Shooting Velvia...the proper exposure : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Well earlier I had asked about positives or negatives and received many great responses. I selected Velvia and have finally shot and developed a few shots. These were scenic shots of the Rocky Mountains. My chromes came out with beautiful skies (perfect blues), lovely clouds and brilliant rock faces. Unfortunately the foreground which consists of ponds, creeks, trees, etc seem very dark. For the record I developed the film myself using Agfachrome Process 44. My question is...Am I having an exposure problem (bright sunny day and improperly selecting the exposure) or do I need to adjust my developing process ? I remember someone saying that the "Scene Brightness Range or if you will film latitude" for chromes is much more limited that other neagtive films. So are the results I am getting correct? Thanks for your responses.

-- GreyWolf (, September 10, 2000


Grey, its hard for me to comment without knowing all the details, however, a simple rule is as follows. With a spot meter, find the highlight and shadow in the scene, i.e. the highest and lowest EV value. For simplistic sake, we will assume

1. that you are metering something of medium tonality, or 18% reflectivity...(if not, adjust the EV values accordingly) DO NOT OVERLOOK THIS POINT... spot metering a black card and a white card under the identical lighting will yield a 4 stop scene, but we all know it is a zero stop scene! For some reason this is often overlooked.

2. we are also assuming your spot meter is accurate....

3. We are assuming you used the correct ISO in the meter and did not mistakenly push / pull in processing

4. We are assuming you shot in the middle of your exposure lattitude.

Now, if all this above is correct, then spot metering the scene, take the highest EV value and subtract if from your lowest EV value...if this answer exceeds 4 stops, you will either blow out the highlights or turn the shadows solid black. If the answer is 4 stops or less, you will hold detail in the entire chrome (assuming you exposed the scene exactly in the middle of your highlight and shadow EV values), however, the highlights will be a bit washed out and the shadows a bit dark...but detail will still be noticeable. Velvia in my experinece has about a 2.5 stop sweet spot, THATS IT! :-( Anything out of that range does not record favorably.... assuming those area outside the 2.5 stop sweet spot do not dominate the image, its usually, if you don't like that look on the chrome, then wait till the lighting changes so you can acheive a max. 2.5 stop latitude, or better yet, keep shooting negative film - it's bullet proof! Hope this helps...

-- Bill Glickman (, September 10, 2000.

Light is seldom evenly distributed. Brilliant, well exposed rock faces and underexposed foregrounds means you need a graduated neutral density filter. With Velvia this is more important due to the film's narrow latitude. GND filters come in several gradations. Look at Lee filters at

-- Julio Fernandez (, September 10, 2000.


You can also get graduated ND filters made by Cokin in the P, professional size, from any major camera store. You can try Adorama, at or B & H Photo and Video, at FNC=StartLink__Aindex_html, both are in New York. You can get the Lee filters at both places. Hope this helps.

--Louis Hirsch

-- Louis Hirsch (, September 11, 2000.

I have had lots of dark slides with Velvia. I now rate it at ASA 40 and do not use it when the contrast range is too high but rather use Astia or Provia (or take a nap!) . Both films produce more detailed shadows. I also found measuring for middle tones values with a spot meter give good results, or in the case of white clouds, encreasing from 1 1/2, max 2 stops from the clouds value (or snow value) will keep details in the highlights.C?

-- Paul Schilliger (, September 11, 2000.


When making photographs on a sunny day, you might consider using a polarizing filter instead of a split ND. The choice depends on the direction that you're looking relative to the position of the sun. It can cut the light level difference between the sky and ground by a stop.

Having said that, I suspect that you may have had some other problem. I've made photographs with Velvia on sunny 16 days and not had any problems. The shadows were black, but that's what I wanted. I have the impression that you haven't used this film before. I think that you should anticipate a period of playing with it until you develop a feel for the film and integrate it into your own personal style.

Here are a couple of suggestions beyond the split ND and polarizer. 1. Try bracketting a bit. Some people like to expose Velvia at ISO 40 instead of its rated ISO 50. 2. Have a pro lab develop the film until you are comfortable with it. I'm not knocking your dark room ability, but this eliminates one variable at a time when the source of your problem is uncertain. 3. Consider pre-flashing the film to cut its contrast. I have heard of some people doing this. I haven't tried it, and personally don't know anyone who has. Try this web site and also PDN (

I really like the film, but many consider me to be an artistic Visigoth.


-- Bruce M. Herman (, September 11, 2000.

Here's my $0.02 of experience. I shoot Velvia at ASA 40 for well lit scenes, and 50-64 for very bright scenes like snow or sand. I've had best results with the limited contrast range by "placing" a specific object within the scene at a specific point in a modified zone system, and let everything else fall where it will. I place sunlit (green) grass at +2/3, snow at +2-1/2, backlit aspen leaves at +1- 2/3, waterfall highlights at +2, blue sky at + 2/3, shadows that I want some detail but dark at -1-1/2, detailed shadows at -1. Remember, the meter always wants to give you the value for the object at zone V, but you are overriding that with your placement. Be sure to give polarizers about +2 stops extra exposure, and even an 81A filter about +1/3 extra. Closeups require additional exposure referred to as bellows-extension.

The primary problem is the limited contrast range of chromes. Velvia is a very good film when you get some experience with it. Go ahead and blow a few $$ worth of film to understand it's limitations before you get to that prize-winning scene and blow it because you don't know what to do.

For what its worth, I've switched to Provia 100F this summer to get away from the Disney-chrome effect that Velvia has. Sometimes it just is too saturated and looks like the pictures in the magazines - yuck! Good luck!

-- Ray Dunn (, September 11, 2000.

The previous answers have covered most of the important points. I would also recommend you try Provia100F or Astia for contrasty subjects. ProviaF will give you nearly the color saturation of Velvia, Astia has less saturation but that works well for many strongly lit subjects.

You don't mention what you want to do with these chromes. When judging them make sure you are using a good light box with high CRI and correct color temp. That will influence your perception of highlight and shadow detail. If you are going to scan for publication or digital printing flow, use Astia and add saturation as needed.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, September 11, 2000.

Don't forget the poor man's ND Grad - dodging and burning in camera!

-- Doug Broussard (, September 12, 2000.

Hello Everybody, I have discovered (with the help of the net) why my results seemed less than spectacular. I found on the Jobo site the following information. When doing E6 development in a drum (I use a Unicolor 8x10 drum) that you should increase the first developer time from the recommended average of 6 minutes to 7.5 minutes. They suspect that the oxidization of the developer may require this. Anyways, I have now tested that time and can happily report that this has cured my "dense shadow areas" and offered a considerable improvment in printing times. I hope this will help other amateurs who may be learning about E6 processing like myself.

-- GreyWolf (, September 20, 2000.

I thought I would re-visit this thread and add to my previous answer. Originaly I was experiencing serious developement problems and that was the cause of my extremely blocked up shadows. Well now that just about a year has gone by I've had the chance to gain additional knowledge using Velvia. I can now say that most of the answers given here about exposure considerations are "right on the money". As I have gained experience, I am becoming more astute towards subtle differences in exposure latitude and the difference between an "OK" shot versus a "great shot" in respect to proper exposure. I felt that this was important to share with those reading this thread so that they might gain from all the postings, as I feel I missed their value on my first reading of them.



-- GreyWolf (, July 24, 2001.

Somehow the standard proceedure for exposing chromes has been left out of this discussion. BRACKET!

-- Wilhelm (, July 24, 2001.

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