If I'm shooting a film I haven't used before, I'll start with the manufacturers recommended ISO. But after playing around a while, discovering what the film can and can't do, with this or that developer, etc., I set my own exposure index. It's all a matter of getting to know the tools.
What kind of film are you using?
Black and white gives you some room for errors in exposure as does color print film.
Chromes or slide film is much less forgiving.
With color films it is also wise to use the film for what it was designed for. Some film is daylight balanced, or balanced for tungsten, indoors artificial lighting. You can usually correct the film with color correction filters, but that just means you need to fuss with more gear.
If you are starting off learning to use film. I would suggest B&W first, then color print film, with chrome or slide films as you gain practice and learn the way your equipment works.
You didn't mention what type of camera you are using or subjects.
Does your camera have thru the lens metering (TTL)?
Are you using a hand held meter to determine your film speed setting?
If hand held meter. Are you measuring reflective light, light reflecting off the subject? Or are you measuring incident light? Light falling onto the subject.
I know, it can get a little confusing but it becomes second nature after a while.
Last edited by Jose LS Gil; 05-10-2011 at 07:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by Sirius Glass
My thoughts exactly. Do not assume that what a meter tells you is gospel: at best, it's a guide. At worst, it's a recipe for disaster. Invest in experimentation, progressive knowledge and thus experience, and not rely blithely on what is printed on a box, what your camera tells you, or what a meter says is right.
Starting with transparency film will make you sensitive to the effects of small changes in ISO as opposed to the much greater and thus harder to define steps of B&W. Having said that, you do need a good knowledge of how your camera meters and what situations will produce unfavourable or unacceptable results (subjectively, what is "unfavourable" or "unacceptable" is a matter of personal interpretation).
This is the best aproach. I shoot slide film always at the rated ISO, C41 color print film a bit below (usualy 1/3-2/3) to overexpose a bit. B&W film depends on film and developer combination used.
Originally Posted by semeuse
Get to know the film at the rated speed first, then experiment.
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There were a fair number of things that pushed me toward shooting at 1/2 or more off box speed.
The work of Jose Villa and others for one. IMO it's simply a set of style choices here: 1-a placement choice, bright beautiful faces; 2-a lighting choice, backlighting is the norm so subjects have nice even low contrast lighting (open sky) that makes shooting a white dress with detail next to a black tux with detail easy and provides a nice hair light and nobody is squinting; 3-the understanding that the background is strictly "second-fiddle" to the people, this is a bit oversimplified, but the background is there just to make the people look good in his shots. To put it bluntly, he's not shooting landscapes.
Practicality is important too.
My Holga, 1/100th @ f/11 is all there really is, from what I can gather the aperture switch is there for looks. Portra 400NC mid-day white salt flats in Death Valley, so 3-stops over, and the detail in the highlights still prints pretty.
My RB shutter only goes to 1/400th and I like shooting at f/4 & f/5.6 for effect, so 3-4-stops over on a front lit full sun exposure, still get great results with most negatives.
The other biggie with negatives is choosing the lesser of two evils, a bit of overexposure is almost always better than a bit of underexposure. 1/2 box speed helps me avoid underexposure with in camera meters. If I'm incident metering underexposure is almost never an issue so I see no practical advantage.
Just because you can overexpose doesn't mean arbitrarily shooting at 1/2 or 1/4 box speed is the best choice. Accurate exposure has it's advantages. Jose Villa is very accurate in his work, he's not guessing, he knows darn well what works for him by experience and is setting the camera to get exactly that.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin