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My Portra 400 has way too much grain


calamari

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Hi Leica Lords,

So I went and got a roll on Portra 400 developed and all 25 images look to have way too much grain in them.

I shot the film using my M6 with the Elmarit 28mm (latest edition).

I also shot the film at 200 ISO and the film was 400 box speed.

When I went to the lab I told them I pulled the film by -1 stop.

Can anyone tell me whats going on?

Suggestions to get those dreamy fine grain portra 400 images?

These are a couple of images that I’ve just zoomed in and cropped to show the grain.

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Edited by calamari
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  • calamari changed the title to My Portra 400 has way too much grain

I’ve had v little experience with this film but I had the same issue. I found it was better after rating the film slower, so I’m consistently over exposing it, by at least 1 stop and sometimes 2 (it works fine with LOTS of light), then developed by a lab at normal speed. It’s still grainier than I’d like. I’ve shot some Portra 160 but haven’t scanned it yet.

 

I know you’ve tried this approach too but suggest you don’t tell the lab to pull process, instead process as if at box speed. I am suspicious that the grain gets enhanced by the scanner aliasing.

Edited by Mr.Prime
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Do not tell the lab that you overexposed it by 1 stop.  They don't need to know otherwise they may try to compensate for that!

Also... you don't need to use Portra 400 to get those pastelly tones.  Any colour C41 film will give that if you overexpose.

Here Fuji C200 has been overexposed.

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The lab really should know not to adjust the processing when it's only one stop if that's what they've done, so as others have said don't tell them about it. I don't think the photos show too much grain, but certainly the scanning can add to the appearance of grain with digital noise. They've probably also used dust removal software and this can also degrade the image. But these are 'what if's', the images aren't that bad regarding grain, perhaps the better lesson would be to always question the purveyors of hype, Portra 400 overexposed can have very fine grain but it's not the free lunch often cited, there are still variables at work and these are in the hands of other people. The best bet is to reduce the variables down until there's only one left, yourself. If you already process your own B&W get a C41 kit and scan the film with a camera.

Edited by 250swb
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2 hours ago, Mute-on said:

If you do desire more pastel, try Portra 160. Its default profile is more pastel than Portra 400. 

+1 for this , shoot it at 100 and don't be afraid to over-expose more when shooting.  Once again, don't ask the lab to compensate.  I think you will find get colours you associate more with 'portra' more easily and it is a very fine grained film. 

Regarding the 400 I rate at 250 then generally over exposure a further 0.5 to 1 stop when shooting.  No compensation from the lab.  This gets you there as well but IMHO it's 160 that effortlessly has the classic porta pastel look . 

Edited by grahamc
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I shoot all negative film overexposed by one stop, and develop at box speed. I was advised to do this by another film photographer; with development at box speed it gave a denser negative that was more amenable to digital scanning with a digital camera. The rationale is that negatives have a lot of latitude for highlights, but digital cameras do not. So do not produce negatives with a lot of near-clear areas: they might be fine for traditional darkroom prints, but not for digital scanning.

I would be very happy to hear from other photographers who know better, and can tell me if this is good or bad practice!

Edited by LocalHero1953
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14 hours ago, calamari said:

Very true. Because I told the lab I pulled it by -1 stop they have probably over exposed it a little more.

Ive got another 3 rolls to get developed so I’ll see how they turn out. Though Portra 400 shouldn’t be that grainy. It’s a beautiful film to use

Difficult to say since between yourself and the lab the exposure and processing parameters have been moved, but I think there is something going on in the shadows and darker mid-tones in the sea images which could be attributable to the scanner.  I've also had visually similar issues with Portra and Ektar 'grain' when the processing chemistry is reaching the end of it's life. 

Let us know how the other films turn out with standard processing

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6 hours ago, LocalHero1953 said:

I shoot all negative film overexposed by one stop, and develop at box speed. I was advised to do this by another film photographer; with development at box speed it gave a denser negative that was more amenable to digital scanning with a digital camera. The rationale is that negatives have a lot of latitude for highlights, but digital cameras do not. So do not produce negatives with a lot of near-clear areas: they might be fine for traditional darkroom prints, but not for digital scanning.

I would be very happy to hear from other photographers who know better, and can tell me if this is good or bad practice!

All that matters is are you happy with your results?

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7 hours ago, LocalHero1953 said:

I would be very happy to hear from other photographers who know better, and can tell me if this is good or bad practice!

