What causes photos to look like this?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by tron_, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    So I shot some really old Kodak BW400CN in my Olympus 35RC on Monday. I don't know when the film expired but judging by the cassette label, it was pretty old (12 exposure, had the old label). I figured why not, might as well give it a try.

    I was pretty interested to see that some frames looked normal whereas others had a REALLY grainy and low contrast look to them.

    So what most likely caused some of my frames to turn out like this?
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    While others turned out like this (more normal):
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Exposure.
     
  3. ajs77306

    ajs77306 Member

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    My response is also "exposure". I've had this occur before when shooting in low-light situations, with fresh film. Would this have happened to you if you had been shooting outdoors in indirect bright natural light? Would it have happened to you if you would have been using a faster lens? I don't think it would have.
     
  4. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    You have underexposed the negatives. Try printing the first two with a higher grade paper.
     
  5. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    Was this roll processed in B&W chemicals by any chance? (BW400CN is a C41 film)
    as well as any underexposure, that might account for some of the low contrast and large grain of this otherwise rather nice film.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 4, 2012
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    a hard paper contrast, which still was not hard enough.
     
  7. mike-o

    mike-o Member

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    My initial thought was exposure.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Yep, first two are under exposed.

    I'm going to guess you we're you using the camera's meter to set/find exposure. Camera meters are notoriously easy to fool.

    In the first shot the white light behind the subject (you?) probably tricked the camera, the second shot maybe the lettering. Shots three and four the meter happened to find good areas to work with.

    All four though are probably the luck of the draw, all 4 could have easily gone the other way with a slight change in composition or your luck.

    With all reflective meters, handheld or camera based, you have to figure out what the meter is telling you first then decide if that's right for the shot of if it needs an offset to get past the luck of the draw. Even the fancy metering system in a Nikon F6 can get fooled.

    This doesn't mean you can't get usable readings with your Olympus, just that you have to take what it's telling you with a grain of salt.
     
  9. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it! As far as the meter used to shoot these, I didn't use the camera meter since I have not had a chance to rig up a Schottkey diode to get the correct 1.35V (I think it was 1.35V, I'll have to double check).

    I had an Olympus 35RC that met an untimely end so I bought this beat up one off the big auction site and plan on restoring it. So these are just test shots to make sure everything is in working order.

    Long story short, the meter I used was my brain. Apparently that is pretty easy to fool :whistling:

    What is strange is that I have underexposed a couple frames I shot on the last roll I used in this camera (fresh roll of BW400CN) and the shots did not turn out like this. Here is an example of what an underexposed shot looked like off my last roll:

    8037754038_9db5808a7a_z.jpg
     
  10. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    the films have various sized grains and it is the larger that are more sensitive -- when you underexpose they are more prominent ... as to your last frame -- you may have underexposed, but the print/scan is to get t he light parts correct -- if you were to try to scan just the dark areas you would see this as well.

    most color films do that, in my experience -- when the lab tries to print a shot where the flash doesn't go off on my snap shots the result also looks like this, grainy and yucky.
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Fresh film is a good thing and can help but its not a guarantee.

    You may need to re-think how you are defining underexposure.

    True underexposure is where you have lost real detail and can't easily print what you want, like the first two examples you provided.

    If you got all the info you needed on the negative, like in post 9, you did not underexpose.
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I assume that you shot these photos somewhere on a college/university campus. Presumably in a common area of a dorm, a library or the student union?

    I absolutely agree that low light and under exposure are the root cause of the problem but, further, I might add that most public areas in college buildings have icky light for photography. Usually fluorescent and/or indirect incandescent which often produces flat, lifeless and difficult to expose lighting conditions.

    The human eye quickly adjusts to those conditions but cameras don't. Consequently, you have to be more conscious of the light you are shooting under when you go from one lighting condition to another, especially when shooting indoors.

    For example, the first two shots probably came out crummy because you were in the middle of a room where there was little or no direct light. Only diffuse, room light. In the second two shots you seemed to be near a window or under a light fixture which gave you better, more direct light.

    Bottom line: Learn to watch your light and use that to achieve the picture you want.

    I don't know how many times I have been sizing up a picture and passed on it because the light wasn't what I wanted.
    People often look confused when I tell them, "I don't like the light."
     
  13. batwister

    batwister Member

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    The photographer.
     
  14. kevs

    kevs Member

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    The lab's automatic printing machine compensated for thin negatives by giving too little exposure to the paper to give good blacks, thus showing up the grain. Machines are stoopid - if you want the low key look, print them so the shadows are black, not a dull grey.
     
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Ok, I'll quantify it. The negatives from the first photographs presented in the original post are SEVERELY underexposed. If you post a scan of the negatives it will be much more clear (pun intended :smile:).
     
  16. Andre Noble

    Andre Noble Subscriber

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    Underexposure.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Underexposure, plus the effects of trying to adjust for it through the adjustments available to those who print or scan.

    The OP is seeing variations in the results because the adjustments vary.