As if 2020 didn’t offer enough challenges in the entertainment/wedding industry, (and in our personal lives), the fine art film photography industry was shocked by a huge announcement in January of this year. Fuji’s announcement of the discontinuation of the beloved Pro 400H medium format and 35mm film was a tough blow.
When I first started to incorporate film back into my workflow back in 2013, I played with Kodak and Fuji film stocks to find the right fit for my aesthetic, workflow and editing style. Both film stocks reacted so differently to light – but they both had qualities I loved and appreciated. While I loved Kodak for its rich colors, Fuji Pro 400H eventually won my heart for many reasons -those pastel tones and the way Fuji produced those creamy skin tones, and beautiful greens. Fuji 120 rolls are also so much more user friendly, and efficient with how they include the adhesive to secure the roll! (Seriously though…I am going to miss that)
Obviously, I found my rhythm with Fuji film and was quite upset over this news. (I am still sad) I took a couple of days to digest the news, and I was paying really close attention to how my film lab would respond to this! The team at Photovision were absolutely brilliant in their response with quickly addressing our concerns, as well as communicating directly with Fuji Film to give us more answers and encouragement.
I know all too well, that as with everything in life, unwelcome change is a guarantee. How we respond to that change is integral to our growth and success at navigating uncharted waters! Attitude is also EVERYTHING, and I knew this was just an opportunity to pivot, and grow. I decided to pour all my energy into what I had control over and reached out to some of my most trusted creative colleagues to put together the first of three “test shoots”. I knew I wanted to jump on this asap, as I wanted to re-familiarize myself with Kodak Portra 400, as well as have my lab guide me in trying to match the scans as close as possible to Fuji.
I reached out to hire my brilliant friend/designer Kaleb Norman-James to put together a test shoot for me, and really began to be excited about seeing the results. Being that it was still winter, we chose a studio setting with a lot of natural light. It was also really important to me that I had a model that was a POC, as achieving true skin tones is vitally important to my work, and building my clients confidence. Commissioning an incredibly talented make-up artist for this team was also just as important to this test shoot and achieving those beautiful skin tones. I was so happy that Cassandra Kennedy was available on board! (Blog post coming next week with some perspective on women of color on film, exposure and skin tones with Cassandra)
I also asked Kaleb to create some floral bouquets for me with “challenging” colors, as I also wanted his input after the seeing the scans and which images were the true representation of his work and colors.
We wanted to keep it really simple so that I could really spend my time experimenting. I knew going into the project that I wanted to shoot on Fuji Pro400H and Kodak Portra 400 in tandem with both of my Pentax 645NII cameras and the 75mm 2.8. I had an exposure ramp written in my notes that I followed, as well as I wanted to compare side by sides with both scanners after the fact.
Here is the exposure ramp I created, and I numbered each roll of Fuji 1-10, and Kodak 1-10 etc:
This was also a somewhat controlled lighting situation, and the clouds parted a few times to let the sun fill the studio, which was PERFECT for this first test. My next test will be in full sun, with all those PNW greens. I anticipate this setting to yield more stark differences for sure. Below is a small sampling of the images side by side with the film stock, scanner comparison, and exposure rating. These are STRAIGHT scans ,no editing.
(Final thoughts below after the images)
My overall response after pouring through the scans was encouragement and relief. I found that I really loved Kodak rated at both 200 and 400, and felt that Noritsu was closest to Fuji. Rating Kodak at 400 did yield a little better detail retention in the highlights and there was less color casting. I also found that the blues/cyans were really strong with the Kodak with Frontier. (You will see an image below where I increased the blues in a scan to show the color casting)
Overall, I feel these are easy fixes in post, but am excited to see how the Photovision Prints will dial that in for me in the coming months. These scans will help me communicate better with my lab to achieve a profile that can get as close as possible to my signature look. I could not be more grateful for them!!
FINAL thoughts! I encourage all my photographer friends to remember that our camera’s and film stocks are just the tools we use to create and capture art. We are the artists, and sometimes these hiccups that force us out of our “comfort zones” and routines will bring forth our best work. When we are feeling inspired and excited about our work, that will translate into serving our clients WELL. That is number one!
More to come!!