Kodak Portra: Different Labs, Different Looks?
Old 11-19-2019   #1
Aaron Hellman
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Kodak Portra: Different Labs, Different Looks?

Do different photo labs process and scan Kodak Portra differently to produce different looks? I recently sent rolls of Portra 400 to two labs regularly mentioned on RFF. The scans came back having different looks. One seemed to have more saturated colors and the other more neutral colors, if that makes sense. The film was shot with the same camera at the same speed. Is there a "right" look that I should expect from a commercial lab? Is there a way to ask for the "right" look?

I am fairly experienced when it comes to B&W film, but I have a lot less experience with color film.

As always, I appreciate your help.
--Aaron
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Old 11-19-2019   #2
Ted Striker
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Hellman View Post
Do different photo labs process and scan Kodak Portra differently to produce different looks? I recently sent rolls of Portra 400 to two labs regularly mentioned on RFF. The scans came back having different looks. One seemed to have more saturated colors and the other more neutral colors, if that makes sense. The film was shot with the same camera at the same speed. Is there a "right" look that I should expect from a commercial lab? Is there a way to ask for the "right" look?

I am fairly experienced when it comes to B&W film, but I have a lot less experience with color film.

As always, I appreciate your help.
--Aaron

C41 is a standard process. Any differences in look would be due to a lab failing to follow the established process or using less than fresh chemicals for development.
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Old 11-19-2019   #3
keytarjunkie
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First, I'm assuming the negatives are similarly processed - if they're developed in weak chemistry or for too short or too long that could obviously have an effect on the output. Also, with color film, temperature variation to a tenth of a degree fahrenheit affects the color of the film. Most good labs will produce similar results here though.

Scanning is an interpretation of the negative, just like when you print your b&w negatives with an enlarger. If you asked two different people to print the same negative, their results will differ based on their preferences. The same is true for scanning. If they're letting the scanning software auto-correct the exposure, saturation and color temperature, that also changes how the final image looks.
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Old 11-19-2019   #4
splitimageview
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Any differences are due to scanning.
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Old 11-19-2019   #5
chipgreenberg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splitimageview View Post
Any differences are due to scanning.
THIS. I've tried two different well known labs. The one I continued with sent/sends me some samples before scanning the roll(s) and is willing to work with me and take my direction. I've done some quick edits and sent them back samples showing how I want the images to look.

I'm about at the point with them where I need very little to no post work to have the images look like what I want.

Chip
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Old 11-19-2019   #6
chipgreenberg
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BTW take a look at this. Richards was one of the labs I tried but not the one I'm using. But that's just me. Lots of people love them.


http://www.johnnypatience.com/richard-photo-lab/
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Old 11-19-2019   #7
benlees
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This is one of the reasons why I bought a scanner. Lab scans were fairly terrible: off colours and lots of dust. "Develop only" became my instruction. A bit cheaper this way as well and the negs came back cleaner.
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Old 11-19-2019   #8
littleearth
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There is the "right" look for you ! It's all about the communication with the lab and personal preference.
Noritsu scans will look different from Fuji Frontier scans for example, and there are many adjustments you can do with both scanners, and I'm not even including the final tweaks in LR for consistency, which a lot of labs also offer these days.
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Old 11-19-2019   #9
Huss
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Some labs use Noritsu scanners, some use Frontier. Some like thefindlab have u fill out on your order form if u want the scans neutral, saturated, bright etc.

Find one you like and go with that.
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Old 11-19-2019   #10
Huss
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littleearth View Post
There is the "right" look for you ! It's all about the communication with the lab and personal preference.
Noritsu scans will look different from Fuji Frontier scans for example, and there are many adjustments you can do with both scanners, and I'm not even including the final tweaks in LR for consistency, which a lot of labs also offer these days.
Exactly this.
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Old 11-19-2019   #11
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It is scanning. Just like with wet printing you can get very different looks from the same negative. I have a home scanner and get very different looks for the same Portra picture just based on different scanner software settings.

The scanner software I use is Siverfast, and for example, turning on "automatic color correction" can make a huge difference, not always in the right direction. Also, there is a big difference between scanning using the different Portra profiles (VC or NC; Silverfast doesn't have a profile for the modern Portra 400).

I actually hate all this choice because as with other digital PP (e.g., digital camera files) I can't get a consistent look and I often can't decide on an obviously better version. I suppose that's what you pay a lab good money for.
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Old 11-19-2019   #12
charjohncarter
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Lots of variables with lab processing. I use one lab and scan the negatives myself. So, I just hope the lab is using fresh chemicals, and consistent processing procedures.
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Old 11-19-2019   #13
Ronald M
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I would start by phone consulting and telling them you want the scans to look the same as if they were printed on professional Kodak paper. Commercial paper used by most all consumer labs gives more contrast and saturation.

If that does not work, ask for no correction, i.e. flat right from scanner, and you finish at home. If they add saturation and contrast, it is difficult to remove.

I gave up on color neg because most labs use commercial paper. The answer is a decent digital camera shot in raw. Or if you must use JPEG, turn down contrast and color.

Contrast and saturation is what most people see as quality. If you do not believe me, go to a TV shop and see them all turned up to the max. They look really ugly.
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Old 11-19-2019   #14
olifaunt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
I would start by phone consulting and telling them you want the scans to look the same as if they were printed on professional Kodak paper. Commercial paper used by most all consumer labs gives more contrast and saturation.

If that does not work, ask for no correction, i.e. flat right from scanner, and you finish at home. If they add saturation and contrast, it is difficult to remove.

I gave up on color neg because most labs use commercial paper. The answer is a decent digital camera shot in raw. Or if you must use JPEG, turn down contrast and color.

Contrast and saturation is what most people see as quality. If you do not believe me, go to a TV shop and see them all turned up to the max. They look really ugly.
I agree about the oversaturation, though I still do film because I can never get digital color/highlights right and I've only ever seen less than a handful of digital photographers who could (and they aren't telling their secrets, though I have asked). But just out of curiosity, why is it harder to reduce contrast/saturation than adding it?
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Old 11-19-2019   #15
RichC
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As others have said, most likely down to scanning. In my experience you get what you pay for - and, at least here in the UK, scans from all but a few well-known labs are awful.
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Old 11-19-2019   #16
Pál_K
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The quality, or lack of it, in labs varies.

Long before digital photography, I took some medium format negatives to one highly acclaimed lab close-in in the Portland metro area to get 11x14 prints - what I got were prints with an insane magenta cast. I went to a second lab that caters mostly to professionals - I got prints that were reversed (they loaded the negatives with the emulsion facing the wrong way).

Now when I find a good lab for color work, I stay with them.
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Old 11-20-2019   #17
Justin Smith
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I came across this link a while back from Richard Photo Lab, which shows comparisons between Noritsu and Fuji Frontier scans:

https://www.richardphotolab.com/blog...su-vs-frontier
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Old 11-20-2019   #18
Ste_S
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Looking forward to seeing some scans of Portra 400 using different development processes so we can see the differences
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Old 11-20-2019   #19
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Looking forward to seeing some scans of Portra 400 using different development processes so we can see the differences
Most differences will be based on the scanner the lab is using, the default set up and the judgements made by the operator.

There is a lot of interpretation with c41 film.

Most labs have their scanners set up with custom default settings (colour slope, sharpness, graininess suppression, auto contrast, highlight level, contrast etc)
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Old 11-21-2019   #20
Faintandfuzzy
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Every lab will scan differently. It has nothing to do with the lab not following the proper c41 process...can't believe that was even stated. If you contact the lab, they can set up a color PAC profile for you based upon your desired look.
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