Discussion in 'Black and White' started by brizzybunny, Oct 8, 2020.

  1. Hello, I'm super new to photography. I'm taking my first ever class for this semester. I wanted to ask the more seasoned photographers here what is your personal method for avoiding under or over exposure, and sometimes do you think it's better to have a photograph over or under exposed for any certain type of effect?
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  2. Speaking just for myself, learn the basics of correct exposure first and what happens when you under or overexpose. Going beyond that would depend on what you are trying to do and there are several variables. If you are shooting digital the simplest solution is to expose properly in RAW and work it from there. With film it is more critical to expose correctly as you wonโ€™t have as many options in a darkroom as you do on a digital file.

    Rick H.
  3. Use a meter!
    With its recommendation modified by experience.
    Under or over exposure is relative. The correct exposure is the one that gives the effect you're after.

    Incident metering nearly always gives a better 'baseline' exposure to work from than a reflective reading.

    I strongly suggest you experiment using a digital camera in manual mode. This is a near cost-free way to try things out - not just exposure variations. Photography falls into the category of 'experiential learning' where you need near-instant feedback in order to modify behaviours/skills. A bit like learning to juggle or ride a bicycle.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2020
  4. Exactly.
    Many times. Let's say one of most common:
    Think on any image, say a farmhouse this type under strong, direct sunlight and deep shadows. The automatic meter in your camera choose a "correct" exposure.
    But you know the shadow will be too dark in the print (too thin, almost no detail in the film), and you want a little more detail in the shadowed wall.
    So you may want to overexpose a bit (to get more densities on the film). Shadow detail and clarity will be higher on the print.
    You have then overexposed your photo, but the shadowed areas are perfectly exposed for you.
    The highlighted areas on your image too much dense (dark) the film, maybe too weak or bright on the image. They are overexposed.
    So you know your photo has been overexposed.
    (To have the right image on film, you should then underdevelop the film (to keep it less time than "normal" in the developer, in order to avoid too much density on the highlights, but this is another topic... -although closely and inevitably related with film exposure-).
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2020
  5. Oops... something failed, "The highlighted areas on your image too much dense (dark) the film, maybe too weak or bright on the image... ".
    I wanted to mean: "The highlighted areas on your image will be too much dense (dark) on the film, so maybe too much weak or bright on the print... "
  6. Film!
    An absolutely ridiculous medium for someone that declares themselves "super new to photography" to be learning with.

    Like learning to juggle with objects that stay floating in the air for a few days before falling back down - and after being randomly tampered with by someone else while up there.
  7. As a person who has mentored several people just starting in film photography (ongoing), I go with Joe's thinking. It is insane trying to change the logic patterns of people about the various film related subjects one needs to imprint on the little grey cells. Most young people of today are living MTV, dna altered, lives. I believe it is termed "Instant Gratification " Since low priced digital cameras with controls are widely available, the effect of over / under exposure "pops" in their brains almost instantly. They do not care about Jpg vrs Raw, noise, etc., they just see an image and can compare the difference.
    Once you lead this person into the SEEING part of photography, then EZ them into the Techno aspects of our various mechanical creations and their related results. . the need to process the film and finally, The Print, be it outsourced or in house (scanned) and the computer work up.
    K.I.S.S. is still a good talking point.. Aloha, Bill
  8. Sorry guys, can't agree with you. I managed to learn using film and I suspect both of you did as well. Digital wasn't even a pipe dream in those days. We had to learn it if we wanted to get anywhere. That it took more work and time was a good thing and still is. Instant gratification is certainly an issue now and I see no reason to support it while trying to teach or learn something about photography. If that's all anyone wants then I guess their I phone will keep them happy. If one wants to learn how it works and how to achieve one or another effect like shallow depth of field and so on then do the work!

    Rick H.
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  9. Sorry, but using the best teaching tool for the job has nothing to do with "instant gratification" - the more appropriate term when using a digital camera to teach photographic basics is "instant feedback". Use the right tool for the job - direct access to a histogram sure beats having to cope with Adams' zone system. Not that the latter is something I would attempt to teach someone who just gets their feet wet in photography.

    If I were to take a photography class today and the teacher would start with film, I'd run and find one that has moved on into the twenty-first century. Just because I had to start with a slide rule and logarithm tables doesn't mean anyone today has to do the same.
  10. The key word here is "managed", and what's omitted is "because there was nothing better available at the time."

    Can you immediately see the effect of a shutter speed change using film? No!
    Or immediately see how aperture affects depth-of-field? No!
    Appreciate how tones are transformed from real life to a two dimensional and tone-compressed image? No!

    It has nothing to do with instant "gratification" (like that's a bad thing anyway) and everything to do with learning in the most efficient manner.

