Tag Archives: photography

"Fun" with colour profiles and printing

Bamburgh Castle and Beach

I’ve recently joined the Whitstable Photographic Group. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get much out of it, apart from finally feeling young again compared to the other members(!), but I have to say I’ve learned some things already so perhaps it’s going to be a worthwhile experience.

Like, I assume, most photographic clubs, there are club competitions, which of course I’m going to enter. In order to submit photographs you have to print them out and mount them. Sounds so simple, but for someone like me who is almost entirely computer and internet bound, it turned out to be surprisingly complicated and extremely frustrating.

Now, anyone who has tried to print digital photographs in the past will probably know that you need to calibrate your monitor in order for the printed copy to look anything like the one on screen. I did a rough calibration on my iMac when I first got it – it’s not professionally done, and probably wouldn’t be good enough if I was interested in fashion or product photography, but it seems to work for me. The things I’ve had printed up to now (calendars, small prints, cards etc) have all been fine, and my photos look good on other people’s screens so I can’t be too far wrong.

For the last 6-7 years I’ve been using Photobox for all my printing needs – I find it too much hassle to print my own, they always end up with black splodges from the printer, and the ink and paper is really expensive. I don’t even have room for an A3 printer anywhere in my house. I recently had some credit from them left over from a competition I won a while back, so I had a set of 12×8 prints done of some of my recent and favourite shots. I was very pleased with the results, the colour balance and brightness were spot on, my pictures looked great.

So when I needed slightly bigger ones (15×10) for the photo competition, it was obvious that I’d go there. My logic went like this:

  1. My screen might not be truly accurate
  2. I could have a problem with printing
  3. I know that my Photobox prints were great
  4. I’ll use Photobox, my monitor must be calibrated well for them.

So you might imagine my disappointment when I got my 15×10 prints back to find that they were all awful. All of them were too dark, and the colour balance was off on those with colour. The Bamburgh Castle one above was particularly bad, which is a shame as it’s one of my favourites.

Goodbye, Darkness

This black and white one was even worse – it relies on the subtle features in the brickwork of the arch to pick out the lines, but these were completley gone into muddy darkness.

I wrote to Photobox to complain, and they agreed to reprint the batch. The second batch were no better so I wrote back and said so. Eventually a different customer service person wrote to me and said that they use a different printer for large format prints (e.g. the massive 15×10) than they do for smaller ones (i.e. the tiny 12×8). This large-format printer has a different colour profile and prints roughly 1.5 stops darker than the other one.

What?! I just.. I don’t even..  I’ve been thinking about this for a week now and I still don’t get this. Seems to me that your monitor is either calibrated or not, you don’t generally calibrate it for a specific printer.. but then maybe I just don’t know a lot about this stuff. They do have profiles you can download for their printers and apparently the professionals who use their service seem happy with the results, so it must be possible, but I’d have thought the default behaviour with an sRGB profile ought to be “OK”.

Frankly, even if I can, I’m not going to prepare separate image files for 12×8 and 15×10 prints – life is just too short.

Another member of the photographic club recommended DS Colour Labs, having been through the same issues with Photobox. These guys are charging one third of the price, and if you dig a bit deeper, turns out they use the same printer for their 15x10s as for the smaller prints.

Anyhow, to cut an already-too-long-story down a bit, these guys are great, my prints are good (except the Bamburgh Castle one, which is OK, but too bright – I think I selected auto-calibration from them whereas it probably didn’t need it.. not their fault, you can choose to turn it off). The paper the prints come on is not as thick, so it’s slightly harder to mount but it’s still decent quality. In addition, the Photobox prints came rolled up in a tube – it took me two days to flatten them under a pile of books, whereas DS Colour Labs ship in a flat box.

Moral of this story? Use DS Colour Labs for anything bigger than 12×8! To their credit, Photobox did give me my money back and their customer service is responsive and (eventually) helpful but it’s too much effort for me to make it work.

