View Full Version : Ektar too contrasty for outdoor portraits?

2-Nov-2011, 11:43
I'm just wondering if Ektar is too contrasty for portraits done outdoors, or if so, if it's possible to tame that contrast at the scanning stage.
I'm close to ordering some from B&H, as it is somewhat less expensive than Portra, but I don't know if the savings are worth it.
Please let me know your thoughts.
Thanks in advance.

2-Nov-2011, 11:49
I think it is. I prefer Portra 160NC, and still using up what I have. After that I will use the "new" Portra 160 for portraiture - both interior and outdoor.

Drew Wiley
2-Nov-2011, 11:52
It would be harsh in direct sunlight. You want to expose this film more like you would
a transparency film, but be very aware of the need to add a warming filter like an
81A under cold bluish light, and beware of the risk of blue in the shadows in open
sunlight. Portra would be a much portrait-friendlier film than Ektar. But the contrast
of Ektar can be tamed to some extent, provided there's sufficient exposure in the
shadows themselves.

2-Nov-2011, 11:54
Thank you both!

2-Nov-2011, 12:18
I've seen some examples of it that looked decent outdoor with studio lights, but I agree that Ektar is a bit harsh for my taste for outdoor portraits. I'd opt for Portra as well both for the neutrality and the lower contrast.

2-Nov-2011, 12:53
Does anyone know the least expensive source for Portra 160?
I have B&H at $28.99 plus shipping.

2-Nov-2011, 12:53
Portra isn't going to make bad lighting better.
Don't put your subject in harsh light.
Diffuse the light with some shower curtain.
Use a piece of bead board for fill.

2-Nov-2011, 12:58
Portra isn't going to make bad lighting better.
Don't put your subject in harsh light.
Diffuse the light with some shower curtain.
Use a piece of bead board for fill.

I know it isn't a magic pill, I just want to know if it's too contrasty.
I usually shoot in the shade anyway, but sometimes that contrast can come up and bite you in the a$$.

Ben Syverson
2-Nov-2011, 13:49
If you expose for the shadows and scan, Ektar is no more contrasty than Portra. It just has a marginally different response curve.

With that said, Portra 160 is a great film. Unless you have a compelling reason to shoot Ektar (such as already having it on hand), you might as well take the extra speed of the 160.

Drew Wiley
2-Nov-2011, 14:03
It's not so much the contrast that's the issue (though it is a little more contrasty),
but the saturation. Ektar isn't muddied down as much for stereotypical pleasing skin
tones. In particular, the shadows can end up more tinted if you don't adequately filter.
If you know how to take good portraits with chrome film, Ektar shouldn't give you much
trouble either, but it's likely to be a lot less forgiving than Portra 160 or 400.

Ben Syverson
2-Nov-2011, 18:37
Saturation is color contrast, so contrast is indeed the issue.

John NYC
2-Nov-2011, 19:01
I've seen some very cool Ektar portraits that were overexposed by a stop.

That said, the be-all-end-all color neg film for me is now (the new) Portra 400. That stuff is just stupid good. And it scans sooooo easily as well.

So now that I love E100G and Portra 400 and Kodak is going to announce their earnings tomorrow and get killed, I might have to cry... because maybe this will all go away. At least the other film I now love is Ilford HP5!

3-Nov-2011, 08:18
Portra isn't going to make bad lighting better.

Those are words-of-wisdom that should be applied to every "magic bullet" film. :)

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2011, 08:39
Here goes your weird terminology again, Ben. I guess you could phrase it that way,
but from the ordinary standpoint, Kodak compares their different films according to both saturation and overall contrast, and like color photography traditionally, does not
use these terms synonymously. At a micro-contrast level in relation to scanning, I guess overlapping these terms might have merit; but in terms of general highlight to shadow range, contrast is a term which should stand on its own. Kodak gives some
distinct graphs comparing Ektar to their current and previous Portra films showing how
to compare these basic characteristics, as well as resolution.

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2011, 09:54
Saturation pertains to chroma. Film and the eye are not the same thing. We're talking about terms which have been standardized mfg to mfg for a long long time. Increasing/decreasing saturation might or might not be proportional to overall contrast, which seems to have been the nature of the original question regarding Ektar. When one gets into the details, any effective change in the film curve shape or response will affect the final visual output of both. But then you look at the curve itself, and placement of specific values on it, instead of general industry terminology, which is trying to help you quickly decide between
typical applications of respective films, and assumes that "more contrasty/less contrasty" has to do with the pleasingly reproducible range of a given film under
"typical" lighting. Ektar is certainly amenable to contrast increase and reduction tricks.
But something might split in the chroma attempting to do so - shadows might go harsh
in color or highlights burn out. It's a more "realistic" and less forgiving film than Portra.
I certainly like it. I'd rather have the extrra uumph, and then modify it with supplementary masking. But you have to be extra careful in portraiture.

