Expose to the left or right?
Old 04-13-2019   #1
Ron Montad
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Expose to the left or right?

When shooting film, should I expose to the left or right with respect to the histogram? Does the answer depend on whether I’m shooting negatives or slides?
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Old 04-13-2019   #2
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Film doesn't have a histogram until you scan it, so the general rule is:

- Negative film: expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights

- Slide film: expose for the highlights, keep your shadow expectations low, pray the lab doesn't botch it

But if you shoot with something like T-Max 400, slightly more generous that "normal" exposure usually does the trick, because the film has a linear response to light, so all you are really trying to do is get things in the shadows to register.

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Old 04-13-2019   #3
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B&W film exposure should match the preferred development technique. This is a means for the photographer to influence image rendering – particularly for those using a pure analog workflow.

Film exposure levels can influence image scanning as well. In general, underexposure causes problems.

"The biggest problem with negative film is underexposure. In the moment we open the shutter, light falls on the film and densities start to build up. If you close the shutter too early, not enough light hits the film and the negative will become too thin. I have mentioned in my previous blog post that negative film has a relatively flat response curve. When underexposing film we only use a small portion of the response curve and a lot of the information we would like to capture falls in the lowest section of the curve, the so called toe. Here information is lost or not enough tonal separation is provided. In the worst case we even don't get enough light in the shadows to build up any density on the film"

Theses conclusions are consistent with information theory. The purpose of film is to convert light into spatial information. Underexposure means less light. Less light means less information. Of course severe overexposure destroys information as well. The latitude of most negative films means thoughtful exposure to the right has minimal risk.
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Old 04-13-2019   #4
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I plan to use my Nikon D800 as a light meter - hence the reference to a histogram.
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Old 04-13-2019   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
Theses conclusions are consistent with information theory. The purpose of film is to convert light into spatial information. Underexposure means less light. Less light means less information. Of course severe overexposure destroys information as well. The latitude of most negative films means thoughtful exposure to the right has minimal risk.
Funny how that works: both underexposure and overexposure are bad. A lot of people bad mouth the Zone System, but if you ever go to the trouble of establishing your own EI for the films and developers you use, you know the downsides of not getting exposure right up front. It saves a lot of time both in the darkroom and with post processing of digital images.
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Old 04-13-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Montad View Post
I plan to use my Nikon D800 as a light meter - hence the reference to a histogram.

Not bad idea, but not practical to use.


- are you sure that the ISO is the same (really same I mean) with Nikon DSLR and your film in use ?
- if this is the case, I would center at best the histogram, if the subject is uniformly lighted to have the best "gray spread" in negative, and best exposed slide
- to resume, in "studio photo", I'd bracket as usual
if you have time to have histogram, you'd have time to bracket


-have fun with your experiences and let us know
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Old 04-13-2019   #7
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Using another camera for a light meter will work, but you won't be having any fun doing it. $30 will buy you a perfectly good CDS hand held light meter. Shoot, $30 will buy a budget 35mm SLR or rangefinder camera w/ an in camera meter.

Whether we shoot film or digital, photography is all about light, so this will be a good opportunity to slow things down maybe and observe the quality of the light around you w/ your eyes and see how it translates to meter readings. Film is much more forgiving than digital when it comes to "creative" metering exposures.
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Old 04-13-2019   #8
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Last time I checked, it was no histogram on film.
I'm using my brain, left and right parts.
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Old 04-13-2019   #9
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What I used to do is to take my 6d on spot meter mode, place the spot on my shadows and make sure you set it to -2. That reading will get you into zone 3 on your shadows. Develop highlights accordingly. For roll film I’ve had good luck doing a 2 bath development of three is a major difference in scene contrast throughout the roll.
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Old 04-15-2019   #10
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Talking

I do use P+S digital as a guide BUT have learned the hard way, digital sees in dark..
Film does not! Even so it's a guide as mt Exposure meter needs a LED.
Another problem unless you really check esp. using auto on Nikon, it may "do it's own thing". Check Metadata,.
Test a few rolls and get an idea of your actual exposures and Film ISO..
Lenses do not always transmit all the light, shutters on mechanical cameras can be all over the place.
Film may also not be that exact ISO.. sigh!
Carrying that monster DSLR as a meter..rather use a paper guide on back of RF.
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Old 04-15-2019   #11
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You can also use the film exposure guide; it's a small table, for example for Portra 400 https://imaging.kodakalaris.com/site...portra_400.pdf. You can also use a cellphone.

