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nick11218

Pushing Portra Film (Exposure vs Development)

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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

I've got a question about pushing and pulling Portra film for the best results. Here's what I understand about pushing and pulling:

There are 2x ways to push your film:
- Exposure
- Development

The results of these are:
- Pushing or pulling exposure - over or under-exposure, results vary on film stock
- Pushing or pulling development - more saturation and contrast

Now, here is where I'm confused about how to shoot and develop. What is the best general approach?

1) Pulling with ISO only to over-expose the film.
example: +1 stop with exposure only
portra 400 film - meter for ISO 200, develop @ ISO 400

2) Pulling with ISO to over-expose the film and also pushing +1 in development.
example: +2 stops total, +1 exposure and +1 development
portra 400 film - meter for ISO 200, develop @ ISO 800

3) Pushing with ISO to under-expose the film and pushing +1 in development to correct the under-exposure of ISO settings.
example: -1 with exposure, +1 stop with development
portra 400 film - meter for ISO 800, develop @ ISO 800

I shoot a lot of street photography and am looking for a rich balance of color, contrast and saturation. I've been shooting Portra 400 film @ ISO250, pushing +1 in development, but I recently realized I'm not very happy with the results. 

In comparison to a roll of Kodak Gold 200 I recently shot, where I shot and developed for ISO 200 (no push/pull), my Portra images are really flat and lacking a lot of saturation. The Gold 200 results were so much more interesting and fun. 

Edited by nick11218

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Posted (edited)

I'd suggest trying something like Ektar. I home-develop colour in Tetenal, and the development is the same, regardless of exposure.

Are you printing, or looking at scans?

Edited by EoinC

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As far as I know, Portra films are famous for not being over saturated, hence the name portra, targeted for Portrait photography, natural colors. As suggested, Ektar is more saturated but then it is slower as well. To increase contrast, pushing and over exposing is a solution but with those methods, not quite sure you can increase saturation. If you digitally scan, you can PP for sure. Other option is slide films, much saturated.

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For the best results that Portras can offer in terms of color balance, shadow detail, sharpness and scannability, I would strongly recommend not pushing or pulling.  I would push only if you need the extra shutter speed.  I do this as a matter of course for the 400 ISO film and push one stop.  I really like to have a 1/1000 shutter on a sunny day and the extra stop of speed from the push helps me get this with a reasonable small aperture.   So I underexposure the film by one stop and then ask the lab to add more development as if it were an 800 ISO film.  The results are plenty ok, although not to the same nuanced extent that it would be if we was not pushed (of course, unless you want the effects of pushing for an edgy effect, such as more contrast and popped highlights - although you really can achieve this in your editing software).

Pushing will only thin out the negative - not optimal.

Pulling will lower the contrast and flatten the image.  This is really only recommended in cases where you need to deal with super high contrast scenes, which for street stuff pretty much is nonexistent.

 

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You might enjoy studying these tests:  http://canadianfilmlab.com/2014/04/24/film-stock-and-exposure-comparisons-kodak-portra-and-fuji/

For me these were inspiration to generally shoot Portra 400 at 200 without shortening the development time.  If you like pastel colors, you can try the same.  However, as others have commented, Ektar and other films offer more saturation.

(You said that you exposed 400 at 250 and then pushed.  You’d normally shorten (or keep the same) rather than lengthen development time.  So you probably got as much contrast out of your Portra as one could get.)

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Posted (edited)
On 3/15/2019 at 8:58 PM, nick11218 said:

Hi all,

I've got a question about pushing and pulling Portra film for the best results. Here's what I understand about pushing and pulling:

There are 2x ways to push your film:
- Exposure
- Development

Pushing and pulling is a combination of exposure and development. Simply over or under exposing a film (which is then developed normally) is not the same thing and isn't pushing or pulling, no matter what you might have read on a blogger's website.

 

Quote

2) Pulling with ISO to over-expose the film and also pushing +1 in development.
example: +2 stops total, +1 exposure and +1 development
portra 400 film - meter for ISO 200, develop @ ISO 800

I think you might have some of your push/pull ideas wrong. When you pull a film you shoot it as if it has a lower than box ISO (e.g. shoot Portra as if ISO 200) and then under develop to compensate for that additional exposure. Pushing is the opposite and you shoot at a higher than box ISO and compensate for the resulting "underexposure" with a longer development time.

