady Bunch" photos, and you'll get an idea of that.

As for particular film stock...hopefully Jeff can help you more with that. Kodak was definitely king then, and I remember using Tri-X a lot for grainy black & white...and Kodak Vericolor...but that's all I remember really. Mainly because I switched almost completely to Agfa, Ilford, and Fuji later on.

Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 07:33 PM

Those ads were probably shot on early Extachrome films, possibly ISO 64 or 200. I don't think ISO 400 came out until the late 70's. The early Extachrome films were very grainy and the colors were not as saturated. I would attempt to duplicate the results in Photoshop, rather than shoot them that way. Todays films are too sharp to reproduce that look very easily. Todays fast films are grainy, but have too much contrast compared to the older, slow emulsions. You can make the grain pop by under exposing your shots. Adjust your contrast by paying careful attention to your lighting. High cloud, overcast days will soften the light and lower the contrast. You just a little fill on the subjects face, via flash or reflector.

Ken Tanaka February 3rd, 2003 08:37 PM

OK, more remarks from another old fart 70's photographer <g>.

Much of the "grain" you see in those photos appears to come from the moire effect from transcription from 4-color printing.

I'm pretty sure that nearly all photo work for print ads was done on slide film in those days, with Ektachrome 64 being most popular for style shots and 100-200 for other work. (As Jeff noted, I don't think Ektachrome 400 was introduced until the late 1970's as a low-light medium.)

You'll be able to achieve subtle texture effects in Photoshop with a bit of practice.

That "70's look" has more to do with colors and lighting. Colors in-vogue tended to be stark reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. No pastels.

Ligjting tended to be overdone often with little contrast or relief. The Technics ad is a good example; look at where the shadows of the tone arms fall - nearly straight down to the table. The BASF ad also has harsh lighting (by today's standards) falling nearly straight down on the principle subjects.

Just my US$0.02 Kermie.

Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 08:47 PM

The other slide film of that era was Kodachrome. But it was noted for it's very fine grain and sharpness. The decade started with Kodachrome II (ISO 12) and progressed to ISO 25 and 64 by the end of the decade. But it was not available in 120 or 220 format. Those ads were probably shot on a Hassleblad or Mamiya. 35mm was not considered for anything other than photojournalism at the time.

Zac Stein February 3rd, 2003 09:07 PM


Any hints on how i could achieve that look with some kind of 35mm way?


Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 09:10 PM

What's your subject matter and where are you shooting it?

Zac Stein February 3rd, 2003 09:26 PM


Profiles, fake ad's like those found in old mags from around 1973, and publicity shots for 1970's movie.

I may get access to a studio, but more likely will be outside during the day using natural light, i do have a small reflector and thats about it. I guess i could make some blockers or something.


Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 09:38 PM

I would follow John and Ken's suggestions for color and style. If your using print film I'd try the Kodak 800 Max, for slides maybe the Fuji 800. If you under expose about 1/3 to 2/3 a stop with the slide film that will make the grain pop a little. For print film under expose at least 1 stop, maybe 2 stops. You'll need to run some tests. I'd shoot on overcast days and use a small flash for fill or reflectors (could be foam core).

Zac Stein February 4th, 2003 02:51 AM

jeff cool thanks, ohh and john and ken! you guys all rock.

I found a little suprise here today, my grandpa through a friend found someone who was selling off their stuff from the business, and picked up for approx $280 USD a canon fs4000u 4000dpi film/slide scanner... woohooo should be fun!

speak to you all later on.


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