Over and Under

Yilong Jiang

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When I first started film photography, the first roll I loaded in my camera is the Fujifilm Superia 400.  I strictly expose my film following the ISO on the box.  I assumed that if I don’t follow the ISO on the box, I would end up with terrible results. 

After I have been developing black and white film by myself, I found out that I can manipulate the developing time to push and pull the ISO of the film so that it’s more flexible to the setting.  I have then been experimenting the looks of different film stock at different ISO.  But that was only on black and white film, I am still shooting my color films at box speed.

Until one day, when my friend John told me that if I “break the rules” a little and overexpose the Fuji Superia 400, I might get some better results, especially on a cloudy day.  Cloudy days are common in Vancouver; thus, I like using the Superia most of the time, I really dig the green and cool tone of the film.  So, at a random cloudy day I decided to shoot the Superia 400 at 200, overexposing it by 1 stop.  After I finished the roll, I asked John if I need to make a note to the lab so that they can pull the film, to my surprise he said I don’t need to do anything different.  And more to my surprise, the result turned out to be perfect!  The yellow and green just popped out even in a cloudy day, everything is so much more vivid, and I love the Superia 400 even more.  From then on, I almost always overexpose this film whenever it is cloudy, and I couldn’t be happier about the results.  Moreover, I learnt that film has a bit of latitude which can be played around, better results can be obtained if treated right!

Coincidentally, Mark actually took some pictures using Superia 400 as well, but I was shocked when I saw those pictures.  They all have a purple tone and they almost seem like a lomo film.  I then found out that he underexposed it, and now I know even more about this film stock, if overexposed more vivd, underexposed more lomo-like.  

I have a friend who shoots film professionally, and he always said that you should only use one film stock, until you have a clear mental image of what the picture will look like once you press the shutter, I find this advice to be really useful so I would also recommend that if you are starting film photography, try to stick with one film stock, doesn’t matter if it’s kodak gold 200 or fuji superia or even AGFA visita (if you can still get any).  You can still shoot other films, but you should always practice with the main one until you can form a mental image, and that’s when you know that you’ve mastered that particular film stock.  

One thought on “Over and Under

  1. Nice post! It’s wonderful discovering how different emulsions react. I believe colour negative film has atleast 10 stops of overexposure latitude. You can keep going past 1 stop, especially if the dynamic range in your scene is lower (your cloudy day). I wouldn’t worry about overexposing 1 or 2 stops on a sunny day, especially if you’re doing your own scanning and can compress the contrast in scanner. Note that slide film is extremely sensitive to overexposer, and has a very limited dynamic range, so this doesn’t apply to it.

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