Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by scarletfield, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. Yes, apologies (again) for the terminology confusion about reversal film. Since I so rarely shoot print film, I made the mistake of thinking of a negative as "reversed"; sorry about that, I should have checked. I believe the statements about its behaviour were otherwise correct, though!

    Re. the problems - my understanding is that the film will have been developed as for ISO 400, which will result in an image that's darker than for normal metering (that is, the negative is lighter), since effectively it was deliberately underexposed compared with what the meter said (and possibly well exposed for the highlit sky). As others said, you may not want to do this with negative film in many cases because it's likely better to capture the shadows properly and print darker. However, if the print was made with the exposure typical for a correctly-exposed film, I believe the camera exposure settings WOULD have resulted in darker prints. I believe the issue is that the prints were underexposed (or corrected digitally) to "correct" for the underexposure in the negatives.

    Scarletfield claims to be deliberately trying to produce low key images. That can be achieved with a conventionally-exposed negative either by editing digitally or taking nicely to whoever's doing to printing (if it's not entirely automated and being run by someone who was told what button to press). Getting the exposure right in a slide is less forgiving, but does directly correspond to the settings you use in the camera (if it's processed normally), taking the "getting the print shop to do something unexpected" step out of the process, should that prove to be difficult.

    It's certainly possible to learn with film, and generations of photographer's have done so. But when learning settings, there's a lot to be said for having immediate feedback, having the settings you used recorded in the EXIF, and not having the print shop "reinterpret" everything for you. Film is a fun medium and trends to train you not to waste money on unnecessary shots, but it's neither easier nor cheaper these days. That mean anyone shouldn't do it, just that you need to know it's making life a little harder.
  2. If Scarletfield exposed the first shot normally the scan would still look the same but better. It will not look any brighter. If the processor simply scans the negative on automatic it would have about the same brightness but with more details and contrast. If the negative is to be printed or scan with a fixed exposure you wouldn't be happy with the results because very slight changes in the original exposure will make the result quite different. Variations in film batch and the age of the film make it impossible to print or scan without some form of compensation for each roll. Today most negatives are scanned before making prints so it's all in the scanning. Back when I was making prints using a fully automatic optical printing machine, the machine would measure the color and density and adjust the exposure and filtration automatically. The operator had the ability to put in some compensation if he/she wanted. The compensation settings were available for both color and exposure.
  3. Well, yes. Of course, Scarletfield doesn't want it to look the same - the intent was to scan it in the way a more highly exposed image would be scanned, without trying to recover shadow detail. I'm not sure I see the problem with the camera exposure settings (with this output intent) - if it was better to "expose normally according to the meter" in these circumstances, it would also be better to overexpose deliberately when trying to create the brighter print (by the same "get more shadow details and rely on highlight headroom" argument).

    Sometimes that may be true, analogously with the digital "expose to the right" approach for preserving highlights. But if you're within the dynamic range of the film, I don't see the problem with exposing as you intend to print. If you're worried, use the zone system and spot meter.

    That surprises me unpleasantly. I can believe some variation, but slide film doesn't have this (surely the processing itself isn't dynamically tweaked?) I'd expect the print/scan to be adjusted to try to get the best exposure out of the image and "idiot proof" the process (many customers would have underexposed the image accidentally), but for film adjustments to be relatively minor within a film stock (although I certainly believe film stocks vary). But print film isn't my area, so I'll admit some confusion.

