Sily question: Properly exposed and developed negatives

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Yoricko, Feb 13, 2011.

  1. Yoricko

    Yoricko Member

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    Hello folks,

    I've been experimenting with my development process and I can't tell if I'm doing anything right or not.

    I don't know if my eyes are screwed or what but I've heard and read that a properly exposed negative has both visible shadow details and highlight details.

    I can't really see anything on the negative. I believe this comes from experience, yes?

    Quite recently, I was given the chance to make some proof sheets and realized that most of my negatives are slightly-dark. How does a 'correct' (average) proof sheet look like? Slightly bright? Very neutral gray?

    Regards,
     
  2. panchro-press

    panchro-press Member

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    I would recommend reading 'The Zone VI Workshop' by Fred Picker. It will concisely show you how to make a 'proper proof' and adjust your exposure and development to produce negatives of high quality.
    It doesn't matter if you're interested in the Zone system. The book will help you make your evaluations.

    Dave
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You cannot generalize that much IMO. Proper (or "ideal," to use my preferred term) exposure and development can vary wildly from shot to shot. An ideally exposed and developed negative is a negative that lets you fairly easily make the print you want. So, step number one in judging a negative is to have an aesthetic opinion about what your picture should look like in the end. Once you have these visual criteria set, then you can adjust the technical parameters to meet them. The latter is the easy part; anyone and their dog can learn technique with time and practice. As for learning to know what you want, you just may never do so, and if you do, you might find that it changes.

    If you want to know what a "textbook" negative should look like, I would look in a textbook like "Photography" by London and Upton. There are usually descriptions with pictures in photo textbooks. At least one should be available at your local library.

    I don't think that anything but the finer points of reading a negative come with experience. One can see most of what is there in the thin parts and the thick parts even as a beginner. Learning exactly what it will print like takes a little experience printing, but you should get the general idea (i.e. it's the opposite of what you will get on the print) without too much trouble.
     
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  4. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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  5. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Yoricko,

    If your current proof sheets are all "slightly-dark," you may just be incorrectly exposing the proof sheet!

    A simple way to evaluate you negatives is to make what is called a "proper proof." Contact print your negatives so that a clear area (or a clear, but developed and fixed piece of film) with the minimum exposure to give you a good black. This means making several contact prints at different exposures and evaluating them to decide which exposure you want to use for your "good black." Keep in mind, this good black should not be maximum paper black, but it should be close.

    Once you have the exposure for your good black (f-stop, time, light intensity, enlarger head height, etc.), then use this to contact print other negatives from the same film.

    If your negatives lack shadow detail, increase exposure. If your shadow values are all too light (i.e., gray and not black) but the film edges are printing to your "good black," decrease exposure (be careful not to use the highlight areas to evaluate proper exposure).

    Once your shadows are correct, check the highlights. If they are generally too contrasty, reduce development. If generally not contrasty enough, increase development. Keep in mind, especially if you are shooting roll film, that you should be adjusting contrast by changing paper grade. Only if 80% of your negatives fall into the too contrasty or not contrasty enough categories should you be making development changes.

    The above is a simple summary of what the previous poster was referring to.

    Best and good luck,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  6. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    You can't really tell much about highlight detail examining negatives. Severe overexposure can only really be diagnosed during printing. Otherwise, the ability to picking out under-exposure and under-development can be learned easily on the light table.

    Proof sheets may, or may-not tell you anything about exposure. It depends on the exposure conditions of the proof sheet.
     
  7. JS MD

    JS MD Member

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    Grrrrrrrrrrr
     
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  8. JS MD

    JS MD Member

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  9. JS MD

    JS MD Member

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    :laugh:
     
  10. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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  11. jnanian

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  12. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    Mostly you will need to overexpose the film a little bit to compensate your light measurement and shutter speed inaccuracy. So this depends on your method and gear. that is why you must do some tests to find out what is best for your situation
     
  13. yeknom02

    yeknom02 Member

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    The way I was taught to make proof sheets was to make a test strip for each new film and to pick the exposure time where the sprocket holes finally disappeared. Of course, this assumes you're shooting 35mm. If you're using a different film format, I'd say expose to the point where the edges are no longer distinguishable.
     
  14. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Yoriko:

    There is nothing silly about your question at all!

    Do you know anyone else who uses film and has the experience to be able to evaluate your negatives? If so, ask them to look at your negatives for you, and give you some advice on how to do it yourself.

    Don't forget to consider people who work in camera stores or photo labs. If there are night school or similar courses available that cover film use, that would be a great choice too.
     
  15. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    This is definitely not a silly question. Not asking is silly.

    I remember hearing [no I do not remember the source] that a properly exposed and developed negative is thick enough to have dark areas and think enough to read a printed page through the darkest areas. Comments on this from others, please.

