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FAULTY COLOR LIKELY ISN’T DUE TO FILM

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The girl is beautiful, the camera is new, and the film is one of the new, super color brands.

But, in the prints, her face is as green as a shamrock.The photographer is red-faced and immediately denounces the film, and the manufacturer, for making false claims.

But Ann Adkisson, an expert photo printer in Cary, N.C., and her manager, Wes Hamilton, disagree.

"The new films produce beautiful colors and are a great improvement," she says. "The real problems are in the printing or improper use of the camera."

As she explains it, each automatic printer must have its light balanced, by the use of proper filters, for the type and speed of the film being printed. In most cases, especially in the one-hour labs, the printer is set up for Kodacolor and produces acceptable results with this good, standard film.

However, she adds, the new films have different requirements, ranging from minor filtration changes to some major tinkering, to get a true color print.

"We have to do a lot of testing," she says, "to avoid a lot of reprinting. When I hit a new film, I make some prints and check them, and then adjust the filters as needed. High-speed labs just don't have the time to follow that pattern. They will zap out the prints and, unless the customer complains, there is no reprinting."

All too often, the customer with the green girlfriend blames the film and not the lab, which has given him decent prints in the past from other films.

Adkisson cites Kodak Ektar 25 as a perfect example of a good film that has had a bad rap from some users.

"Properly exposed and printed, the film is just beautiful, the best I've ever seen," she says.

But, she adds, she gets film that is badly underexposed, or a customer who brings in poor prints from another source.

Kodak promotes the film for use by experienced photographers with sophisticated cameras, and Adkisson agrees. It is listed at ISO 25, and that's just what it is, she says.

It will not work in most point-and-shoot cameras, which do not have an ISO 25 setting. Their minimum is usually ISO 100, and the camera cannot be set to the slower speed.

Much the same is true with the high-speed films with an ISO of 1000 or even 1600. The point-and-shoot cameras usually have a top speed of 400, and the camera shifts automatically to 100 if it cannot read the higher speed. The film will be grossly overexposed.

Careful printers sometimes can rescue an over- or underexposed film. But, Adkisson says, the automatic printers simply cannot handle it.

Adkisson, who has seven years' experience in the lab, believes all the promotion by film manufacturers has just confused the casual photographer.

She says that in just three or four years, films have come through at least three big improvements. All of them are great, but all need some adjustment on the part of shooters and processors.

She says she developed her sense of color in her beginning years, when much of the printing was done by hand. And even now, with automatic printers, a lot of interpretation is needed.

Many of the drugstore labs do good routine work, she says, but flub the job when they encounter the unusual. And, she adds, there is no reason for a photographer to accept inferior prints.

Adkisson says it is important for a lab to know what kind of film it is handling. Labels on the cartridge often are ignored in the rush.

She also says amateurs should check their camera guides before rushing out to buy one of the new films. If the camera cannot meter ISO 25 or 1000 or whatever, why buy the film? Stick to what the camera can handle.

But if the camera is OK and the lab cannot provide good prints, she suggests shopping around for another printer.

Even if it costs a little more, it's better than getting pictures of a girl with a green face.