    I'm sure the scanner operator (or, possibly, person doing an optical print) can adjust appropriately. My concern was that the operator in a supermarket "while you wait" print booth might not have been trained in the basics of doing so. I may be doing them a disservice by worrying. A decent scan can certainly be adjusted digitally (just as I tweaked the JPEG). My argument was that asking the operator to intervene is purely a feature of the negative film printing process, not slide or digital, so switching medium would be a way to avoid it.
  4. Well if in the first photo the OP need details in the snow then perhaps try not to over exposed it by more 3 stops but having more exposure would be much better. If the emphasis is the face of the person then I would to the minimum giving normal exposure to the dark side of the face. The bright nose would be well within the dynamic of the film. The print and then be print just as dark without problem. The print will have more contrast.
    If I were to lock the printing machine to the same exposure and filtration perhaps to that I used to print the reference negative perfectly and print your negative that way you wouldn't be happy at all. Color balancing and exposure is the most difficult thing when printing color negative. Same thing with scanning. If you put your scanner on manual mode and adjust the color balance and exposure to make a perfect scan of a negative you use as standard and use the exact same settings to scan other negatives the results are quite bad.
  5. I defer to your expertise, BeBu, since you've run a print machine and the nearest I've done is scan elderly slides that needed some digital recovery. But that means I have questions too.

    I understand that negative films may not all have the same density, tone response or colour balance (that these may be optimised for capturing detail rather than consistency between stocks). Still, I'm surprised that it's necessary to do more than adjust for the particular film type, just because if slide film were this inconsistent it would be unusable. (Slide films have different "looks", Provia looks different to Velvia, but only to the extent of a choice of artistic rendering.) Should it really be necessary to expose a colour chart at the start of every roll?

    I've had underexposed shots come back to me in a similarly washed-out manner to Scarletfield's. My difference was often that I'd used the wrong exposure settings so the print needed brightening to show anything, whereas Scarletfield actually wanted a dark print. I have to assume print shops default to assuming the customer messed up the exposure like me, and simply needed telling that the exposure choice was deliberate.

    I would expect that deliberately exposing a negative to maximise the captured detail in the desired zones to be a more "advanced technique" than merely metering for the desired print. As such, I don't see why "expose for the default metering of the scene" (where the meter is typically a fairly crude instrument anyway) is good advice when the intent is to print deliberately at a different intensity.

    I'd still hope the negatives contain the desired detail, and that they can just be re-scanned with darker settings, or (with enough bit depth) adjusted digitally.
  6. Andrew,
    First I am not sure why color negative film have a lot of variations but I think because it has very low contrast that is the curve has very gentle slope so the printing paper has very steep slope and a small variation in the negative becomes a larger variation in the print. Typically color negative film has the slope of about 0.6 and the printing paper about 1.8.
    Your underexposed shot almost always come back to your in a washed out manner because most operators think you want a bright image. Besides I believe using the printing machine normally without any compensation would result in same. To make the print dark (low key) regardless of how the film was exposed the operator must intervene.
    Default metering of scene isn't the best however it's much better than what the OP did by deliberately underexpose the film. If the OP were to set the ISO at 400 and EC at 0 in my opinion the shot of the woman in the dark would be fine and the shots of the street would still be slightly underexposed but not at bad as what the OP got. I recommend it because it's the simplest way if the OP is a beginner.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  7. Thanks, BeBu.

    I'd assumed that Scarletfield had already taken some shots with default metering, and was trying to experiment with low-key as a new thing. Maybe not.

    Surely using the default metered exposure for the street would produce a less noisy version of the same street image (assuming the version we were shown was brightened at the print stage, as we surmise) - not the much darker image apparently intended. I still suspect that getting a substantially dark print out of the print shop can more or less only be achieved by telling them that was the intent. Or avoiding the print "interpretation" process with slide film or digital.

    Fortunately this is a level of pain I've not suffered for a while. Of course, it's only pain if you're not doing your own printing.
  8. That is why I bought the Df (my first DSLR) when my wife made me get rid of the darkroom.
    western_isles and Andrew Garrard like this.
  9. I admit I have not read the comments above more than to scan over them

    BUT, I think I get the gist of it, to wit:

    You have to learn how to walk before you run.
    Learn what proper exposure is and how to get it -- then you can play around with with over/under exposure, and all of the thousands of parameters that can be varied
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  10. You do "print interpretation" when you PP a RAW file. We consider PP with digital as a norm while making your own print in the darkroom is not. Yeah, when I shoot film I am going to use only slide film. I started with slide film and switch to color negative when I learned how to make my own prints. Now when I shoot film I am back to slide film.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  11. True, BeBu. And I'm thinking in terms of the plain JPEG out of the camera; I edit any slide that I scan too, but I consider that to be as "advanced" as doing your own printing.

