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05-13-2012, 06:35 PM   #1
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Film exposures and processing digital scans

I'm just getting started with film. One of the things I've read is, unlike digital, it's better to expose for shadow detail. I've read that a lot of detail can be pulled back from the overexposed areas on film. My question is, can that same detail be pulled back from a digital scan of a negative? Or does that scan behave like an image out of a digital camera, and if the highlights are blown, they're gone? Or when they talk about pulling back detail in overexposed areas of film, are they only talking about the darkroom print/enlarge process?


05-13-2012, 08:02 PM   #2
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I am also just amateur in this.
I expose the film with the camera setting 1 stop higher than the film nominal rating eg iso 400 film,I set the camera for iso 800.
Then process strictly according to the recommendations for the higher setting. I find this way allows the roll to be used from bright day to maybe low light with the 1:1.4 lens wide open

Try to get some shots with wide ranges, so we can see.
Here is a scan (last year) of a 9 by 6 inch wet print which I think has a wide range you are referring to:
05-14-2012, 07:59 AM - 1 Like   #3

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Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights is the time-tested rule. But that's not too practical when shooting small format if that's what your shooting. You typically have 36 shots on a roll and the chances of all of them needing the same treatment is unlikely.

The short answer is it all depends. If highlights are important in the scene, you need to watch out for them. You just can't arbitrarily meter for shadows only and expect not to blow highlights even with film. And when you have a camera with a built in average meter, there is guess work and experience that comes into play on just where your shadows and highlights are being placed relative to the middle gray exposure. You really need a one-degree spot meter to get a quantitative grip on it.

I scan by histogram that my scanning software has. I adjust the scan to bring it all in regardless of how it looks. If shadows or highlights are gone, you'll know it at that time. You can only pull up the shadows or pull down the highlights if you captured them in the scan in the first place. And a negative can often have more on it than a scanner can capture.
05-14-2012, 04:41 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I agree with Tuco, however since I grew up in the film and Ansel Adams era, I never used a 36 exposure roll, only 20, or 24, reason being that having used a view camera I quickly learned that with perhaps 12 shots available (I only carried 6 film holders) the exposures needed to be measured very carefully and I grew used to taking fewer images. That's when you have the luxury of time to plan the shot and think about it! Back to topic, once you use a good quality scanner with film it's quite impressive how much information is in a 35mm negative. A lot can be rescued, but if you underexpose there's little to be done if the information is missing. Likewise, while heavy overexposure can sometimes be salvaged, you will find it much easier having a more balanced negative to work from. I would recommend reading Adams The Negative book, but it can be formidable for those just beginning the journey. Later books in the series augmented by different authors make it more understandable, but still one of the ultimate sources of information. Use your meter to measure the scene values from deep shadow to highlights and you will soon recognize scenes that are going to have some part blown out, even with the immense range that film is capable of. I hope you keep us posted with how things work out for you and I wish you success with your efforts!

05-14-2012, 05:01 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I get the best results by just shooting at the box speed and using centre weighted or matrix. I've tried under and over but it seems the meter gets it right more often than not.

When I scan the main thing I do is check the histogram and adjust black and white point & overall exposure. This has to be done individually for every frame. I want as much data in the histogram as possible spread throughout the range ideally without clipping. You can always make it more or less constrasty later, but the point of the scan is to get "raw material" captured to ensure the best starting point for PP.

Others may have a different philosophy, but I guess I came to film shooting from digital so have this mindset.

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