Here you go. Your pics are fine, just printed too low in contrast.
Nice, Chris! The OP will thank you!
Looking at the original pictures posted, and comparing them to Chris Crawford's edited versions of those pictures, it's obvious that the lab didn't print the negatives to their full capacity.
Ian Grant's account of safety versus quality hits the head on the nail.
What you can do, when it comes to having your lab developing your film, is to interview them. Ask them what chemistry they use, and how long they would normally process the FP4+ film. When you know that, you have at least one constant in your process. Then, exposure is entirely under your control. FP4+ has quite a bit of tolerance for exposure differences, but I would send them a test roll, where you bracket your exposures in normal contrast lighting. This way you can know more what to expect from them after they print all the versions. It's basically the only control you have when you send film to a lab. It will never be perfect until you find someone, usually charging a lot more, that pays attention to every frame they print. The extra money usually goes to cover the cost of all the prints that didn't turn out well.
Or, like others have suggested, you can do it at home on your own, because that allows you processing control as well.
I don't think your prints look too bad either.....but
When you send a monochrome film to most labs ( not all ) they frequently print it onto colour paper. To me monochrome films look inherently flat on colour paper, have an apparent confused grain structure due to the dyes used to construct colours in colour paper, and you will invariably have a colour caste. If you are using that service just for proof prints thats aok.
If you want a quality print go to a lab that prints onto mono and also controls their monochrome processing well. Someone suggested using our own lab, if you do the one thing I can absolutely guarantee is that the process is spot on, we will 'push or pull' process, we care for the negs, and we print
on mono paper....
Simon. ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
The third picture of the man holding the child is suffering from flare from the sky, which is lowering contrast in the image. Other than that, ditto what everyone else has said.
Light is everything. If you got flat results with a normally (and properly) exposed, processed, and printed negative, then you shot something flat. If you didn't shoot something flat, but got something flat, one or more of the above is to blame (exposure, processing, printing).
The key is learning to judge the contrast of every situation you shoot, so you know what to expect on the prints, and how to take steps to change that if necessary.
Getting away from the in-camera meter to a properly-employed incident meter always helps a lot too. In-camera meters are the Devil. They complicate and compromise exposure in 90 % of shooting situations IMHO.
You're doing the exact right thing by overexposing one stop to get good shadow detail, given the format. The problem is that the lab's (probably automated) printing will match your overexposures with an overexposed print. And now for the horrible truth – good prints require good printing. Good expressive printing is your responsibility, either to pay for or to acquire the skills to accomplish yourself.
Ted, I'd absolutely second the idea of using Harman's mailer. A number of us saw the process in 2008 at Mobberley and it was impeccable.
Others here on APUG have said in the past that HP5+ and I suspect FP4+ negs always give the look of an English summer. For that read " produce what appears to be a low contrast print for those used to much more contrasty sunshine producing more contrasty prints.
For what it is worth I prefer your first two prints to the "adjusted versions" The third could do with a little more contrast but only a little.
Plenty of shadow detail and I suspect most of the tones in the shots were the middle range of grey tones with little white or black.
I don't think you did much wrong
Send them to Ilford! Their dev/print service is good as it gets if you can't use a custom printer or do it yourself.
+1 on the box speed.
And, the F5, like many other cameras today using matrix metering, are generally on the fat side of exposure. Most of my matrix metering cameras are calibrated for negative materials and will give you a transparency that is overexposed by 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop. With that in mind, shooting box speed will give you a neg that is fully exposed, no need to downrate the ISO again. My F4 runs about a 1/2 stop fat on exposure, on average.