I started playing with analog photography about a year ago. I find it really interesting, especially the choices of films that change the colors and feeling of the pictures so much.

One kind of effect I always wanted to emulate is the one of aircraft flight photos made in the 50's and 60's. These pictures have a fairly strong grain and strange deep colors.

How were these photos made? I guess theses are done at short times a lot of light and some specific film. Which one is it? Can I buy it now?

Some examples are here:

Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter
Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter. Public domain image (Wikimedia Commons)

Convair YB-58A Hustler
Convair YB-58A Hustler. Public domain image (Wikimedia Commons)

Panavia Tornado
Panavia Tornado. CC-BY-SA 3.0 (Wikimedia Commons)

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    Buy some expired film on ebay and leave the film in your car for a few days. – Matthew Whited Jun 8 '16 at 15:13

Don't be so quick to assume that very fast film was used in these shots. It probably wasn't, in fact. Fast color film in the 1950-60s was 400 or 800 speed and didn't look all that great. Let's look at them:

  • The photo of the F-104 was taken from another aircraft, perhaps even another F-104. That being the case it is entirely possible both planes were travelling at very close to the same speed. That makes the speed of the plane in the photo relative to the camera practically nothing. The ground in the background is several thousand feet away, and so fast film is not needed to prevent blurring the background.
  • The B-58 is on the ground and quit possibly static. No fast film/shutter time needed.
  • The Tornado does appear to be captured from a ground position which means a high relative speed between the camera and plane. But the clouds in the background are indistinct enough and far enough away that it is entirely possible the photographer was able to pan the camera along the path of the plane to minimize motion blur. I captured many such shots on relatively slow ASA 100 film at airshows in the late 1980s.

The problem with trying to use film to replicate the look is that the films available and used in the 1950s and '60s (when the first two images likely were made) are no longer made. Many of their replacements have now also gone the way of the planes these photos depict.

The few films still available today are different in a lot of ways than the films with which these appear to have been shot. The first two are almost certainly the result of using color slide film. The first one in particular has that Kodachrome/Ektachrome look. The third one looks more recent and the Panavia Tornado wasn't flown until the 1970s. There's not much color in the image, though, to have much upon which to guess.

Kodachrome/Ektachrome film is dead. No one makes it anymore. No one processes it any more. No one makes the chemicals needed to process it anymore. So the only way to get the "look" of Kodachrome now is to shoot digital (the better/larger the sensor, the better) and digitally develop it to emulate the look of Kodachrome. And while you can use pre-written presets or "actions" that emulate a certain film, you can also do the legwork yourself in a raw conversion application such as Lightroom or a manufacturer's own raw converter such as Canon's Digital Photo Professional.

Here's an image processed to emulate the look of Kodachrome. Shot with an EOS 5D Mark III at ISO 1250 (try that with color film!), 24mm, f/8, 1/160 sec. Processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional with significant adjustments to WB, contrast, shadows, highlights, and HSL selective color adjustments. "Kodachrome"

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  • Fuji still makes reversal film. ... it's kinda expensive but you can still get and process slide film. – Matthew Whited Jun 8 '16 at 17:56
  • You can still get Reversal film that is processed with E-6... you can't get Kodachrome processed (at least not in color) but there are still other slide films in the market. – Matthew Whited Jun 8 '16 at 18:01

I suspect many shots intended for publishing were shot on Kodachrome. The images might also be affected by print processing (and aging), so what you see is not necessarily the film look alone.

Kodachrome has been discontinued. Color photography technology changed a lot since 50's. Many changes in the technology addressed color accuracy and grain, so replicating 1950's look with films and processing from 2016 will be very difficult. I'm afraid that the best way to replicate the effect will be digital processing.

Perhaps you could start with downloading trial versions of some of the more sophisticated applications that mimic film looks and play around with parameters. Your best starting point for presets probably will be high speed Kodachrome and some unmasked negative film.

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    Google has made the Nik collection free - and includes Analog Efex Pro which allows you to "Explore the look and feel of classic cameras, films, and lenses." – dav1dsm1th Jun 8 '16 at 21:03
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    "Kodachrome has been discontinued." Calling Paul Simon. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jun 8 '16 at 21:14
  • @dav1dsm1th What isn't free is LR or PS that is needed to make the Nik collection practical to use. – Michael C Jun 9 '16 at 5:25

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