Good practice.

7 hours ago, grahamc said:

+1 for this , shoot it at 100 and don't be afraid to over-expose more when shooting.  Once again, don't ask the lab to compensate.  I think you will find get colours you associate more with 'portra' more easily and it is a very fine grained film. 

I can say from my experience shooting cine film for TV commercials that one avoids shooting at box speed but rather shoots at a ½ to 1 stop lower ISO. There's nothing to worry about the highlights but rather the shadows. Think of the negative as a light-hungry bugger and expose them accordingly. 

As the ENC2 process, C41 is standardised and should be allowed to continue unchanged even if one has overexposed by two stops. But there are differences in quality from lab to lab, as timing is relatively quick and the temperature is relatively high; thus, the process is error-prone. Assuming exposure was fat, overly grainy results with higher contrast are often a result of overdevelopment (eg temperature too hot). Milky shadows and a thin, flat negative, on the other hand, point to underdevelopment (developer exhausted, process too cold) which must be compensated when scanning and thus pulls out the grain again. But if you give the negative the light it wants (and a tad more) and the lab does its job, the results should be pleasing with Portra regardless of whether you shoot on Portra 160 or Portra 400.

For the amount of grain, the fixer plays a role as well. If the fixer hasn't completely removed all silver residues, some fog will remain. That fog will bring out grain as well in the scanning process.

17 hours ago, calamari said:

So I went and got a roll on Portra 400 developed and all 25 images look to have way too much grain in them.

If were you, I'd change the lab. 

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Hi legends. Thanks for the kind messages in regards to my images. I just received another batch of images from the lab. They were Portra 400 rolls again.

In this image there is a white scratch it looks like on the image and also that black half circle that appears on the image. This has come up on several images.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g9xyrT2Rqg6qfmnGIy0gCJtkVv6ZDGJP/view?usp=drivesdk

This image has a black line on it ….?
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hhA-wcdOqC5F8BQC7IYWQu6S3EcaW5eC/view?usp=drivesdk

Next are more images of the amount of grain in the images. Is this normal? This time I didn’t tell the lab to push or pull the film. I know film is going to have grain though surely not this much. 


https://drive.google.com/file/d/15hfbcnqJCq5x2FIyZcor9LGy5vj-yRPW/view?usp=drivesdk

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1C7EHveWYKsKYYMcdfIorAIEYpEGBWuuN/view?usp=drivesdk

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ga5FagMPS6bJygvOC-KeB0ZXcWIRlFKT/view?usp=drivesdk

extra information:

portra 400

shot at 200

leica m6

elmarit 28mm current version

film was in date

thanks
 

 

Edited by calamari
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These look good to me. The lab processing/scanning is emphasising the grain, but that's something low-resolution machine scans do. You get a good idea of how wonderful the colours are and these, too, will be even better with better scanning/processing. The white blob, black line and curves are something to do with their process, too - it could be that there is some dust on the negs (white blob) which would be easy enough to remove, and the black marks are some sort of weird shit that happens when you get these low-res scans from the processing lab - at least in my experience they are. I don't think the semi-circle things are anything to do with your negs but I have no idea where they came from - possibly something on a glass carrier or something the lab used. Take a good look at the frames you showed here with a magnifying glass or loupe to confirm, or if possible take a close-up pic of  one of the negs and show us here.

 

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You have some debris on the film and the shadowy marks may have been caused by handling or some mechanical means, possibly due to the processing or film drying method.  
 

Also be sure you are scanning clean films, use a very soft brush and/or a Rocket Blower to remove dust and fibres from the film immediately before scanning.  Some people will say use canned freon gas to blow stuff off the surfaces of the film.  
 

I say don’t, and definitely do not stick the nozzle of an aerosol can into the scanner !  At some point you will spray your film or scanner’s internals with liquid gas and have a lot of fun trying to remove it.

The white mark has been caused by debris on the negative.  If it were a black mark, it would be damage to the emulsion side of the film before scanning. 

The ‘grain’ is, as already mentioned above, probably  digital noise.  
 

Try scanning with a camera to compare the files with those you’re getting from the scanner.  You could also lightly use some noise reduction which you should either find in your scanning software or use a 3rd party plug-in such as Nik DFine in pp, whichever way, use it sparingly.

ETA: Just realised these are lab scans.  Tell the lab what to do!

Edited by Ouroboros
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