T-MAX 400 highlights washed out
I shot portrait session in studio lights with white dress on a black backdrop. For the hair lights I bounced flash off the ceiling but I may have gone too bright.... the highlights seem burned out. when I printed, the dress seems to be pure white as well as some highlights in the face and arms.... :-(
I examined the negative; fortunately there seems to be still some slight visible detail in the negative on the dense areas. So I tried to print-in the highlights for a couple of extra seconds by dodging the rest of the print. Even with 2-3 extra seconds, they still come out pure white...
what are the different solutions to try here ? can formulary photographer reducer II help ? risky ? should I try burning the highlights for even more additinal time ? 5-8 seconds more perhaps ?
You might be surprised by how much you need to burn in to get any effect. Try test strips of the highlight areas only and over-shoot by at least one stop from base exposure, then say 1.5 then 2 stops etc Then you can narrow it down later. Assuming that 5-8 secs represents the best overall exposure for shadows and this is quite short even if it is only 5x7 prints, then another 8 secs is only one stop.
2-3 secs more based on how you describe the highlights is totally inadequate as you discovered
There are other things that you might do but initially I'd try what I have suggested first.
Assuming you have the contrast and exposure correct for the subjects face and have compromised the shadows as much as possible, I would move in the following steps:
- Burning in more.
- Flash the paper.
- Combine flashing with burning.
- A contrast mask for the shadows if they are still an issue.
You might choose a lower contrast grade and then burn in the shadows to give them a convincing black (assumes the shadows are less important and easy to burn).
You are on a learning curve. Do the shoot again and try to be more aware of the lighting ratio between highlights and shadows.
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Don't think of printing in seconds, think in stops. "2 or 3 seconds" is a decent burn if your base exposure is 1s, but it's practically nothing if the base exposure is 30s... And we don't know which you have.
If you have things on the face that are too-white instead of showing skin detail, your print is underexposed. (White) skin should normally be at Zone VI, which is nowhere near white. If your model is southeast-asian for example, you're going to struggle to get good contrast on both skin and a white dress without making the face look unnaturally dark. Pick a darker dress next time
You probably want to burn for at least +1 stop (same time burning as there is in the base exposure) to rein in powerful highlights. Maybe more. It's an indication that something is off in your lighting, or that you're printing at a too-high grade. Or the dress is just too bright compared to your model's skin - if no arms are visible you could try setting your print exposure to get a good rendering of the dress and then dodge out just the face.
I knew about my light ratios, I knew what I was supposed to do, yet ; I made the mistake because of the rush of the moment, the model was a little 4 year old white girl and when I switched to ISO 400 film and I adjusted my F/Stop but did not measure the lights again to make sure because I didnt want to waste the moment I had, had I taken the time to re-measure the lights and correct the pitfall, I could have lost the moment. how to deal with this ? maybe a question for another subject. :-(
Having said that, a couple of notes; I was printing on grade-2 but also tried 1-1/2 with same result; blown out hightlights. Even though I can swear I see some details when viewing the film on the light box, however, when I scanned it even at -2 less light compensation, there is no detail in the white dress in my scan either.
for further use with the Tmax 400 and tmax in general - agitate less than prescribed, it'll keep those highlights intact.