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  1. #1

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    Teach me how to read a negative

    Hi All,

    I am attaching a negative for your review that I developed last night. The film is Ilford FP4 developed in D23 stock. Exposure @ ISO 125 f11 1/2 sec. To me the negative seems foggy or whatever that is a milky layer. I am not sure how to read it, I mean is it dense, thin properly exposed etc. Would appreciate if you all could comment so that I know how to read them and then more importantly what/how to improve. Thank you for looking:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Not sure why it is coming horizontal. Taken with a BlackBerry with iPad as a light box.

    Cheers

    Raffay

  2. #2
    MattKing's Avatar
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    I'm a bit concerned about evaluating a negative that is presented to me through a scan and my manually calibrated monitor, but assuming that we are lucky, and what I see on the screen matches accurately the appearance of the real thing .....

    To me, the shadows look transparent, which indicates under-exposure.

    And the highlights look thin, which indicates under-development.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  3. #3

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    I developed it for 6 mins at 20 deg:

    Here is the Scan:

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    I some what understand when you say shadows look transparent. I think that means that less detail and that could be because not enough light was received. But when you say highlight thin because of underdevelopment, I am really not clear.
    Cheers

    Raffay

  4. #4
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raffay View Post
    I developed it for 6 mins at 20 deg:

    Here is the Scan:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I some what understand when you say shadows look transparent. I think that means that less detail and that could be because not enough light was received. But when you say highlight thin because of underdevelopment, I am really not clear.
    Cheers

    Raffay
    Exposure determines how much shadow detail is recorded.

    Development determines how the highlights are recorded, and how much contrast your negative ends up with.

    When you are evaluating negatives, you want to look at the shadows to see if you have used enough exposure to ensure detail in your shadows. You also want to look at the mid-tones and highlights, to ensure that you gave it enough development to ensure that the density builds to something a fair bit "thicker" than your shadows, but still transparent enough to reveal highlight detail.

    In the old days, we used to recommend that you try to read newspaper text through the built up highlights, to ensure they were not too thick.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  5. #5

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    This is how the newspaper looks:


    When you say that the highlights should be thicker than the shadows, what exactly does that mean in the newspaper test and generally. How do you read that, and what does density mean when you look at the neg.

    Thank you for your input, and putting up with a novice like me.

    Cheers

    Raffay

  6. #6

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    As Matt said in his first response, looking at negatives over the internet is very difficult. So many variables, it's hard to know what is being seen.

    One thing not mentioned yet is what scanner you are using This is similar to what enlarger would be used with wet prints. Different enlargers, like different scanners, render negatives differently. I developed differently for condenser enlargers and for cold-head enlargers. When I moved from one scanner to another, I found that I needed to increase my development time. The whole image chain needs to be considered.

    Your scanned image looks good to me. There is detail in the shadow areas, such as the center child's boots. Highlights retain details.

    The problem is that without seeing your histograms I can't tell if your exposure and development times are making the best use of the available range in your imaging process (meaning the whole chain). Matt has hit the general principles- expose for shadows, develop for highlights. Of course these two factors- exposure and development- affect each other directly. If you underexpose and then 'properly' develop, your highlights will still be thin because they are, well, underexposed to begin with. And overexposure, similar problems in the other direction- the highlights will be overdeveloped.

    Basically what happens is that in the shadow area, after a certain point in time, NO amount of increased development will lead to a (significant) increase in shadow density and detail (fogging may increase base density but not contrast). This is why you expose for the shadows- you either get the information on the film when exposed, or it is gone. In the areas with the MOST exposure, development TIME will be key. It will determine maximum density, and usable maximum density depends on the printing system. The range between these two points-- darkest shadows and lightest highlights- will determine the contrast of the image. To make things even more fun, the film's response to both minimal exposure and maximum development is not linear. And now you are in the realm of the S-curve. One introduction- http://home.comcast.net/~amitphotogr...20dvickers.htm

    To be clear, it is only by evaluating the full chain that you can decide what is the proper exposure and development. I would agree with Matt- the negative looks thin to me. But if it scans and prints as you want, then it is perfectly exposed and developed for your image chain.

    [Edit: you posted the newspaper image while I wrote.Maybe Matt worked under a different system, but when I was told to look if I could see newsprint through a negative, this was under reflected light, not transmitted light. In other words, don't put the newspaper and negative on a light table (iPad or other). Put the newspaper on a table, put the negative on top, have light for reading- can you still see the print through the negative?]
    Last edited by Dan Daniel; 11-16-2013 at 01:00 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7

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    judging by what you said is a scan -- of what, a print? -- the negative should be fine. I tried inverting the original image of the negative in photoshop and it ends up looking milky and pretty crappy.

    Offhand, I'd say for negatives you want a nice blend of blacks and whites and tones in between -- looking at a negative you shouldn't see any totally black areas that would indicate the negative is over exposed, you don't want just blacks and whites, which would indicate too contrasty, no cloudyness or fog. Beyond that, make a print. -- it is really impossible to judge a negative any more than that from a scan on a computer screen taken with an ipad in a light box. Really, the final print is all that matters. A good printer can make an iffy negative look really good.


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    And worrying whether you can see a newspaper through the negative is a waste of time. Totally irrelevant. I've gotten amazing prints from such negatives.

    Make prints from your negatives, compare what negatives give you good prints with those that give you bad prints, and strive to make your negatives look like those that give you good prints. This is called "experience" and it is all that matters.

  8. #8

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    Is it possible you guys to share a good negative, having a visual reference would be great.

    Raffay

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raffay View Post
    Is it possible you guys to share a good negative, having a visual reference would be great.

    Raffay
    These guys are tough, they will give you advice then say "but we can't really tell because we aren't there" and then give more advice, and then say well you need to make a print, then you explain you don't have access to that and can only scan, and then they say, "you should just print, that is the "only way" etc" haha, not saying these guys aren't helpful nor knowledgeable, I'm saying, be strong and don't give up, and don't think these guys are NOT helpful, they are, and they know WAY too much, and sometimes forget when new people are learning, they need simple explanations at first, then late can build on that...

    Anyway, based on the image, it does look TO ME like your negative is SLIGHTLY underexposed, but I think you developed it just fine. The scan looks good except I think between the legs of the kids the light drops off way more suddenly than it should, which to ME indicates it's SLIGHTLY under exposed... but again, what do I know? I've been doing this for 3 years by hand (processing) but no one's ever evaluated my negatives either HAH!

    And as someone else said, your scanner may scan differently than my scanner.

    Keep it up, overall it's a great shot
    ~Stone | "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong." ~Dennis Miller

  10. #10

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    I am scanning with epson 4990 Vuescan. Thank you for the supportive comments everyone.

    Cheers

    Raffay

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