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  • Writer's pictureMaria Chernetska

What is Color negative films for general use?

Color balance. The vast majority of color negative films are balanced for use with daylight or flash. If you shoot with them in tungsten lighting instead, results show a warm orange/yellow cast. It is possible to make color correction during darkroom printing or digital manipulation, but this may create difficulties and restrictions owing to the amount of change required. It is better to shoot with a bluish conversion filter over the lens. A very few roll and sheet films are made color balanced for 3200 K tungsten lighting – if used with daylight or flash an orange filter is necessary.

Film speeds, and color contrast. You have greatest choice of film speeds in 35 mm and to a lesser extent roll film formats. Typically, they run ISO 100, 160, 200, 400 and 800. These fast films are also designed to be up-rated when needed to double their box speed, then push-processed in the standard developing kit for all color negatives known as C-41. Sheet films differ very little in speed, typically around ISO 100. 35 mm color negative film of ISO 200 or 400 gives good balance between speed, graininess, and resolution for most situations apart from press photography.

The color qualities of your final picture can range from natural or subtle to bold and vivid. Fine judgement of what looks best depends on you as the photographer and how you want your subject to appear – film types and makes are all very different and if you read the maker’s specifications you can get an idea of what the nature of the particular film is, but you really need to test different makes of film as they all have slightly different color bias.

Adjustments can again be made in color printing, but to minimize compensations at this stage (particularly if you use an outside lab for prints) some films for professional photography are made in a choice of color strengths.

So the same film name, whether fast or slow, may be followed by the suffix NC for ‘natural color’ or VC for ‘vivid color’. The NC version usually gives a softer, more subtle color; VC would enhance a subject with a rich predominant color, especially in flat, existing light. Films with slower speed ratings tend to be more vivid whereas faster films are softer and grainier.

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