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Slide Film Versus Negative Film

I am often asked "Which is better, Slide Film or Negative Film?"

My answer is always...."It depends on what you want to do."

For most people, negative film will be the best choice. Negative film is the ideal choice for making prints because of the wide availability of services and the film's latitude. Latitude is a film's range of exposure capability from the darkest to the brightest areas that a film is able to record. A wide exposure latitude makes a more forgiving other words, you might still end up with an acceptable print even though an error may have made in exposing the film.

Slide films are the choice of those who like to project their images in a slide projector, or for anyone who aspires to have their images published in magazines or other publications. Art directors and editors prefer to see a slide rather than negatives or prints. Slide films tend to have higher contrast, less exposure latitude, and more saturated colors than negative films. It is also easier to edit slides versus negatives because poor images are readily visible and, if you are a 35mm user, each slide is individually mounted. To discard a negative, you generally have to cut it from the rest of the exposures on a strip of film. If you like to experiment with filtration and over or under exposure, slide film is also the one to use since printers will try to compensate for these effects when making a print from a negative.

It is more difficult and more expensive to make a print from a slide but there are two ways to do it. The first way is to make an internegative. This is a negative of your slide. Since this method involves making the print from a second generation image, it is not generally the preferred way of making a print. The most common method is an Ilfochrome print (formerly known as Cibachrome). This is a print made directly from your slide using a special process. Ilfochrome prints are beautiful and very stable but can be very contrasty. There are methods to combat contrast problems including the use of a contrast mask to increase detail.

[NOTE: I wrote this tip 6-7 years ago. In that time digital has obviously come to dominate the photography world. As a result, this tip is, for all intents and purposes, completely irrelevant to modern photography. DC]

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