This is my blog about my interests in photography and film-making, also my travels as well as other items that I feel may be of interest. I also run the Photography equipment website, Filmcam....................................... IF YOU WANT TO ENLARGE ANY IMAGE BELOW SIMPLY CLICK ON IT !

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Art of Flashing

I, like many others, use colour-reversal transparency film for still and movie photography. It looks great when projected which is, after all, what it's designed for. But when printed onto another film or indeed digitised, it can look far too contrasty. Bright areas show no detail and eyes disappear into their sockets. How can we deal with this ?

One way is to avoid shooting in bright sunlight. In hazy or cloudy conditions the shadows are far less intense and the film can cope with the reduced contrast. Otherwise try to lighten up people's faces with a reflector or extra lighting. Another solution is to flash the film emulsion.

There are different ways to flash film. Perhaps the ideal way is to do it while shooting, so you'll see the effect in the viewfinder. There are various filters that can help to reduce contrast. More effective is a gadget in front of the lens that flashes some light into the image. I believe Arri used to make one. But it should be possible with some DIY to construct a battery-powered unit that reflects a certain amount of light into the lens via a 50/50 mirror. The colour could be varied with filters to give whatever tone you desire. One or two super-8 movie cameras have a superimposition facility, like the little Elmo 103T you see here. A small mirror reflects a secondary image into the gate. Perhaps use this opening to superimpose some light for flashing.

Like all experimental stuff, it can take a few tries to get the correct exposure, but once you know this, things should work every time. The trick is to just open up enough detail in the dark areas of the image without creating a foggy effect (unless this is your intention). One by-product with Flashing is that it effectively increases the sensitivity of the film. Objects that would be normally invisible in those shadows can appear on the film, so it may also benefit filming for normal projection. It's a bit like using a faster film, except the bright areas don't get affected. Next time we'll look at ways to flash the film AFTER shooting....