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02-07-2019, 02:18 PM   #1
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Underexposed, underdeveloped, or incorrectly scanned?

Hi all,

These photos were not taken with a Pentax film slr, but I'm hoping some of you might be able to shed some light.
Lately I've been sending my film to The Darkroom. I got back some 120 HP5 scans on a newly acquired Bronica SQ-A.

Please pardon my silly question, but I can't tell if this photo was underexposed, underdeveloped, or just scanned poorly.

Some notes about the portrait: I shoot with an incident meter. Here I was exposing for the subject's left cheek/forehead area (the right side of his frame from my perspective). I emailed the lab since the scans look so flat. Their claim is that I underexposed the photos, but I find this hard to believe, unless the lensí shutter speeds arenít working correctly.

If anyone cares to comment based on your experience which of the three scenarios above is most likely the culprit, itíd be much appreciated.

Thanks

Ed

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02-07-2019, 02:49 PM   #2
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To my eyes, it doesn't look like an exposure issue. I would guess a development or scanning issue. However, depending on your workflow, you may still have a nicely developable file. In your image processor, a couple minutes with the tonal curve would do a lot for enhancing contrast if that's what you're looking for. I've had similar issues where the lab doesn't get something right but often still leaves me with a high resolution and fairly malleable file. Sorry I can't be of more help.
02-07-2019, 03:01 PM   #3
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You can tell from looking at the negatives.

There should be plenty of dark space with the frame lines obvious between them.

On many films, you should also be able to read the film type written on the sides. I donít know if HP5 does that.

If the film imprinting looks faded, itís a developing issue. Otherwise, if the negatives are thin, itís exposure...

As an aside, on 35mm, the exposed bit of leader is a handy indicator, but you donít get that on 120 unless something goes wrong...

Can you send a sample image of your mega against a light box or bright wall?

-Eric
02-07-2019, 03:25 PM   #4
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Thanks. I won’t be able to see the negatives until a few more days from now, but I can do that then.

02-08-2019, 06:46 AM   #5
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Yep, it’s super important to get your negs back, particularly when you’re learning your way around film.

2 secs looking at a negative strip and you’ll know for sure whether exposure, development or scanning is the problem.
02-08-2019, 07:21 AM   #6
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Please post pics of your negatives, and I hope that the experts here can comment because I'd like to know the answer too. Thanks!
02-08-2019, 09:43 AM - 1 Like   #7
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the automated scanning systems that labs use try really hard to normalize the exposure, and on an underexposed negative can impart the flat look narrow dynamic range that these images have. When you get the negatives back, they will probably look pretty thin. Whether that under exposure or under development, I'm not knowledgable enough to answer. You may have to run some more rolls to find out.

These scans are pretty easily rescued with photoshop or similar with the curves tool. I find most of my home scans need a new black point and new white point set, which is all I did here.
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02-08-2019, 10:43 AM - 1 Like   #8
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I like your edited version abruzzi. Indeed, I tweaked the photos' level curves last night and they look much better.


One thing I realized is that some of the photos in this roll were with a different lens (the SQ system have in-lens leaf shutters). These two are the ones I got from the lab, and my edited version, respectively, shot using a 65mm lens, and this time using my spotmeter. I exposed for the leaves in this case. As you can see, the straight-from-the-lab scanned version looks pretty flat as well.

Another thing about the portrait is that I vaguely remember there were 3 stops difference between the subject's left cheek area (the highlight) and his right ear (the shadow). Now, I used an incident meter for this, but if we convert to the Zone system, then the highlight in his skin would fall in, roughly, Zone VI. So if I underexposed the photo by one stop, say, then the left cheek area would fall on Zone V, whereas his right ear would have fallen on Zone II. I don't think I'd see that much detail in the shadows if that were the case (?)

Anyhow, will report back when I get the negatives.

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02-08-2019, 12:49 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote
One thing I realized is that some of the photos in this roll were with a different lens (the SQ system have in-lens leaf shutters). These two are the ones I got from the lab, and my edited version, respectively, shot using a 65mm lens, and this time using my spotmeter. I exposed for the leaves in this case. As you can see, the straight-from-the-lab scanned version looks pretty flat as well.
I doubt it is the lens. With the Bronica leaf shutter cameras, the body still times the shutter electronically. So while the springs might open or close the the shutter a little slower, the timing between open and close should remain consistent.

When you get the negatives back, look at the printing in the rebate area to see if itís dark or light. Since that is printed when the film is manufactured and packaged, it can be an indicator of under development. It would be better to compare it to other rolls of the same film because some manufacturers have lighter rebate printing than others.
02-08-2019, 05:02 PM   #10
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Ilford HP5+ film is relatively low contrast and not everyone's cup of tea.

Old Ilford HP5 was my favorite ISO 400 BW film. My results with newer HP5+ were never as good.
My negatives from the "improved" film were muddy and harder to print using my condensor enlarger.

Chris
02-08-2019, 08:29 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
Ilford HP5+ film is relatively low contrast and not everyone's cup of tea.
Interesting comment, Iíve never found HP5+ to be low contrast...

---------- Post added 02-09-2019 at 02:33 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Ediz7531 Quote
As you can see, the straight-from-the-lab scanned version looks pretty flat as well.
Going off the examples youíve posted, I think the lab has the black point set way too low (irrespective of possible development and exposure issues). The upside of this is that you can select contrast in post (much like a flat RAW file), whereas an overly contrasts jpeg scan is more difficult to fix...
02-08-2019, 08:47 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by nickthetasmaniac Quote
Interesting comment, Iíve never found HP5+ to be low contrast...

---------- Post added 02-09-2019 at 02:33 PM ----------



Going off the examples youíve posted, I think the lab has the black point set way too low (irrespective of possible development and exposure issues). The upside of this is that you can select contrast in post (much like a flat RAW file), whereas an overly contrasts jpeg scan is more difficult to fix...

Yeah, they were fairly easy to correct. This doesn't bother me per se, but I've noticed The Darkroom's quality control of late is pretty dismal. It's making me reconsider doing my own developing and scanning. I've avoided this so far since as it is I have so little time for actual shooting, so developing + scanning adds another few hours a week or so.

On the subject of HP5+ lacking contrast, I agree as well! It's my favourite B&W film, and I love the richness of the blacks. Try as I might, i can never get to like Tri-X: it's too blunt for me. I favor a representation of the physical world in a more subtle form.
02-10-2019, 06:40 PM   #13
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So I got the negatives back. I took a picture of the portrait's negative against a bright light.

Please correct me, but based on your guidance:
1. The film imprint is very clear, so this rules out underdevelopment.
2. There is plenty of detail in both the shadows and the highlights, so this rules out an exposure error.

I can therefore conclude that the flatness of the image I posted in my original post comes from the scanning (?).
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02-11-2019, 06:46 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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Useful Phenomenon

A small aside: Isn't it interesting that the negative image appears as positive when viewed against a dark background?

This was never suggested to me and I stumbled on it quite by accident.
I was amazed when I first discovered this effect. I almost fell over!

Chris
02-11-2019, 09:09 AM - 1 Like   #15
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Usually when I see negatives photographed, it is in ambient light, not backlit, so its a little disorienting to tell with your photos, but overall the negatives look thin to me. Especially when you look at the first image above, but look at the second image on the negative. The fact that your hand behind the image is more visible than the image film makes it seem very thin. That could be a trick the backlighting is playing, but I think it is pretty rare that my negatives are that transparent.
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