The competition? Well, I hand in the entries on Friday, I won’t know the results for a couple of weeks though. Of course, it’s all about finding out how other people see your prints, and how you can improve.. not about winning.. honest. Yeah, definitely. Not about winning, no, not at all….!

Agfa Vista Plus 200 vs Fuji Superia 200 – edge markings

Currently Poundland in the UK are selling a film called Agfa Vista Plus 200 for a pound. It says “Made in Japan” on the box, so it’s pretty much got to be Fuji. But, fuji sell two different branded films at 200 ISO, (although I’m not 100% certain they really are all that different) – Fujicolor 200 and Superia 200. In theory the Superia is, well, superior.. but both seem like quite decent films for the price.

Anyhow, I wanted to compare the edge markings on the film itself, to see if I could tell if the Vista Plus was the same as Superia. Turns out the markings are different – the key bit to note is that the Superia has code “CA23” while the Vista Plus has “CA24” which I’m pretty sure means they’re not the same, although they are both made by Fuji.

Here’s the Fuji Superia 200:


… and here’s the Agfa Vista Plus 200:


I’ll be posting shots from both rolls to my flickr stream over the next few days – so far both look great for cheap films, colour rendition far better than the Kodak Colorplus poundland also sell. If anything the Vista has slightly less obtrusive grain, but that might be becase my Superia roll was a few months old – should have been in date though, and has been kept in the fridge. Both were developed in the same tank at the same time.


New camera…


Voigtlander Bessaflex TM with an unusual lens – Tamron twin-tele 135mm/f4.5.

The Bessaflex is a modern 35mm film SLR camera built in the mid-2000s by Cosina in Japan – completely manual apart from a coupled lightmeter.

The Tamron lens is ancient and possibly not that great (I have a couple more lenses on order!) but I think it looks fantastic!

Bleach Bypass processing

I was idly reading through the I Shoot Film forums on Flickr yesterday on the way home, when someone mentioned a process called “bleach bypass”. I’d heard of it before but didn’t really understand how to do it, or what the effects would be. A few clicks later and I realised that it’s actually pretty simple if you’re already set up for C41 and B&W development.

When I got home the sun was still out, so I threw some cheap film (yes, I still have stacks of expired Ferrania 200) into my trusty Yashica and headed out to take some local shots as the sun was setting. The light meter on the camera was telling me that it was quite bright, which I didn’t believe (sunny 16 at 7.30pm in the UK in April?!) so I increased exposure slightly – in hindsight I should have trusted the meter as a lot of the shots were quite overexposed.

Yashica Minister II <- My trusty Yashica Minister II


Normally with colour development I use the Tetenal 1l kit, which is a 3-bath system – colour developer, “blix” (a mixture of bleach and fixer) and stabiliser. To do the bleach bypass I had to replace the blix with a B&W fixer (I use Ilford rapid fixer 1+4). I also added an extra rinse between the developer and the fixer as I didn’t want to contaminate my fixer.

One thing I struggled with was temperatures which no-one seems to discuss – the colour developer works best at exactly 100F, but I don’t normally use the fixer at those temperatures. However, I know from reading that you’re supposed to keep temperatures roughly consistent while developing as film emulsion doesn’t react well to sudden temperature changes, so I decided to heat everything (including the rinse water) to around 100F before starting.

I ended up with this recipe:

  1. Colour developer for 3.45 minutes @ 100F (mine is quite exhausted)
  2. Rinse for 4 minutes @ ~100F
  3. Ilford Rapid Fixer 1+4 for 4 minutes @ 100F
  4. Rinse for 4 minutes @ ~100F
  5. Stabiliser for 1.5 minutes @ ~100F

Next time round, I’m going to rinse the fixer for much longer – I realise I normally do this for 10 minutes with B&W and I’ve ended up with a lot of gunk on the negatives, so maybe this is why.


As the negatives dried I was glad to see some recognisable images coming through with patches of colour, so at least it vaguely worked. However, scanning them as normal colour negatives proved problematic – the scanner really struggled to find the images, and even when it did it was unable to get the contrast right – I’ve never had this problem before with the scanner so I’m guessing the extra silver in the negative must really be confusing it.

