Not All Slide Film Is Created Equal

A few weeks ago I was headed out on vacation for a few days. My family had planned a visit to the Delaware Shore, so I got a bit excited thinking about all the neat sunrise beachscapes I could potentially photograph while on the trip.

Sorting through my stash of film I found a roll of FPP (Film Photography Project) Retrochrome 400 slide film. Anyone that has shot slide film before knows that if exposed correctly, you’ll come away with some wonderfully saturated and vibrant photographs.

Just not this slide film.

Imagine my surprise when getting the scans back from the lab to see a roll of images that were faded, flat, and very green. “Very green?” you ask? Yes. Very Green.

Had I done my homework beforehand I’d have realized that Retrochrome is actually expired Kodak Ektachrome film. While I assumed by the name it might have a vintage flair, I didn’t expect that flair to be a prominent as it was.

Since I had taken a couple of cameras and a handful of different color films with me on the trip, I decided to shoot some comparison shots between Retrochrome and a few of my usual go-to films- Kodak Ultramax and Ektar. These comparisons really accentuated just how green the Retrochrome images were.

I found out that true to all slide films, Retrochrome does not take well to over or underexposure at all. In one sunrise scene, the exposure time was a few seconds longer than any of the available shutter times on my camera, so I needed to use a cable release and bulb mode.

Well, I must have counted off incorrectly, or possibly the exposure reading was wrong from my handheld meter because the result was an extremely blown-out image- before the sun was even in the sky. I can’t imagine that my timing was off by too much though, which leads me to believe the latitude of Retrochrome is even smaller than the typical small window for slide film.

Is all hope lost for my vacation photos?

As you can imagine, I was just a little disappointed to not come away with photographs bearing that wonderful slide film ‘pop’. (Which, again, is totally my fault for a lack of preparation before shooting an unknown film stock).

However, after some fiddling in Photoshop, I found that adjusting the black point could increase the contrast to a level where I could actually appreciate the look of Retrochrome.

Conclusion

So, would I shoot Retrochrome again? At the beach… probably not. I do think though, that given the right subject or scene, it might offer an interesting and welcome mood to an image that other films could not.

Subjects that come to mind that I think may work with this look might be certain types of still-life (think jukebox, antiques, etc). I could even see this film working well in some city scenes, especially around older parts of town to accentuate its unapologetic vintage vibe.

I don’t regret shooting Retrochrome on this vacation, but I can say confidently that I’ll be a little more careful with my film selections when I’m packing for my next trip…


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