3-Nov-2011, 09:58
in the shade... one stop over.... scanned.... shows detail that you never thought possible.... been shooting with 4x5 120 and 35mm Ektar... direct sun not so good.....but nice dynamic range detail.... next best fuji 400h... always shade with some warming post process


Ben Syverson
3-Nov-2011, 11:46
Eh, you say tomato, I say tomato correctly. ;)

Saturation can be easily shown to be tied to contrast. Take a "normal" color image and increase the contrast, either by darkroom means, or by manipulating Levels / Curves. You'll see apparent saturation jump up.

That's because "Saturation" is a measurement of color contrast. A B&W image has no contrast between the color components, thus it has no saturation. A Velvia image has high contrast between color components, thus high saturation. If you take a Portra 160 image and increase the contrast to match the Velvia image, the saturation will be more or less identical.

Film doesn't have "chroma." That's a video term.

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2011, 12:02
Even our eyes have a contrast factor independent of color saturation - it's called
rods. With color mapping and pigment terminology you have tone and tint described independent of chroma. In certain graphics processes you need CMYK. And with film
curves there's a certain point at which things are just going to get dumped. "Chroma"
is a universal term in color theory and communication, and has around been long before you or I were born, and long before video was even invented. I know what you are saying, Ben, and it is valid within certain workflows, namely, using the more predictable part of the film curve. But with every color film out there, there's a limit, again with respect to what would nomally be termed "overall" contrast. Where the boundaries are depends on a lot of things such as the actual quality of the scan and
the output medium itself. But then at the extremes you enter territory where significantly altering contrast will not proportionately affect saturation, but will have an independent effect. In portraiture this can be significant in both the highlights and shadows in a open sun setting, for example. In the darkroom, overmasking the highlights will simply overwhelm the chroma and you will gray out your hues rather than dodging or burning them with mask density - that's why we sometimes use highlight masks too. With PS you reconfigure parts of the curve asymmetrically. Take the shot in more subdued "softbox" light like a chrome, and you are using less of the curve and it becomes way more cooperative. So in practical terms and the original question about Ektar, it is important to distinguish these factors. Or just shoot under softer lighting appropriately filtered, or just choose a lower-contrast film to begin with.

Edwin Beckenbach
3-Nov-2011, 12:04
Film doesn't have "chroma." That's a video term.

More generally, it is a color model term. Anything the model is applied to has it.

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2011, 13:30
You only have so much dye saturation built into a particular film. Raise the contrast as
much as you want with Portra, and it still will not be as saturated as Ektar under
analagous circumstances (unless you commit fakery in PS, which is really independent of film characteristics). I can spot this visually even in the distinction between 160VC and Ektar. And Ektar really is an attempt to make a neg which can reproduce more like
a chrome in terms of saturation. But both these aforementioned films will at a certain
point dump the shadows quite hard, or bleach out highlights, though within a broader
exp range than a chrome. For those folks who judge the palate or chroma based upon
marketing shots of a box of crayons, it might seem like all these films are cleanly
saturated, but just compare a best scenario print of any of them to something like
a dye transfer print from a chrome and all of a sudden they start looking really muddy.
Ektar is the cleanest neg film yet.

Edwin Beckenbach
3-Nov-2011, 15:03
Ektar is the cleanest neg film yet.

Agfa Ultra 50?

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2011, 16:08
Agfa is extinct; but if it wasn't I'd bet Ektar is "cleaner". Ironically, some of the most
accurate color I've ever gotten with difficult subjects like fluorescent lichen came from
the early-style Agfa chrome films (pre E6). Grainy as hell, but wonderful color. Had to
do with the way the color dye clouds were dispersed in a much different way than is done today. But I'd settle for 8x10 Kodachrome if the corner minimart would agree
to stock and process it!

Ben Syverson
3-Nov-2011, 22:23
Raise the contrast as
much as you want with Portra, and it still will not be as saturated as Ektar under
analagous circumstances
It will look nearly identical... I would challenge anyone to do a controlled test and prove me wrong, though!