Negative film is very forgiving and you don't have to worry too much. Far less worries than with digital. If in doubt just overexpose rather than underexpose. You can overexpose several stops with many negative films and your pictures will look fine. In fact many people like overexposing color (negative) film a stop or so to reduce grain.
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Old 04-16-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
- Negative film: expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights

How exactly do you develop for the highlights?
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Old 04-16-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauffray View Post
How exactly do you develop for the highlights?
If we assume the discussion about developing for the highlights refers only to b/w, then you would have two variables to manipulate: time of development and concentration of the developer.

But that ignores the particular type of developer used since many developers excel at either decreasing or increasing film contrast as a distinct property.

It all relates to the specific subject tones, the light at the time of shooting and how you 'see' the final result taking shape.
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Old 04-16-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lauffray View Post
How exactly do you develop for the highlights?
By developing enough to get good highlight separation but not so much that you get so much density that you can’t scan or print the film.

The major variable is development time. To a (much) lesser extent, you can also use decreased agitation or greater developer dilution, which cause more localised exhaustion in the highlights and provide proportionally less development there.

But it’s mostly about getting the time right.

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Old 04-16-2019   #15
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Negative type film I try to slightly over expose. When I used transperancy film I would one-half to maybe one stop under expose.

With digital I work at achieving adequate balance throughout each exposure. The histogram is a good tool because the image on the screen doesn’t accurately show what the exposure is with the RAW file. Digital I slightly under expose.

My tastes, I hate it when I see a photograph of people in the foreground with blown out or, at the very least, over exposed background. The sky is usually not white! I see this a lot and it just shows the lack of discipline the photographer brings when making the photograph. But it was easy for me to point this out to prospective clients and many hired me just because of the care I showed when making photographs for a very important event. They didn’t care about my equipment or technical and creative skills. They liked the photographs I made.

At any rate, there you have it. Now go and make beautiful photographs.
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Old 04-16-2019   #16
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On roll film there is no way to accurately develop for highlights IF your frames have varying contrast. In these cases I tend to use a 2 bath (some use stand or semi stand) development because it keeps highlights in check and sorta “averages” the scene contrast on the entire roll. You run the risk of having flat negatives, but In most cases I’m ok with that and adjust contrast in post or with contrast filtration on the enlarger.

In the event that your frames are all the same contrast level, you can adjust the development by extending or decreasing time. Ex. For heavy overcast day with LOW contrast, I will try to push the highlights 1 stop by extending development 20%. If it’s a bright sunny day with high contrast, I will pull the highlights back one stop by decreasing development by about 20%. Bring a sharpie pen and mark your roll as soon as you remove it. (I’ve been in a hurry and couldn’t remember what damn roll things were)
N= normal Dev
N+1 = extended by 20%
N-1 = reduce by 20%

There may be people who do things another way, but this tends to work well for me and is fairly simple when put into practice
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Old 04-16-2019   #17
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The histogram doesn't tell you which part of your scene has what brightness, which can be important. For difficult exposure, you can use the spot metering function as someone has explained above. That said, the histogram can be good enough if you experiment a bit to learn where e.g. zones III and VII are on it. This may depend on your contrast settings in the digital camera, unless it has raw histogram!
For flat-ish scenes where you don't need make a decision for what part of the scene to expose because it all will be captured easily, the histogram should work very well, in that case you can indeed expose to the right.
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Old 04-16-2019   #18
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With apologies for straying from the issues of film exposure, in-camera histograms are not very useful.

These histograms are lossy compressed estimates from the in-camera JPEG. With all but a very few cameras, the in-camera histogram estimate depends on the in-camera JPEG rendering parameters.

For in-camera JPEG users this is a good thing. For raw file users the histogram can be modified to simulate a representation of the raw file. This is achieved by a tedious process where you systematically modify the in-camera JPG rendering parameters and visually compare the in-camera histogram with the histogram displayed on your computer screen by the raw rendering software. You use the in-camera JPEG rendering parameters that happen to similar histograms for both screens.