    Steve
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You will find this suggestion in a number of different locations. Some of the older Kodak publications come to mind. I think though that the reference is to newspaper type, rather than just type on a printed page.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Thank you. I would stand corrected, but I am sitting at my computer now. :laugh:
     
  18. CBG

    CBG Member

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    Those are good questions. Not silly at all.

    We can be most helpful when we know how you are working in the darkroom, and how you will be making finished prints. Any more information from you will be useful.

    The best way we can help - and for you to know - is for you to make a darkroom style enlargement if you are going to be making that kind of enlargements, a contact print if the end result you want will be contact prints, or a scan if you will be outputting via computer printer. Proof sheets are maybe-sort of-helpful, but you will learn the most from actually doing the process. Nothing substitutes for the real thing.

    When you get those results, come back and share what you get with us and we'll be able to help you further. If you can post a jpg of the results that's helpful. If you can't, then tell us what you are getting. In either case, the more you tell us about what you are doing and how you are doing it, the more we can be informative. Of course, if you have any other questions in the meantime, we'd love to help!

    When you are starting it is normal to have some disappointing results as you sort out what to do. Don't get discouraged!
     
  19. Yoricko

    Yoricko Member

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    Thanks for the quick replies everyone. I was amazed at how many people replied to my seemingly 'silly' thread.

    Thanks for the links, I'll post some scans later (hope it does justice to my negatives).

    --

    After taking a look at http://www.ephotozine.com/article/assessing-negatives-4682

    I can say mine looks somewhere between the left and middle column of the middle row, steering more towards the left column.

    Same goes for the proofs (the positives)
     
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  20. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    I agree with the statement that a properly exposed negative should allow you to easily print properly.

    Now for the cheat, find a properly exposed photo in D format and invert in an editing program, even MS paint can invert colors, that would be a properly exposed negative. You could also shoot the same shot in D while shooting with film and if it is properly exposed invert it and compare to your negative for instant feedback. While D is not a proper medium for making long lasting photos, I find it is a great tool for helping you learn things like this rather quickly. If your film negative is darker you need less exposure, too thin more exposure or a little more developing time, but I recommend adjusting exposure rather than processing, it is far easier to adjust the camera than it is to adjust your process.
     
  21. archer

    archer Member

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    The old rule of thumb was that a properly exposed and processed negative, should, when placed on a news paper, allow you to read the print through the most heavily exposed part of the negative, in which you wish to retain some detail or texture and the least exposed part of the negative, in which you wish to see detail or texture, should show that detail or texture against the white of the newspaper. I believe, these instructions were included in a Kodak pamphlet that was included with Microdol X developer packaging in the 1950's.
    Denise Libby
     
  22. Yoricko

    Yoricko Member

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    Got it scanned. Do take note that for the negative scans, there is quite a bit of directional shadows from the scanner.

    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2_008.jpg - No levels, proof
    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2_009.jpg - Levels, proof
    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2_010.jpg - No levels, negatives
    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2_011.jpg - Levels, negatives

    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2-012.jpg - No levels, negatives, clean
    EI400 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2-013.jpg - Levels, negatives, clean

    EI1600 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2004.jpg - No levels, proof
    EI1600 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2005.jpg - Levels, proof
    EI1600 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2006.jpg - No levels, negatives
    EI1600 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19872079/qinub2007.jpg - Levels, negatives

    --

    Finally I got some time to look at my negatives, seems like it's under-developed, especially the ones that were processed at 'EI1600'.
     
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  23. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I don't see anything glaringly wrong with those development wise. Maybe a tad bit underdeveloped, but that's harder to judge from scans. The real test in my book for development is wet printing. If you can print a normalish scene with a normal brightness range acceptably on grade 2 or 3 paper, then your development is (approximately) good. If your results are too contrasty in those prints, then you need to reduce development. If they are too flat, increase it.

    They also might be a bit underexposed. For example, in the EI 400 roll, frame 41 is definitely underexposed, and I'd say that frames 39 and 4 are too. Some of the shots, like 38, are useable, but in terms of the women's hair and clothes, you'd need more exposure to capture detail - so we could call that underexposed. A lot of your frames on that roll have that same look, but you were also shooting a lot of people with dark hair and clothes who are standing in front of bright backgrounds - a recipe for underexposure of your subject if you don't account for it.

    The EI 1600 shots are definitely underexposed, but that goes without saying, since they are intentionally underexposed by two stops. This will cost you detail in the shadows. That being said, it doesn't look like these shots on the whole are underexposed any more than what was necessary for EI 1600, and the development doesn't look like it's under. It might even be a bit over...

    Most of the time, unless you are really screwing up the development, problems with negatives are usually exposure problems, with a big tendency towards underexposure. While I do not belong to the group that says you should half the rating of any film for good negatives, you do need to be careful with your exposure, and note that negative film can handle a lot more overexposure gracefully than it can underexposure.

    I would second picking up a copy of Horenstein or David Vestal's "The Craft of Photography". The latter is very good and available very cheap used.