In the end I found some hints on the web suggesting scanning as colour positive, then inverting and adjusting in Photoshop – this worked brilliantly, using “auto-tone” in Photoshop to bring out the colours.

The Results

The end results are.. well.. you decide! I’m quite pleased with them for a first attempt, although I think I can do better. Many of the shots were over-exposed, and the bleach bypass enhances the over-exposed parts as well, so they didn’t work very well. However, some worked just fine, and the grain is much finer than with my colour-film-in-black-and-white experiments.

Here they are – streaks, fingerprints, dust and cat hair included for free:

The Horsebridge Masts Harbour Huts Starvation Point Steps

– click on the images to see higher resolutions on Flickr.



Image samples from slightly dodgy Canon EX Auto

So I’ve been using this old Canon EX Auto but it’s got a few issues.. here are some shots which really didn’t come out well:


Also, these ones from Flickr have a lot of banding in the sky:

My assumption is that it’s a sticky shutter, but tha banding above could be due to scanning artefacts, also someone has suggested light leaks which I hadn’t previously considered.

[edit: this is being discussed on Flickr here: www.flickr.com/groups/ishootfilm/discuss/72157629183564421]

It worked! My first home-developed film…

So, I’ve got some water streaks, especially towards the bottom of the film where it was hanging (these might rinse out if I could be bothered to put it back through some Photoflo solution) and a few random development artefacts but on the whole I think this is a real success! The random colours are what the scanner decided they should be – I like them that way so I left it – these are unprocessed 1200dpi scans straight off the Epson V500 using Epson’s scanning software.

I’m really pleased with the Yashica too – it was well worth the effort of fixing it, and maybe worth a bit more of my time to get it working more reliably.


I’ll put higher resolution scans of the best ones up on Flickr later in the week when I’ve got more time – right now it’s way past my bedtime (plus I think Lynne will kill me if I wake her up with the scanner again) and I have to go to work in the morning!

For reference here’s the recipe I used, a hybrid of many different ones I found on the web. The film is supposedly Ferrania 200 (I guess Solaris), rebadged as “Capital Plus”, but in theory all C41 films have the same development time as long as you shoot them at the speed on the box so this should be pretty generic:

  • Presoak in water (3 mins warm 35°C, 2 mins 20°C)
  • Develop 1:50 APH 09 (6ml in 300ml) for 15 mins at 20°C. Agitate 15 times slowly to start (30 seconds) then 3 times every minute by slow inversion not twisting
  • Stop with 5 water rinses and agitation
  • Fix (Ilford Rapid Fixer 1:4) for 5 mins (agitate for 30 seconds then at intervals, not critical)
  • Rinse many times with running water, for at least 10 minutes. 
  • Final rinse use a few drops of photoflo (wetting agent)
  • 2 hours drying time, hanging in the bathroom


Developing C41 film in Adox Adolux APH 09 (Rodinal)

If you know anything about film developing you might be confused by the title of this post – C41 film is the standard colour negative film most people are used to (stuff like Kodak Gold, for example), while Rodinal is a classic (very old formula) black-and-white film developing fluid.

So, why do this? Furthermore, why on earth did I choose this as my first ever attempt at self-developing a film?!

I’ve been getting into film photography for the last couple of months. I think I’ve run out of steam with my digital stuff for the moment – I’m sure I’ll go back to it soon and I still rely on it for anything “important”, but I seem to have stagnated in terms of subject matter and style – I can’t see anything different in my pictures from this year than last year, or the year before. So, I’ve bought a random selection of very cheap film cameras from eBay and I’ve been putting various random films through them, with substantially varying results! I’ve also bought a big box of ultra-cheap C41 film (re-badged Ferrania 200), mainly so I can test out all these cameras without wasting too much money.

