How to evaluate exposure tests?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by dgphoto, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. dgphoto

    dgphoto Member

    Jun 4, 2010
    Hello everyone. I'm a new member and thought you might be able to help.

    A little bit of quick background before my question. I've dabbled off and on in B&W film photography for ~20 years. Due to a fortunate turn of events at work, I'll be having a lot more weekends and evenings free to dive back into photography.

    As part of my return to photography, I want to review and nail down the basics of exposure going from using the sunny 16 rule with no filter to building up to using a light meter and different types of filters.

    I want to hone my ability to evaluate light and be able to respond quickly and appropriately based on the mood/intent I'm trying to portray.

    Here's my dilema: I've got the equipment to develop film at home, but I don't currently have access to a darkroom, nor am I in a position to set one up at home. We will be moving next summer (July 2011) and my wife already knows that room for a darkroom is a non-negotiable criteria for our new home. But for the next 12-18 months, I'm without a darkroom.

    So....Is it reasonable to evaluate my experiments of exposure/film testing using a lightbox/loupe to view 35mm negatives?

    Would this be a waste of time? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

    I've recently bought a long-dreamed about Bronica GS-1 with a 110 mm lens...haven't even put a roll of film thru it yet. So some of the negatives to be evaluated will be 6 x 7 cm.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. This is a fantastic site.

    Thanks so much.

  2. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Dec 30, 2005
    Two inches to the left
    Multi Format
    First of all, David, welcome to APUG.

    As to your presumed process and evalution methods, that's what I do. Downstairs half bath (and a small one) houses all of my developing/printing sessions. And I evaluate negs from the comfort of my lazyboy whilst the kids are watching TV.

    See, it's not the space, but what you do with it. I would give my wife's eye teeth (OK, maybe mine as well) to have a dedicated darkroom even resembling something like you might find at Alan Ross's place. But spatial limitations are not gonna stop me. And they shouldn't stop you. Setup and breakdown can be a pain, but it's the creativity that makes it worth the battle.
  3. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

    Aug 22, 2006
    Multi Format
    I think, that for exposure only, this would be ok - you would just look for the point where the shadow detail goes away.

    Beyond this, I don't know. Looking at negs is so counter-intuitive; in the densest negative areas, you may see rich, contrasty tones, and think "WOW"! But when you print them, these areas are (and must be) nearly all white.

    When you say "not in a position to set one [darkroom] up...", I'm not sure exactly where the limit is. Is it possible for you to get just two (or three) 8x10" trays, a slightly larger piece of glass, a couple quart bottles, and a sometimes dark space (even a closet)? A small clamp-on safelight would sweeten the deal. With this setup, you could contact print your negs. Of course, you'd want a low wattage light bulb where you could flip a switch on and off for the exposure.

    Using a loupe on the contact sheets gives you a pretty good idea of how the prints could go. They'll be nice and sharp as long as you get good contact under the glass (don't print through negative sleeves).
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Apr 29, 2008
    Los Angeles,
    Multi Format
    Yes, you can, and not only that, but I am of the opinion that it is the best way to judge exposure! Almost all I do to judge exposure is to look at the negs. I proof simply to see the images as positives, and to get a rough idea of the exposure and contrast, but I usually critically judge exposure by looking at the film.

    Look at your mid tones. Do they look like mid tones? If so, then your exposure is good. Don't let high or low contrast fool you into thinking your exposure is bad. You can have a perfect exposure and have either a flat, a normal, or a contrasty negative, depending on many things. If you have all mid tones, your contrast is low. If you have few mid tones, your contrast is high. Contrast is mainly controlled by the light in which you shoot. It is also affected by the film, your exposure, and your development.

    I am of the not-so-humble opinion that low-tone densities are not the be all and end all, and should not be used to judge exposure unless you are practicing tonal placement in a highly tested and controlled manner of working. The way I see it, high tone and low tone densities speak more to the luminance range in the composition and the development than they do to the exposure.