    This whole attitude against digital is like something out of a comedy sketch - "Eeee. If it were good enough for me, and me father afore me, and his father afore him, why then it ought to be plenty good enough for thee. Eat thy gruel an' be grateful!"
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  11. Uhm... This thread contained nothing of the sort, but someone posted a comment "Film! An absolutely ridiculous medium" and the, no, your comedy show took off from there.
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  12. No. This is where the comedy started:
    That's absolute gobble-de-gook to a complete beginner, and makes little sense to anyone else that doesn't use sheet film that can be individually developed.
  13. Well, that's an opinion.

    I agree that the time it takes between exposure decision and the time you get to see the result is not helpful. But the fact that you get to do things in between that also shape the result is something digital cannot provide.

    Is it gobble-de-gook? I do not think so. It's part of the knowledge to be acquired. You do not learn anything when only presented with things that are not new and do not present a challenge to master.

    Indeed, it would help if you could develop each frame individually. So ideally, you learn things using a view camera (good for learning a bit about focus and perspective too) and sheet film.
    It in particular is advice that is applicable to roll film as well. I routinely did that. SOP: standard operating procedure.

    Is film and absolutely ridiculous medium? Not for someone wanting to learn about exposure. Not as a medium in general.
    And that suggestion is where the comedy really started.

    I do agree with your metering recommendations. Both that incident metering provides the best starting point and that you have to learn and build up experience.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2020
  14. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    The trouble with using film to learn exposure, aside from the problems designated above, people look at the prints they get back and not at the film itself. A printer analyzer may see a dark underexposed frame and print it lighter so it looks better. If one didn't look at the film, one would think that it was a good exposure taken. I once took several shots of surfers near the beach. All shots were manual and the settings were all the same determined by an incident light meter. The frames were all of the same density on the film but In shots where there was a lot of white water the photo would be very dark because the analyzer was "fooled" by all the white in the frame and printed the photo darker to "compensate." Looking at the print, one would think that it had been underexposed.

    And, most people just look at the print. I don't know how many time I have told people to look at the film when they ask a question about something that looks wrong and they are just looking at and posting an image of the photo.

    This may be of interest:

  15. Care to elaborate?
  16. Sure. As you know, before you get to see the result of your decision how to expose a frame, you have to process the film (many variables there, including what film to use to begin with). You select a paper and paper grade, determine how to expose that, using what type of light. Dodge, burn, split grade, etc. How to process the paper (not a lot of choice, except what developer to use. Unless, of course, you're not going the silverbromide paper route).
    That sort of stuff.

    Yes, digital allows post processing. But that's in post. No instant learning tool either.
    No headaches from noxious fumes or itchy and stained fingers, though. I like digital. I also appreciate film.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2020
  17. What you say about analyzers is true. Such a thing is just a light meter, and as with meters used to analyse the original scene, you can't 'just' use such a thing and expect good results. You have to learn how they work and how to use them. Your example is just that old black cat in the snow or in the coalshed thing that is part of metering 1.0.1 literature.
    I don't think it is an obstacle. It shouldn't be. If one knows how to use a meter, one will know how to use one on the printing stage. If not, it will be an extra lesson.

    Which is: do not blindly follow a meter that averages an entire scene.
  18. Joe as much as I enjoy film and as much as I learned using it I have nothing against digital, I use it all the time. I find it a bit boring at times but it has its uses and on occasion makes life easier. Then again I once made the mistake of using an older generation card reader to download a large card. It took 15 hours. Had I been under a deadline there would have been a problem.

    Rick H.
  19. I would submit that film development and most certainly creating print is also post-processing. Unless I shoot JPEG, I "develop" a RAW file almost exactly equivalent to like I would film - lot's of parameters to consider and optimize. Starting with the "correct" exposure of a RAW file - which quite often can deviate from the exposure chosen from the "SOOC" school: quite overexposed and then "underdevelopment" on the computer. Helps keeping noise in check and allows for all the selective adjustments that you mention - before you ever think about creating a print.

    +1 on the first.
    I have forgotten that film even exists.

    In all likelihood I would no longer photograph at all had digital not come along - I had grown to quite dislike dealing with the shortcomings of film.
  20. Surely photography is about the vision - getting what you see in your head into a form that you can present to other people?

    Not about learning chemical process control.

    Not about fondling cameras and admiring their workmanship.

    Not about spending time in dark smelly rooms.

    Not about fumbling about in a cloth bag trying to push a bit of curly plastic into a slot.

    Certainly not about giving over control of the final image to someone, or some machine that couldn't care less about the result.

    In short: Not about being distracted into learning skills that have absolutely nothing to do with said transference of vision.

    Learn about lighting, composition, perspective, the power of symbolism, how to focus attention on and isolate a subject, and all the rest of the stuff that the viewer of the result will actually see. Because they won't give a damn about the process that was used to get there.
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