I should complete the sentence by saying “Overexposing is not a crime … when you shoot film!” 😉
On the last weekend I could finally fully expose my two test-rolls of massive Kodak Tri-X-Overexposing. Okay: “Massive” maybe a bit exaggerated as I’m a coward and started by doing a full stop overexposing after mostly measuring the shadows.
How the Overexposing-Adventure started
The following lines might sound pretty ridiculous to experienced film shooters: Not long time ago I was really digitally blunted and first heard of overexposing film by a photographer called Matt Day. I’m following him on YouToube where he shows off his personal work and explains his shooting-experience with different cameras and film. You can check out the channel HERE. He’s a very experienced film shooter and developer and also works for the findlab as a photo editor. I really recommend checking out his plattforms as the results are totally high class when it comes to analogue photography quality 🙂
In one of his videos I heard him talking about overexposing colour film. I think it was Kodak Portra. Then I started to do a little research on the internet if such an overexposing is possible with black & white film too. I was impressed to find out that many photographers seem to expose their for example ISO 400 film at ISO 200 to get more details! And in fact some of my latest negatives had a bad underexposure. So I started overexposing my last two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 🙂
How I managed the overexposure
Like I said many sources descripe that photographers set their light meter to ISO 200 when their film has a speed of 400. But this is not the way I went. I Just kept my settings on ISO 400, measured the scene I wanted to photograph and first run for the “perfectly exposed”-settings within the internal light meter. After I found the settings I gave the film 1 stop extra light by either turning the exposure time on top of the camera to the nearest slower speed or do 2 clicks on my aperture ring (If you have third stop clicks on your aperture-ring you have to do 3 clicks for a full stop of light, if you just have full stops you just need 1 and so on…).
The Results (Overexposed by about 1 stop, Kodak Tri-X, developed in Kodak D-76)
At the moment my personal film workflow is that I scan the negatives after developing as I didn’t managed to get an enlarger so far (But this should be the next logical step for me hehe).
While scanning the negatives I saw that they came out much flatter with thousands of grey-tones with pure & sharp film-informations 🙂 I scanned them pretty flat and did not add any big editing in my scanning-software. To increase contrast I did what all of us would do in the darkroom but in this case my weapon of choice was Adobe Lightroom. Just added a little contrast, feeding the blacks and I was done.
Check out the results:
Classic photography struggle-scene: Bright background, darker foreground. By overexposing I got all the information in the darker areas and still have all the detail in the background. It also gives me a nice seperation.
My last developing-session really told me a lot about the dynamic range of film! It now feels like it is almost infinite! When I do digital overexposure I have a lot of work getting the detail in the bright areas back. Maybe they’re completely burned out. I could fix this by using the RAW-File maybe but film got me less work in situations like this 🙂
I’ll definitely continue overexposing my film 😀 1 stop seems to be the right way to go for me! Also I must say that the Kodak D-76 developer perfectly matches the Kodak Tri-X film as this is a one company combination many photographers using for years and years.
The whole description seems to be pretty technical but let’s break it down like this: Did you ever set a digital camera to automatic exposure mode? I’m sure you did! Do it and look what the exposure time says when you pan the camera around a scene –> right: It seems to totally freak out about the right exposure time with many times between the usual suspects. When knowing the lightning-situation you don’t have to freak out like your camera does!