Film Q+A

When I first started shooting film there were things that lined up with digital cameras that made transitioning to the medium smooth (like knowledge of overexposing, underexposing, etc.), and there was a wholleeee lot that didn't. Most of those tech phrases seemed to be unspoken terms, the  'everyone already knows this no need explaining it' sorta deal with the exception of me--which left me afraid to ask and quietly googling.  A lot.  Navigating through technical, hipster sounding 'film talk' can be tricky.  "You lost me at metering for the shadows....".  But, with a little bit a thinking, and an explanation lacking all that jargon, it can all start to make sense.  Sorta.  ;)  That's why I decided to propose a group called the "Film Collective", a group online where the only rule is you have to ask you silliest questions in the whole wide world (+ answer in layman's terms).  Why?  Because they aren't that silly at all.  In fact, they are the same ones I was left scouring the internet over for hours. The following are two recent (+ common) questions to help make sense of that analog camera of yours.  **UPDATED**

Q:  "What does it mean when all you film cats say ... shot on 'portra 400'.. rated at yadda yadda? What does rated at mean?!"

A:  BAH.  That made me laugh.  I am not a 'film cat', however, one day I sincerely I know I will be.  Henyway....enough with my dreams....  

"Rated at" is the term to describe what you set your hand-held light meter's ISO at.  In film, you can choose to set your light meter's ISO at a different film speed than the film stock  you are ACTUALLY using (in turn this either overexposes or underexposes your images, depending).  So, when someone says "This is portra 400, rated at 200", they are simply letting the viewer know that the actual film they used is Portra 400, but they set the ISO on their hand-held light meter to say it was 200 iso  (henceforth overexposing the film right off the bat by 1 full stop....this is where remembering what different 'stops' are helps). When 'rating' film at a different ISO than what the film speed actually is it's typically done at a lower iso--because that is one way of overexposing your film.  Most films look best shot at it's proper exposure OR overexposed, it's not as common to see film looking good underexposed (which is what you would be doing if you had Fuji 400 and told your meter is was 800 speed film (that would be considered fuji 400 rated at 800--underexposed by a full stop). NOTE:  When metering with a hand-held meter, your actual camera's ISO dial is pretty much un-needed.  However, if metering IN-CAMERA, it is important to set your camera's ISO to the correct ISO (or desired stops over or under).   The lab can also alter the iso of your film (called 'pushed' or 'pulled' to allow for changes in exposure)--but don't worry too much about either of those just yet.


Q:  Another question: how about when they say I had the lab push it.. What does that mean!!?

Crap!  I told you not to worry too much about that yet...hahaha.  "Pushing" + "Pulling" is a term used to describe different techniques in the developing process.  "Pushing" is what the lab can do to develop your film longer, as if it were a higher speed film.  "Pulling" is the opposite, where they can develop it as if it were a slower iso than it really is.  Personally, I try to make sure I shoot correct film speeds for the lighting conditions I am in, but as with life things don't always go as planned, so you have to adjust accordingly + sometimes work with watcha got--that's where pushing or pulling helps!

Example of when this would be helpful:  Say I am shooting Portra 160, but it's getting dark out!  I can't make my shutter speed much slower without running the risk of motion blur, but in order to get 'my look' of bright photos I need to introduce more light into my images.  I don't have a faster iso film, so I decide to keep shooting the 160 + get the lab to 'push' it in developing.  If they were to develop the 160 as-is, the photos would maybe be darker than I would like, because I wasn't able to overexpose via my shutter speed without getting blur.  I ask the lab to 'push the film 1 full stop' (which would make that 400 iso).  When 'pushing' they are developing the film as if it were a higher iso (aka higher speed film), which allows for compensation towards a better exposure.  It can be done in the reverse ('Pulling'), as I have accidentally overexposed Portra 400.  With a call to the lab to ask them to pull the film, they were able to develop it as though it were 400 film, NOT the at least 1 full stop overexposed I had shot it at.   Life saver!  (I usually overexpose a ton in film--but not in Kodak Portra!  I am not crazy about the yellow/pinks it produces when overexposed).  Since pushing + pulling is done via development in the chemicals, it can only be done to full rolls of film.  Just fyi.

Pushing or Pulling is just another way of being able to adjust the exposure in the developing process.  Or, to save your ass when you weren't paying the least bit of attention.  But, you're shooting film now.  You should be paying attention.

This photo:  shot on Contax 645  |  Fuji 400h  |  Rated at 200  |