analog photography underexposure


I there there are several people here who have experience with analog photography.
I just re-started with analog photography. I was a child when I did it last time.
So my question is: if I have a film that is not sensitive enough - is it better to push process it, or is it better to make it brighter on the PC after digitizing it?

Thanks in advance


You need to get your exposure right in camera. Brightening after the film is processes will not look great, generally.


So you think push processing is better?

If those are the two choices you have, yes.


The general thing i saw for film vs digitial is:

  • Digital can handle underexposed better because blown highlights are blown.
  • Analog can handle overexposed better because if there was not enough light in the shadow no chemical reaction would be triggered.

Yes, underexpose with one or two stops, then adapt development times accordingly (++).
Your film is not sensitive enough, you say. Buy another film then!


If your film is positive film (eg slide film), then overexposure will clip and lose detail, just like digital.

If your film is negative film, then underexposure will clip and lose detail. If this happens, then pushing the film (developing for longer) won’t help much. Maybe you’ll get another stop or two. The main result of pushing is to increase the density of mid-tones.

Pushing will increase the grain. Some developers are better than others for pushing without too much grain. (From vague memory, I used to use Patterson Acuspeed.)

Slight complication to the above: almost all films can be processed to be either positive or negative. The same principles apply: underexposed negatives lose shadow detail.


Are you talking about Black and White or colour?
If B&W, what developer do you use? I have fond memories of Tetenal Rot and Blau…
Claes in Lund, Schweden

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it’ color negative film

Moinchen, Anna,

Kodak Darkroom dataguide 1990 had some advice, which is summarized here:

Addendum: additional interesting data here A Practical Guide to Using Film Characteristic Curves | Film Shooters Collective

Claes in Lund, Schweden

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Well, bit off topic: I left my first film at a local drug store last week on Wednesday and now I am dyieng. They still have not developed it. Although, it is written on the envelope that it takes 10 days + weekends/holidays. But I am really on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Mmmmm… Bit of an obfuscated piece of text, isn’t it. There’s at least 1 weekend in the 10 days mentioned. So, do or don’t you have to add 2 days to that number?

Anyway: Good things come to those that are patient :rofl:

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Well I guess it just means 14 days if you hand in the film on a Friday.

You have no idea how much I have waited in my life!

No, I don’t! I do know how long I’ve been waiting and I’m sure we both agree that at times it takes to fricking long…

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Well. I gave up waiting quite a few times in my life. Actually, most things that I waited for, never came.
Usually, I was waiting for people to change or things to improve, but eventually I realized that it was pointless.
A very typical example: I waited one year for a professor to read my thesis. Eventually my thesis was accepted, but not by him.
I think I need to learn how to develop film myself.

I think that many people do. Some of us are just too nice and, at least initially, too naive. Takes us a while to realize this. Don’t want to turn this in to a gloomy topic, so I’m not going to elaborate.

It is nice to read that your thesis did get accepted though!

I used to have my own B&W dark room back in the day (think 80’s and early 90’s). It is really nice to be able to develop film and create prints, but not all that easy to do it correctly. I think doing this will improve ones ideas about photography and that analog and digital are actually rather different even though they have an, obvious, overlap.

I still think that, when it comes to B&W, nothing beats the end result of the b&w film to paper process. Silver halyde crystals beats digital pixels/noise (there’s no real grain in digital) every single time!

I do know that most is seen on some sort of digital surface nowadays, which negates the beauty of a very good print on paper. I’m all but sure that you’ve been to photo exhibitions, so I think you know what I’m talking about here.

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Well, I just want to add one more thing: recently a friend of mine had her film developed at the same drug store and she waited 8 or 9 days. So apparently they can be faster than 10 days + weekends as well.

If waiting isn’t your thing, you should probably stick with digital rather than film. :wink:


The good thing about waiting is that we have somewhat forgotten the photos we took and the reasons we took them, so can see them with fresh eyes. I see the emotion the photo conveys, rather than the emotion I felt when taking the photo, or the emotion I am still feeling when glancing at the camera screen.

I still have a darkroom, aka bathroom. It frightens visitors who think the 5x4 enlarger with its system of pulleys is an instrument of torture.


that thought did cross my mind. I guess it depends on the results.
However, my friend was also quite nervous and impatient before she got back her film.

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