Lessons Learned 1: Controlling Exposure for B&W film

In my line of work, engineering, mistakes can be very costly and/or hazardous. Therefore it is imperative to pass on lessons from one’s experiences or mistakes. I shall do this in this blog as well, in the form of Lessons Learned (LL). For me, these will be big and small, in all subjects that I find interesting and worth noting.

The first LL comes from my recent experience with film photography. Being analog and chemical based, to limit post processing (ie. Photoshop) it was very important to get the exposure right for the scene. Since the 40+ year-old cameras that I use might not ever have had a service, it was very possible that the shutter speeds or light-meters were off slightly. So this begged the question, in cases of uncertainty, should I over or under expose the shot? Well, my lesson learned here was that – when in doubt, push it up a stop. This is especially true when you know that the lighting is not great, such as indoors, or in the evening. The beauty of film is that most are very forgiving when it comes to overexposure. I don’t personally have the negative to show it, yet, but a quick search on google will give you plenty of proof that over is always better than under.

Below are three examples where I know the film was underexposed. For the color film, you can see that there was some post-processing to bring the image to acceptable brightness and there is significant haziness. This gives the photo that iPhone vintage filter effect, though not intended and probably best avoided. The two other black and white shots have been post-processed in Polarr (my go to Windows 10 app for quick photo adjustments). Although the levels are not bad (tonal ranges from black to white), there is lack of detail in the shadows and that is where B&W would otherwise shine. With this experience in mind, I will be bracketing more of my shots and we will see in the future if I have learned from my mistakes!



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