Getting C41 film processsed is still surprisingly easy and cheap, even in this digital age – my local Tesco Extra does development (process-only) in under an hour for less than £1, and corner shops like Kodak Express and Snappy Snaps will do it quickly enough, although they charge a bit more. However, none of these places will process black-and-white film on the premises, they all send it off. That means it takes longer, and in most cases costs more. For this reason, I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks about learning to develop my own black and white film – lots of people seem to do it with great success, and it gives you a lot more control over the whole process.

My plans have been brought forward by the fact I managed to completely snap a film inside one of these old cameras – a Yashica Minister II that has definitely seen better days. Although I’ve mostly managed to get it working (including clearing lots of bits of broken glass from inside the rangefinder!) it’s still a bit flakey and the rewind sticks sometimes. So, when it stopped mid-rewind I gave it a bit of extra pressure. It turns out that the gearing ratio must be tremendous as I’d actually reached the end of the film, and the extra pressure tore the film down the middle!

This left me with a quandary – I couldn’t wind the film back into the canister as it had snapped near the end of the film, so there was no way to even get it out of the camera without exposing the whole lot, losing all the pictures, let alone get it to a development shop. Around the same time, almost purely by chance I came across the Colour Films Developed In B/W Chemicals group on Flickr, which gave me my answer. After an awful lot of research on the web, I decided that Rodinal (or a Rodinal-based developer) was the way I wanted to go for black and white, and it seemed to be fine for the occasional C41 development too. Of course, developing C41 in Rodinal gives you black-and-white negatives, not colour.. except that occasionally Rodinal does develop a tiny bit of some of the colour as well, so we’ll see what happens.

This has all happened quickly – I broke the film on friday night (trying to finish it up so I could take it in for development on Saturday). On Sunday I ordered all the chemicals and equipment, which arrived today (Tuesday), and this evening I’ve developed my first film!

I’m writing this as the negatives are drying – so far it looks like the development has worked a treat – the pictures look clear and sharp to the naked eye, which is doubly good news as it means the Yashica is working well, otherwise they’d be wrongly exposed. But, the final proof will be once I get them on to the scanner.  Watch this space!


Photo websites and access rights – read the fine print

This rather long, rambling piece has been written in response to a couple of recent scares over photo licencing, involving Twitpic a couple of months ago, and more recently Google+, that new social networking site.

The rise of social networking, combined with modern technology, has made it easy and commonplace for people to take pictures or videos and upload them to the internet to share with their friends and the rest of the world. Everyday life is documented more thoroughly than at any time in history. For people who treat those photos as a document of their life, and of no particular intrinsic value beyond that, it’s a bit of fun – your friends and relatives get to see your photos on their own terms without having to sit through (sometimes agonising) sessions looking at photo books.

Most people wouldn’t think twice about uploading a picture to Twitter or Facebook – possibly seconds after they’ve taken it, as most mobile phones now have both a camera and access to the internet in one device.

Do they know, or care, what happens to those photographs once they’ve posted them? In most cases, probably only if the photograph is sufficiently embarrassing, or reveals some aspect of their lives that they would rather keep private.

Here comes the big question – and it doesn’t have an easy answer.

Should they care?

I like to put my pictures up on the web, for people to look at. It gives me some satisfaction when people comment on them, or link to them from their websites. It motivates me to put the time and effort into processing my pictures – for without an audience, what’s the point?

Luckily, there are loads of websites out there that allow me to do this.

Photo websites, whether part of a wider social networking system or not, all do pretty much the same thing. They take a bunch of large pictures that you’ve uploaded, quite often too big to show on a single web page, and allow you to organise them in some way that makes it easy for people to view. They all have to reduce the size of your images to make them fit on the page. Many of them will crop your picture so that you can see a nice neat set of square boxes when viewing a picture collection. Some of them now have editing facilities built right into the website. Some of them have mobile apps or integrate with other websites, and so they need to send your photos to another place.

Every time they crop or resize your image, they require permission to do so. Every time they send your image to another site, or to a mobile app, they are technically copying or distributing your image, so they need your permission.

Here’s where the problem can set in.

In order to get the right permissions to do all these things, most of these sites have a set of terms and conditions that gives them a royalty-free right to alter your pictures and to display them anywhere they like, within reason. This makes sense, up to a point – Facebook isn’t going to ring you up and ask you for permission every time someone views the website, or wants to look at your picture through their mobile app. You wouldn’t want them to, either. So, they create this big sweeping set of terms which you sign up to when you join the site, that lets them do all these things.

Flickr has always been the vehicle of choice for me, and their terms and conditions seem pretty reasonable (I’ve chopped this quite a lot to show just what I believe to be the relevant bits – please see the original site for the full document which might have different legal interpretations):

With respect to Content […] that consists of photos or other graphics you elect to post to any other publicly accessible area of the Services, you grant Yahoo! a world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish such [….] photos or graphics, solely for the purpose for which such photo or graphic was submitted to the Services. This licence exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Services and shall be terminated at the time you delete such Content from the Services.

There’s a key bit there – if I remove the photo, they no longer have any rights over it. Perhaps surprisingly, given how much people criticise it over privacy concerns, Facebook’s conditions seem similar:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

Compare this with Google’s terms and conditions for content:

[…] By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

I find the inclusion of the words “perpetual” and “irrevocable” in there quite disturbing. I’m not a legal expert in any way, but the fact that it then says “may be revoked for certain services” seems a little odd – how can it be irrevocable, yet may be revoked?

I tried adding Twitpic’s ToS in here as well, for comparison, but frankly, I don’t understand it! I’ll leave you in the more capable hands of this post.

So, what’s the actual problem?

Well, you might care a bit if someone could sell your photos to a third party without your permission, or without even your knowledge. You might care also, if it stops you from selling your own photos.

I’m an amateur photographer. I’d like to think I’m vaguely good enough that I could possibly sell one or two of my photos, but I’m not stupid enough to think I’m good enough to make a living out of it. For me, photography is just a stress-free hobby, something outside of work, and I’m happy about that. I’m always going to be able to make more money writing software for a living, (or managing other people who write software for a living). However, if someone wanted to pay me for one of my pictures, I wouldn’t turn them down – and I’m egotistical enough to think that someday maybe they might want to do so.

As a result, I’ve spent a bit of time learning about copyright as it applies to photography, and how photographs get licenced for use by third parties.

I’ve recently been doing some digging about how I could go about selling my photos. I’ve immediately realised that the creative commons by-nc-sa licence that I use for my Flickr photos creates some problems straight out of the box. It means that there’s no way to provide an exclusive licence for those photos, because even if I revoke the creative commons access, people
may be using them (legitimately) from before. So, it greatly limits what I can do with the pictures. I can still sell them, for what’s generally known as “editorial” purposes – here, exclusivity isn’t a requirement, so it doesn’t matter that the same picture might be used elsewhere.

Note: it isnt my use of Flickr that’s the problem, just my choice of licence. However, with Google’s conditions as show above, I’d be really unsure where I stood if I’d uploaded those pictures to a Google site such as Google+, their new social networking tool. Even if I had reserved all other rights on my pictures. If Google really does have a perpetual and irrevocable license, then I can never sell an exclusive licence to any of those pictures.

I understand that these sites have to cover themselves – I understand they need the rights to display the images on the website (which is, after all, the whole point) – and they need some freedom to chop and change them a bit to make them fit, or to send them to mobile apps, or even via APIs to other websites. I don’t understand why they need a perpetual licence, however.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible there is some exception in the Google+ ToS that I’m not aware of which removes this requirement, but if not, I’d be a bit wary of submitting “serious” photos to Google+ for the time being.

In summary

What am I trying to say here? Well, if your photos are just throwaway snaps of your friends getting drunk, the only thing you have to worry about is whether they’ll become famous in 10 years time and those photos could be used against them. Not a big concern for most people! However, if, like me, you have some intention of selling your pictures, it’s worth being really careful how you licence them, and which sites you give them to.

Even if you fall into the prior group, it’s always worth thinking about whether you want someone else to have a perpetual, irrevocable right to use your pictures.