The same goes for in-camera highlight overexposure blinkies.
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Old 04-16-2019   #19
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Let's back up a bit. What I'm really looking for is some advice on how to set the exposure on a manual camera which has no meter at all. The sunny-16 ain't gonna cut it for me. So... it boils down to some sort of meter. I've considered the following: an iPhone app, a DSLR, a small pocket meter (Sekonic Twinmate), an incident meter (white dome), a spot meter, a combo meter (incident and reflective). I'm not a pro wedding photographer or anything like that. I'm just a guy who wants to walk around like a tourist. I'm certainly not going to develop for highlights, since I don't even know what that means. What's in your gear bag?
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Old 04-17-2019   #20
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A scene comprises bright areas and shadows under a sunny sun.
If one exposes only for the deepest shadows, the bright areas (may) be well over exposed.
Depending on the film, black and white, color negative different end results.
Kentmere 400 does not tolerate over-exposure and white/bright areas will be burned away.
The negative will have very dark areas for the whites..
Before buying equipment gadgets, read about exposure and film.
The Life books on photography do an excellent job.
Ansel Adams is too complicated for a novice.
Minor White only for sensometric engineers..
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Old 04-17-2019   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Montad View Post
The sunny-16 ain't gonna cut it for me.
May I ask why not? If you shoot negative film, which is a good starting point, it really is extremely forgiving. Just try a couple of rolls and you will see it is really a completely different world from digital. You can always check with a lightmeter app on your phone - but honestly for negative film you don't need to be very accurate, except avoid underexposure, so if in doubt expose a little more; nothing bad will happen - develop normally and you will get a little denser negatives but you can adjust them during printing or scanning (assuming the scanner is good) so they look fine.

It's slightly more complex than just sunny 16: Here is the guide for Portra 400 film for different conditions, still quite simple:

Bright or Hazy Sun on Light Sand or
Snow
1/500
f/16
Bright or Hazy Sun (Distinct
Shadows)
1/500
f/11*
Weak, Hazy Sun
(Soft Shadows)
1/500
f/8
Cloudy Bright
(No Shadows)
1/500
f/5.6
Heavy Overcast or Open Shade‡ 1/500
f/4

Use f/5.6 for backlit close-up subjects.
‡ Subject shaded from the sun but lighted by a large area of sky.
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Old 04-17-2019   #22
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I agree that it's best to use a meter, for consistent results. And it's best to "dial in" the film and developer combination by either shooting test rolls, or else at least keeping notes on exposures and developing times, and making fine adjustments on each successive roll until we know what works for us.

I especially like Willie 901's comments, above.
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Old 04-19-2019   #23
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Let me try to summarize the various comments - all of which have been very helpful.

1. Don’t meter with a digital camera because the response curve of film is different than digital.

2. Exposure can be tweaked during development.

3. For negative film, expose for shadows.

4. For reversal film, expose for highlights.

5. For B&W film, expose for middle gray (i.e. normal)

6. Use Sunny-16 rules. Don’t need a meter.

7. Shoot many rolls to understand the exposure profile of my camera.



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Old 04-19-2019   #24
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It is hard to give advice without knowing the scene and what you are shooting for as a final result. Photographing ice-patterns in direct sunlight? A different problem than photographing a single candle in the dark, no?

The question always starts with what the most important element is in the scene and what has to retain detail in order to make that work.

When I hear folks say that they "always" overexpose their b&w film by one or two stops, the first thing I think about is, "what about those highlights?"


Here's one way to approach it: use an incident meter rather than a reflected meter, which is what all DSLR's have in them. An incident meter averages the light from all sources hitting a certain point. At the moment of the reading you have to turn on your brain and ask what the most important elements of the scene are and adjust accordingly.

Alternatively, if you are using a reflected meter, meter the mid-tone of your scene, and then, you guessed it, turn on your brain. All reflected meters assume that they are seeing an average scene. But that snow bank/ice pattern is not average. You meter directly off of that and you are going to underexpose and get gray where you want white. Similarly, meter off the candle burning in the dark you are going to overexpose, and get white where you want gray. In both cases, this is because the scene is not 50/50 white and black.

