Exposing slide film (photo)

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by lewis_thompson|1, Oct 2, 2007.

  1. Hi guys, I exposed my first roll of slide film a weekend or two ago and was reasonably happy with the results. Here is one shot that really didn't work... exposing for the highlights as I've read, I ended up with nothing of much use. My question is really how would I have better handled this situation? Is it just a case of resigning myself to the fact that I can't have it all, and expose for the boat in the foreground at the cost of the sky? I'll be getting myself an ND grad soon, but if I find myself in this situation again before then, are there any other tricks I can use, and what is considered 'better', doing as I've mostly done here, or just blowing out the sky? Or is it just a case of making a decision as to what is most important to the shot?
  2. Oh, forgot to add that this was 100ASA E100VS.
    I know I could bring out some foreground detail in post-processing, but my question is really related to getting things 'best' at the shooting stage. Thanks.
  3. Exposing for the sun, which happens to be in the highlights in this scene, is not a good idea. An ND grad would certainly help. I'm not an expert on metering, but "exposing for the highlights" doesn't really mean metering off the highlights, does it? It might work better on a negative film which has lower contrast, and hence more exposure latitude with which to bend the rules. Or you might try a lower contrast slide film like E200. E100VS is among the highest contrast slide films.
  4. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    As you've discovered the "expose for the highlights" advice is a gross simplification that will let you down whenever things get complex or very contasty. Slide film has a limited dynamic range and its really quite easy to compose a photograph that simply cannot be rendered properly on your film without some help. The ability to meter the brightest and darkest areas in which you want to see detail, and compare that brightness range to the dynamic range of the film is at least useful - and for me essential- in exposing slide film well in all conditions.

    The "help" you can give is the use of a grad(as you're gearing up to do) using fill flash to lighten dark foregrounds; recomposing to eliminate or at least reduce the areas you can't expose properly; and changing your film for a less contrasty medium when you're faced with high contrast situations. High saturation slide films tend to be the ones that cope with high brightness range subjects least well. A less contrasty emulsion like Astia or neg fil would cope better.

    That said the example you include here is IMO pretty extreme. Just putting a two stop grad over the top third isn't going to be enough to bring out a lot of detail and colour in the boat, and indeed if you grad heavily enough to do so you'll blast out the water in the mid-ground. Its the sort of photograph best avoided with slide film unless you're happy with silhouettes.
  5. Dan,

    Thanks for the feedback... I'll look into some lower contrast slide film while at the same time adjusting my metering. I have to admit I wasn't terribly impressed with the E100VS, I shot a roll of E100GX at the same time and was much more impressed with the overall look.
  6. Hi David,

    Thanks for the suggestions... this certainly was the most extreme example I could come up with. I had a few more that I could have exposed better, but with some good post-processing I could probably rescue most of those details.

    I think that it would be worthwhile to look into some less contrasty slide film as both you and Dan have suggested. It was pretty difficult to expose these shots, having no idea exactly what I was going to get back... I've learned with the luxury of digital and matrix metering but I've also been shooting B&W negative film for a while, which gives me even more of a comfort zone than the digital!

    Thanks a lot :)
  7. I'd say, use your incident meter as your starting point, then bracket. A polarizer might help with the sky tones. And remember that when we talk about highlights, we're talking about things that aren't white. That is, we're talking about the elements of an image that have information in them, and hoping to record them accurately enough that the transition from the meaningful highlights to actual light sources aren't gross.

  8. I'm certainly no expert but I have shot slides for decades. What works best for me is to spot meter on something light and then open up one stop. You can't just meter on something light. It would turn out medium toned. You need to open up a stop to make it come out light on film. You can even meter on your hand if it's in the same light as your subject.

    A quicker but less accurate technique is to meter on a medium toned area when the lighting is flat. As the lighting increases in contrast, begin metering on something a bit lighter.

    Another technique when metering on a medium toned area:
    For flat lighting - apply no correction
    For late afternoon (pretty lighting) - underexpose by 1/3 stop
    For harsh lighting - underexpose by 2/3 stop

    Print film captures a larger contrast range than slides. Black and white does even better. dr 5 chrome can turn B&W film into B&W slides. It's a bit expensive but the results are great. google it if interested.

    Your sample is about as tough as it gets. The glare off the water makes your camera think the sun is excessively bright and so it stops down, underexposing the scene.

    Honestly, you do have to make compromises but with slide film, if in doubt it is almost always better bracket or to slightly underexpose. The slightest bit of overexposure looks horrible. Half a stop of underexposure looks differnt than a perfectly exposed slide but it doesn't look bad.

    If you can find a small, used lightbox for cheap and view your slides through a 50mm lens (lens cap side toward your eyeball) you won't believe how good they look - a lot better than when projected.

    Good luck. Slide film is great stuff!
  9. More exposure would have blown the highlits completely. That is not a solution.

    A neutral density gradiant filter to tame the sky and allow more exposure would help.

    So would overexpose and underdevelop (pull process), but you have to do the entire roll.

    Make a contrast reduction mask and copy it.

    Digital has far better ways of handling this.
  10. Color negative films can handle brightness ranges of 200:1 , or greater. Color slides (and color paper) can only handle around 40:1. This means if there is a high light ratio (difference between shadows and highlights). Then the "reflectance ratio" of the scene has to be very low.(difference between darkest to lightest objects).

    The idea here is that one must tailor the scene's contrast to fit the film. As suggested above the ND grads can help greatly. The old adage of "shoot with the sun behind and over your shoulder", isn't a bad idea with slide films.
  11. Shooting into the sun is not appropriate with slide film unless you want foreground objects to be silhouettes.

    As others suggested if you recomposed to keep the sun and bright clouds out of the frame you could have had the foreground exposed normally.
  12. I like to shoot slide film - but subjects like what is shown here are just off limits. Choose just the boat interior, recompose and shoot that. Or recompose for the sky mostly allowing for a horizon silhouette. If projected, consider showing both exposures successively narrating an explanation.

    Before digital- If I really wanted to invest some time. I might use print film and take two shots of the above scene. One of them would be just like your example. Then another shot would be taken exposing for the shadows. Kodalith masks would be made following the silhouette outline of the darker photo. Through the mask one photo would be printed. The other negative would be setup in register and the negative of the mask would also be set in register and another exposure onto the same paper would be done. Of course if the boat moved between the original exposures you are in trouble.

    With photo editing software two exposures scanned from slide film or taken by a digital camera can be merged much easier. You can even get away with some movement due to the localized skewing and/or stretching during editing. Then a slide can be made if projection is desired.
  13. "I think that it would be worthwhile to look into some less contrasty slide film..."

    The least contrasty slide film available is probably Fuji Astia. Even then, the results wouldn't be very different.

    Color negative film would work much better in situation. Meter for the boat, and any of the 400ISO portrait films would have captured most of the tonal range, even the clouds.

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