Part II: Matching Film With Lighting

by Mark Thellmann, InLiquid artist

There are basically three types of 35mm film: slide film, color negative film, and black and white negative film. Since slides are usually required for juried show submissions and many people believe that slides being “first generation” are the best choice for printed reproduction on such items as post cards, business cards, note cards, catalogue sheets, etc., we will discuss only slide films.

The word “slide” refers to the 35mm format. Larger formats such as 2&1/4, 4×5, and 8×10 refer to this film as “transparency” film. Exposures must be accurate when using this film. It possesses a most limited three-stop range; however, when great lighting and perfect exposure come together, the beauty of this film is unsurpassed.

There are two kinds of slide film: daylight balanced slide film, which is rated around 5600 degrees on the Kelvin scale and tungsten balanced slide film, which measures 3200 degrees Kelvin. Because of this difference in temperature rating, daylight slide film shot under tungsten lighting will exhibit a yellow-orange cast and tungsten film shot under daylight will exhibit a blue cast. Filters can correct for this, but it makes much more sense to shoot the right film under the right light. If you want to copy your artwork using daylight film, your light source must be daylight: light provided by the sun or the equivalent such as flash (also known as “strobe.”)

Direct sunlight is very harsh and contrasty, often superceding our limited three-stop range, which means we will lose detail in the shadow areas and our highlights will burn up. The soft light found in shade or on an overcast day is better, but often exhibits a blue cast inherited from the sky. An 81 series filter (A,B,C) will help subtract this blue tint, but the point is that natural daylight is a highly unreliable light source when photographing artwork. If you decide to use strobe or flash with daylight balanced slide film, it will be necessary to invest in a light meter which also measures this type of light. This meter and good strobe equipment is expensive.

A “daylight correct,” blue-colored, photoflood bulb is manufactured, but it only lasts three or four hours. Its purpose is rather contradicted since daylight film is not really made for long exposures because it quickly exhibits reciprocity (the loss of sensitivity due to abnormally long or short exposures) and this bulb is not bright enough to afford the fast exposures flash or strobe offer.

This is why we will only discuss tungsten light and its partner, tungsten film. Tungsten slide film is manufactured by the major film companies. Kodak makes two tungsten Ektachrome slide films, one rated at ISO 64 and the other rated at ISO 160. Fujichrome makes a tungsten slide film also rated at ISO 64. The Scotch/3M company makes a tungsten slide film rated at ISO 640! It’s fast, but incredibly grainy and should not be used in the photography of art and craft work. Next time we will discuss different types of inexpensive tungsten lights.

Mark D. Thellmann has been an art photographer, fine artist, and photography instructor for the past 25 years. He has recently produced a video entitled Take Perfect Photos of Your Art and Craftwork which discusses and demonstrates the necessary camera equipment, lighting, film exposure and methods of photographing paintings, sculpture, woodworking projects, fabric art and jewelry.

A second video entitled Alternative Photographic Processes with Polaroid Films (time-Zero film manipulation, image transfer and emulsion transfer) reveals the techniques Mark uses to create fine art. These fine art images can be found in the Polaroid Museum Collection and on greeting cards and posters throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

All materials copyright Mark Thellmann. No reproduction without permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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