Edited by wattsy

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5 hours ago, wattsy said:

Simply over or under exposing a film (which is then developed normally) is not the same thing and isn't pushing or pulling, no matter what you might have read on a blogger's website.

+1

For Portra 400, I overexpose at 200 and process at box speed.

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Rick:

There is a reason Kodak named that film "Portra." It is designed to be a low-saturation, low-contrast film, for studio portraits like these "Shirley" test images (all earth tones and pastels):

https://www.npr.org/2014/11/13/363517842/for-decades-kodak-s-shirley-cards-set-photography-s-skin-tone-standard

It is not surprising that if you want more contrast and more saturation ("interesting and fun"), you preferred the more general-purpose-consumer Kodak Gold look, right from the box. Kodak Ektar 100 is even more in that vein (but with less grain, and it is not ISO 200/400, and not everyone likes it).

With post-processing, you can eventually often get less "portraity" and more punchy pix from Portra - but you are working uphill against Kodak's chemists' intentions.

If you need the higher ISO, try some of the other consumer color-neg films that reach that speed. Fuji Superia X-tra 400, Kodak Ultra 400, etc.

__________________________________________

On exposure, pushing pulling and development changes with color neg film:

1) will work quite well - increases saturation, reduces visible grain a bit, increases shadow detail, may reduce edge sharpness slightly. Color neg film has a good tolerance of some overexposure.

If in doubt exposing color neg film, err on the side of a little extra exposure.

But as Wattsy says, it is not "pulling" as such, just overexposing. Pushing or pulling must involve changes in both exposure and developing - or it ain't pushing and pulling.

3) This is traditional "Pushing." Underexposing (usually because the light is insufficient) plus overdevelopment to produce an "average" density closer to normal. It generally does not look very good with color neg films - grain (colored confetti look) goes way up, especially in the shadows.

2) - not a good idea, generally. Extra exposure AND extra development will just get you massive contrast and overall density and blocked highlights. Even with tamer color neg film. At some point your negative just becomes a dark blob, not a picture.

In addition, screwing with the C-41 (color neg) process timing (pushing or pulling) can easily introduce color cross-overs (red shadows and greenish highlights) that are very hard to color-balance.

We occasionally pushed (3) color neg film for newspaper use when a dark arena or some such required it to get high shutter speeds for sports - but realistically, that was for printing smallish final prints at 200,000 per hour on essentially toilet paper. Not exactly a process needing high-quality negs. ;)

Two other points:

1) If you are getting your prints from a lab and use technque (1) - be sure your lab processes the film normally, but also knows to print them for normal density. Not just use their print machine's default settings.

2) If you are scanning your own film, you may need to adjust your own default scan settings (and other digital post-processing) to get good "intensity" out of slightly overexposed negs.

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FWIW, these are all Portra 400 pushed one stop.  For their purpose, all looks perfectly fine to me, which has led me to believe that the film can handle a one stop push with very little downside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great shots Adam! One can smell the street and hear the noise :)

In D Portra 800 costs a third more than Portra 400. Are the extra lab costs for pushing less than that? Could you please tell me: why do you use pushed +1 Portra 400?

Cheers,

Simon

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Thanks, Simon!!  

As you suspected, the increased cost of the push processing at the lab largely offsets the lower price of the 400 vs 800.  

But  like the slightly cooler colors of Portra 400 and, as I said, for this stuff I really don't notice all that much difference in results with a one stop push (I do over expose a little., btw, but don't want to get into the complexities with explaining that).

800 ISO is a sweet spot for me b/c I like the results that I get and the speed is fast enough to get to 1/1000 with my ~f8.5

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hi all,

thanks a ton for the advice. I enjoyed reading all of the replies. 

i didn’t realize a proper push/pull involves *both* exposure and development changes. that breakdown was perfect.

nice photos too Adam! they are all great, but i personally loved the ice cream shot

i always get negatives from the lab and scan at home on my v700, no color correction during scanning, just in photoshop. i’ll post up some examples soon

 

 

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On 3/21/2019 at 7:51 PM, A miller said:

FWIW, these are all Portra 400 pushed one stop.  For their purpose, all looks perfectly fine to me, which has led me to believe that the film can handle a one stop push with very little downside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is where portra 400 is different than putting portra 800 in the camera -- not the same film stock (400 and 160 are). 800 will give you a different look out of the box relative to 400 pushed 1 stop -- no right or wrong here, just a matter of taste. I recommend doing both and see what you like. In general 400 pushes much better than 800.

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