I'm going to quote a portion of 2F/2F's post above, and then disagree with it .
"This is one of the hardest situations for which to expose, develop and print. The best option is to avoid it if possible."
The first part is correct, but I wouldn't suggest avoiding it.
Some of the best portraits I have seen (and a couple I have taken) have been backlit. You do, however, need to be sure that there is an appreciable amount of light coming from the front. The light from an open sky comes at least close - reflection off of a light surface might be enough to make the difference, or you may be able to use fill flash.
2F/2F is right about a whole bunch of other things, including the fact that the print is printed too dark. Cut the lab some slack though, they have to guess about what you wanted.
“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
It is not so much the practice of back lighting that I was referring to as it was having the sun in the frame, and having such a large area of white behind a small subject. Yes, back lighting is used effectively all the time. However, we must remember that in these cases, although the back light is the strongest light, it is not the main light. You set your exposure based on the main light, not the strongest light. The main light in a back-lit situation is coming from reflection off of the surroundings (and/or an artificial source).
Originally Posted by MattKing
Last edited by 2F/2F; 10-29-2010 at 09:33 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
If its scanned by the lab the lab's scanner probably tried to auto compensate the bright background. Most scanner does that.
[ Insert meaningless camera listing here ]
Of course, without seeing the negative, who can know. One sure test is to print the negative for the minimum exposure to produce maximum black on the film base. If the subject is still too dark, then, yes, it was under exposed.
Here are a couple of photos of the negs - unfortunately I couldn't get in close due to only having a long prime lens, so if anyone is able to make any judgements on these I don't know. I tried to keep my exposure correct to be as good a representation of the negs as possible.
Its very interesting to expose for the main light and not the strongest light. I think this thought process will help, especially when thinking too about where my main light is coming from in backlit situations.
I always feel I'm taking a gamble with backlight but I can't resist! I have seen some amazing backlit work and I need a lot of practice to get there!
I would like to take some control over developing and scanning and its something I'm looking into. Starting shooting film is quite overwhelming, but, its the most excited I've felt about photography for a while!
On the photo of the 3 negs, the one at the bottom came out beautiful, it was my favourite photo I have taken of my daughter for a long time and what makes me happy is that I didn't have to take 150-200 images on digital and even when I do, this one for me is better!
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If you take an incidental light reading in the normal way from the subject to the camera and note the reading, then take another another incidental reading pointing the receptor at the Sun and set the exposure at the average of the two readings the exposure will be correct whatever the direction of the light, this is called The Duplex Method.
In the "close up shot" on the bottom frame it looks like the model's exposure placement is roughly somewhere in the middle so there's probably plenty of detail. Top frame seems to be similar.
IMO, on those two frames, this this looks like a printing issue not an exposure problem.
This brings me back to the thought that you need to talk with your lab and have them reprint it with the face given priority.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
Or print it yourself, again for best results! If you're going to do a hybrid workflow then scanning and printing yourself is best, otherwise as I said you can lose most of the detail and exposure before it gets to you. For B&W of course it is fun to print it yourself wet too.
Or skip the auto-print and auto-scan stage, just get the negs developed and then talk to the lab about how you want to scan and/or print individual frames. You'll pay more but you'll get what you want.
negatives 4&6 look fine. 5 I can't really tell. I presume 4 is the one you showed a print on here. The face is a nice shade of gray and should print that way.
You really need either a negative scanner or a darkroom to get consistent quality that exceeds the photolab.
Thanks everyone - I guess the bottom line is I need to develop and scan myself. I'll be looking into it!