Portraits round 2

My last post about portraits (Portraits round 1) featured black and white photographs. Black and white often help simplify things by skipping the colors and thus resulting in a cleaner image focused more on geometry, composition, and effects of light and shadows. Many times this monochromatic approach emphasizes important properties which would have been otherwise overwhelmed by the chaotic world of colors and can be greatly beneficial. While I love the more abstract nature of the B&W images, I also admire the emotional power of the colors. Sometimes a photo just works better in color.

I am quite fed up with the long, cold and dark winter here so now I am starting to see and use some colors.  Besides this post is a post about portraiture it is a small celebration of colors hoping that spring will come soon.

Unfortunately, I had less time to take pictures recently, therefore this selection is composed of my old works exclusively. The photos are taken in many different locations and seasons using various films and lenses but with the same old Pentacon Six of mine.

Color negative film

If you want to take portraits in color, negative film is probably the best choice. It is usually less prone to exposure issues than positive (dia) film so it can accept slight over or underexposure without serious problems on the final image. Also, these films are not as contrasty and vivid as most positive films (except Kodak Ektar which I have never tried so far) so the images are smoother and it is often a good point in the case of general portraits.

It is also very easy to make black and white images out of a color version so you have the flexibility to change your mind during post-processing.

E (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Reala 100, Cannoscan 9900F
L (Pilis mountains, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 120mm, Kodak Portra 160NC, Cannoscan 9900F
(Pilis mountains, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 120mm, Kodak Portra 160NC, Cannoscan 9900F
Szöszi (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Portra 160 NC , Cannoscan 9900F
Kutyi (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Portra 160 NC , Cannoscan 9900F

Color positive (dia) film

Positive films are generally recommended for natural product and architectural shoots. At least this is what I have heard a lot. But of course many uses dia film for portraits as well. For example, the famous photographer Steve McCurry used to shoot on positive film and took fabulous portraits like the Afghan Girl.

I personally like to use these films for portraits because of the character and the fact that they have the finest grain ever. But this is true that lights and shadows have more contrast, the exposure must be bloody accurate and overall you have to be very precise to achieve a good result. In addition, it is not too easy to find a lab where you can get it developed especially if you shoot medium format or bigger.

At the bottom line, I think it is still worth to shoot positive films regardless of the subject because the view of the developed dia film makes you happy as a kid at Christmas for sure. You get the final (not inverted) image. Because it gets visible by the light passing through the film rather than reflecting it. That is why dia has a huge dynamic range which makes the experience (in my opinion) kind of better than reality.

L (Budapest, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Velvia 100 , Cannoscan 9900F
Self (Girona, Catalonia), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Velvia 100 , Cannoscan 9900F
M (Hatvan, Hungary), Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Kodak Ektachrome 100 , Cannoscan 9900F

7 thoughts on “Portraits round 2”

  1. Wow! these are acouple of great pictures! I am from your ‘neighbor country’ Austria – I just started an Austrian fashion blog. Please stop by! Thanks!


  2. Good post and nice images! Thanks for sharing these. Which aperture do you typically use when shooting with the biometer 80mm and 120mm lens? How does it do wide open at 2.8?


    1. Hi Scott,

      I usually shoot around f/4-5.6 with the 80mm Biometar. I use slow film in most cases, so f/2.8 is also common especially inside in a building. I think there are no big problem with the performance at f/2.8, but the depth of field is very thin, so you have to focus very precisely. I prefer the f/4 setting because it still blurs the background, but provide me a little room for focusing errors.


  3. Great post.. I do have Pentacon Six and I have had my films Lab processed and scanned. Now I am thinking about scanner I can see from your post that you are using Canonscan 9900f. You are getting very pleasant result are you using the filmholders that came with the scanner or are you using some alternatives like betterscanning holders.
    Thanks for great site


    1. Thanks,

      I am using the factory film holders for this scanner. They are not really good in my opinion, especially if the film has a little curvature. You can get some nice Newton rings (with the medium format film) especially when the scanner is getting warm. Therefore I flatten the film for a few days in a heavy book before scanning and only scan small batches at the time.
      The biggest problem with the 9900F, that it works only with older operating systems like 32 bit Windows XP or Vista (Don’t know much about Mac support).

      Anyways, you can get good results with it. I wish you a lot of fun with it. The factory holders are acceptable, but not amazing.

      I will get custom holders for my Epson V700. Let’s see how much different they are.


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