    (To be fair, I might not be scared off doing my own printing of black and white film, if I had space and time to do it. Colour scares me, because you can mess up the tones so easily - and editing the image digitally, no matter the source, is so much easier and more flexible that I don't really feel the need.)
  12. Andrew don't be scared of B&W processing. Many years ago my late father started me on it in a home darkroom, my mother was not happy losing the use of the cupboard! and later when I met my wife we got into B&W processing and our romance developed (pun intended).

    It can be great fun and you can get a great deal of satisfaction form home processing.
  13. Andrew. Be very scared of B&W processing. It's a slippery slope to losing all interest in the pictorial content of your photographs and getting totally hung up on chemical and mechanical processes.

    I had 40 years of that cr*p when film was the only way to do it, and my first digital camera was a breath of fresh air.

    The medium and process don't matter a damn as long as the final picture pleases you. Suffering for one's art is greatly overrated!

    Time (and money) wasted beggaring about with film is time that could be spent taking pictures and improving your 'eye', IMO.
  14. :) I'll attempt to take both of those piece of advice. (Currently my house doesn't have anywhere light-tight, unless I kneel over the chemicals in the under-stairs cupboard, which doesn't seem wise. But I'll bear it in mind if I move.)

    I certainly need it. And I know RJ has seen my photos on Nikon Wednesdays!
  15. I meant no insult to you or your pictures Andrew. In fact it was more a reflection on what I would do if I had my time over again.

    My time with film has given me a perspective between it and digital however, and of the two, digital offers by far the more creative freedom.

    Using film is comparable to painting with the canvas, pallette and your hands hidden in a box; a box that can't be opened until days later. Who would willingly do that?
  16. :) Don't worry, RJ, I was being entirely tongue in cheek. (Even if I did take it personally, it still would have been constructive, and my own opinion of what I really need to do.)

    Shooting more film would do me good in that the enforced discipline would slow me down a bit, although I really need to try to develop the content of my fridge. But I'm most inclined to play with large format if I'm going to do that. Ironically, though there's nice weather today for once, I'm too busy to go out and take advantage of it.
  17. "Shooting more film would do me good in that the enforced discipline would slow me down a bit,"

    - I keep hearing this as a reason (lame excuse?) for using film. Sorry! I don't follow the logic as to why film 'slows you down'. Or even why being slowed down is a good thing.

    There's such a thing as 'working the subject' - I.e. exploring angles, distances, framing, etc. and digital allows that much more freely (literally) than film. It's a bit difficult to fully concentrate on taking pictures when each click of the shutter is sounding like a cash register 'kerching' in your head and clocking another few tens of pence into the red column.

    Money aside; the ability to instantly see the result of an exposure or lighting change, or that the subject blinked during the exposure, is priceless.

    I won't even touch on the ecological impact of wasting silver, plastic, chemicals and packaging materials!
    Dieter Schaefer likes this.
  18. RJ: I agree, and I'm not going to give up shooting digital any time soon. When I've shot film, though, I've found myself more hesitant to take the shot because I know it'll waste money. That does slow me down and try to think more about positioning myself. For a landscape, that may be a good thing (although so is being able to try ten different similar variations). It's obviously useless if you're trying to capture some action, or if you need to know whether everything has worked when you capture it.

    In theory, shooting film might make me less prone to taking a shot with a telegraph pole coming out of someone's head (I am useless at paying attention to the background). In reality, it would probably just mean I'd have more reason to be annoyed at taking the useless photo, and guarantee I couldn't notice and re-shoot in the field.

    My argument for large format is that the time it takes me to faff with focus and setup might be enough to allow me to notice compositional snafus. It would, of course, also mean I missed the light!
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.

Share This Page