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Thread: Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

  1. #1

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Well earlier I had asked about positives or negatives and received many great re sponses. I selected Velvia and have finally shot and developed a few shots. Thes e were scenic shots of the Rocky Mountains. My chromes came out with beautiful s kies (perfect blues), lovely clouds and brilliant rock faces. Unfortunately the foreground which consists of ponds, creeks, trees, etc seem very dark. For the r ecord I developed the film myself using Agfachrome Process 44. My question is... Am I having an exposure problem (bright sunny day and improperly selecting the e xposure) or do I need to adjust my developing process ? I remember someone sayin g that the "Scene Brightness Range or if you will film latitude" for chromes is much more limited that other neagtive films. So are the results I am getting cor rect? Thanks for your responses.

  2. #2

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Grey, its hard for me to comment without knowing all the details, however, a simple rule is as follows. With a spot meter, find the highlight and shadow in the scene, i.e. the highest and lowest EV value. For simplistic sake, we will assume

    1. that you are metering something of medium tonality, or 18% reflectivity...(if not, adjust the EV values accordingly) DO NOT OVERLOOK THIS POINT... spot metering a black card and a white card under the identical lighting will yield a 4 stop scene, but we all know it is a zero stop scene! For some reason this is often overlooked.

    2. we are also assuming your spot meter is accurate....

    3. We are assuming you used the correct ISO in the meter and did not mistakenly push / pull in processing

    4. We are assuming you shot in the middle of your exposure lattitude.

    Now, if all this above is correct, then spot metering the scene, take the highest EV value and subtract if from your lowest EV value...if this answer exceeds 4 stops, you will either blow out the highlights or turn the shadows solid black. If the answer is 4 stops or less, you will hold detail in the entire chrome (assuming you exposed the scene exactly in the middle of your highlight and shadow EV values), however, the highlights will be a bit washed out and the shadows a bit dark...but detail will still be noticeable. Velvia in my experinece has about a 2.5 stop sweet spot, THATS IT! :-( Anything out of that range does not record favorably.... assuming those area outside the 2.5 stop sweet spot do not dominate the image, its usually, if you don't like that look on the chrome, then wait till the lighting changes so you can acheive a max. 2.5 stop latitude, or better yet, keep shooting negative film - it's bullet proof! Hope this helps...

  3. #3

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Light is seldom evenly distributed. Brilliant, well exposed rock faces and underexposed foregrounds means you need a graduated neutral density filter. With Velvia this is more important due to the film's narrow latitude. GND filters come in several gradations. Look at Lee filters at

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure


    You can also get graduated ND filters made by Cokin in the P, professional size, from any major camera store. You can try Adorama, at or B & H Photo and Video, at FNC=StartLink__Aindex_html, both are in New York. You can get the Lee filters at both places. Hope this helps.

    --Louis Hirsch

  5. #5

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    I have had lots of dark slides with Velvia. I now rate it at ASA 40 and do not u se it when the contrast range is too high but rather use Astia or Provia (or tak e a nap!) . Both films produce more detailed shadows. I also found measuring for middle tones values with a spot meter give good results, or in the case of whit e clouds, encreasing from 1 1/2, max 2 stops from the clouds value (or snow valu e) will keep details in the highlights.C?

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 1998
    Anchorage, AK

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure


    When making photographs on a sunny day, you might consider using a polarizing filter instead of a split ND. The choice depends on the direction that you're looking relative to the position of the sun. It can cut the light level difference between the sky and ground by a stop.

    Having said that, I suspect that you may have had some other problem. I've made photographs with Velvia on sunny 16 days and not had any problems. The shadows were black, but that's what I wanted. I have the impression that you haven't used this film before. I think that you should anticipate a period of playing with it until you develop a feel for the film and integrate it into your own personal style.

    Here are a couple of suggestions beyond the split ND and polarizer. 1. Try bracketting a bit. Some people like to expose Velvia at ISO 40 instead of its rated ISO 50. 2. Have a pro lab develop the film until you are comfortable with it. I'm not knocking your dark room ability, but this eliminates one variable at a time when the source of your problem is uncertain. 3. Consider pre-flashing the film to cut its contrast. I have heard of some people doing this. I haven't tried it, and personally don't know anyone who has. Try this web site and also PDN (

    I really like the film, but many consider me to be an artistic Visigoth.


  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jul 1999

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Here's my $0.02 of experience. I shoot Velvia at ASA 40 for well lit scenes, and 50-64 for very bright scenes like snow or sand. I've had best results with the limited contrast range by "placing" a specific object within the scene at a specific point in a modified zone system, and let everything else fall where it will. I place sunlit (green) grass at +2/3, snow at +2-1/2, backlit aspen leaves at +1- 2/3, waterfall highlights at +2, blue sky at + 2/3, shadows that I want some detail but dark at -1-1/2, detailed shadows at -1. Remember, the meter always wants to give you the value for the object at zone V, but you are overriding that with your placement. Be sure to give polarizers about +2 stops extra exposure, and even an 81A filter about +1/3 extra. Closeups require additional exposure referred to as bellows-extension.

    The primary problem is the limited contrast range of chromes. Velvia is a very good film when you get some experience with it. Go ahead and blow a few $$ worth of film to understand it's limitations before you get to that prize-winning scene and blow it because you don't know what to do.

    For what its worth, I've switched to Provia 100F this summer to get away from the Disney-chrome effect that Velvia has. Sometimes it just is too saturated and looks like the pictures in the magazines - yuck! Good luck!

  8. #8

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    The previous answers have covered most of the important points. I would also recommend you try Provia100F or Astia for contrasty subjects. ProviaF will give you nearly the color saturation of Velvia, Astia has less saturation but that works well for many strongly lit subjects.

    You don't mention what you want to do with these chromes. When judging them make sure you are using a good light box with high CRI and correct color temp. That will influence your perception of highlight and shadow detail. If you are going to scan for publication or digital printing flow, use Astia and add saturation as needed.

  9. #9

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Don't forget the poor man's ND Grad - dodging and burning in camera!

  10. #10

    Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure

    Hello Everybody, I have discovered (with the help of the net) why my results seemed less than spectacular. I found on the Jobo site the following information. When doing E6 development in a drum (I use a Unicolor 8x10 drum) that you should increase the first developer time from the recommended average of 6 minutes to 7.5 minutes. They suspect that the oxidization of the developer may require this. Anyways, I have now tested that time and can happily report that this has cured my "dense shadow areas" and offered a considerable improvment in printing times. I hope this will help other amateurs who may be learning about E6 processing like myself.

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