Most sophisticated film users are figuring out their own film speed. That is, they shoot a scene with a 50% gray card, underexpose and overexpose systematically, and then develop the film normally. They find the negative that prints the gray card at the correct tone, and also prints filmbase + fog as a good black. This is either spot on for the indicated exposure with their system (camera/meter/developer/water quality etc.) or over or under. If they exposed the film at ASA400 and the best negative is actually a stop "overexposed" in the test then the true speed of that film in their system is ASA200.

Admittedly, this really only works well for subjects that take a whole roll of film with the same lighting, or sheet film. You have a roll of film in your camera for three weeks and shoot six different scenes, then your technique is really to develop for your average and hope you can save the prints later on. FYI, this was the origin of bracketing modes, as one of the pix could usually be made to work in the darkroom.
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Old 04-19-2019   #25
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You're overthinking this. If you're using negative film, be it black and white or color, give more exposure when in doubt. That's all you need to get you started.
And clearly our replies in this thread have induced some more confusion or at least no cleared up some of the basics, so get a book or start having a look at http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subsc...0metering.html, on the website of Roger Hicks, (RIP), highly valued forum member.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Montad View Post
Let me try to summarize the various comments - all of which have been very helpful.

1. Don’t meter with a digital camera because the response curve of film is different than digital.

2. Exposure can be tweaked during development.

3. For negative film, expose for shadows.

4. For reversal film, expose for highlights.

5. For B&W film, expose for middle gray (i.e. normal)

6. Use Sunny-16 rules. Don’t need a meter.

7. Shoot many rolls to understand the exposure profile of my camera.



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Old 04-27-2019   #26
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That Roger Hick page is great. Thanks for point that out.
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Old 04-27-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Montad View Post
Let me try to summarize the various comments - all of which have been very helpful.

1. Don’t meter with a digital camera because the response curve of film is different than digital.

2. Exposure can be tweaked during development.

3. For negative film, expose for shadows.

4. For reversal film, expose for highlights.

5. For B&W film, expose for middle gray (i.e. normal)

6. Use Sunny-16 rules. Don’t need a meter.

7. Shoot many rolls to understand the exposure profile of my camera.



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All these points can be useful; but I didn't understand what is "Don’t". Is it a typo, or just something I'm not familiar with?
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Old 04-27-2019   #28
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Ok if we're going to continue this, I'll need to clarify that only points 3 and 4 are fairly uncontroversial.
1 has been discussed at length in this thread. 2 no. 5 black and white film is negative film, so see point 3. 6 depends strongly on individual preference, skill, materials and light. 7 no.
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Old 04-27-2019   #29
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do you still want to meter with a dslr?

materials:
- grey card
- dslr w/telephoto lens

how to “calibrate” your dslr’s meter
1. go outside on a bright, sunny day.
2. orient yourself so the sun is behind you and hold up the grey card perpendicular to the ground.
3. meter the card with the lens zoomed out so the card fills the image. check for variation with the card tilted a little bit this way and that.
4. compare your reading to the sunny 16 rule.

then you will know whether you should be using the sunny 16 rule or the sunny 11 rule or whatever, and whether your camera’s ISO is comparable to a handheld meter.

you should then use the dslr as a “spot” meter, disregarding the histogram.
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Old 04-27-2019   #30
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Be aware that if you overexpose negative film a stop or two, the negatives will be denser but the results will usually look perfectly fine if scanned or printed correctly. However, some labs will just give you back unadjusted scans that will be too light/hot. You sometimes have to tell a lab to "scan for the highlights" where necessary if highlight detail is important to you. Some home scanners don't have powerful enough light sources to sufficiently penetrate denser negatives to get the highlight detail.
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Old 04-27-2019   #31
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Just out of curiosity I gather the histogram isn't affected by the metering mode ... spot, centre weighted or matrix? It's to do with the light being transferred to the sensor I guess!

Personally I prefer using a meter in incident mode where I can but the idea of metering with a DSLR has it's appeal ... but it is over complicating the process in my opinion.
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Old 04-27-2019   #32
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Personally I prefer using a meter in incident mode where I can but the idea of metering with a DSLR has it's appeal ... but it is over complicating the process in my opinion.
Carrying a DSLR as a meter is insane. Small pocket light meters are not expensive. You can get an app for your iPhone that does a pretty good job too.
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