I’m starting to shoot photographs using my Dad's old camera, an Olympus OM-4. I’ve noticed that in comparison with my friend's photographs mine are a lot more saturated. Why can it be?

Here's an example:

enter image description here

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ What particular film were you using? What were your exposure settings (aperture and shutter time)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 19:04
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ i think proper term would be "low contrast" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 19:14
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I would call these images muddy, definitely not saturated. The colours are very muted. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think to evaluate what you are seeing you should have told whether the image presented was made from a negative scan with conversion, a positive scan (print) or a photo of the positive (print). \$\endgroup\$
    – U. Windl
    Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is a positive scan \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


I'd guess you're under-exposing a long way & the lab is having to work them really hard* to get anything like an image out of them; hence the amount of noise in them & no real blacks anywhere - but I'll leave it to someone more versed in film photography to post a fuller answer.

*From comments - I had mistakenly used 'push' as a term for which I just meant, 'shove' or 'apply considerable energy to the task' without understanding push & pull are actually technical terms for under or over-exposing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, the lab is pulling the film; the OP was pushing it during exposure. (If this is the case at all, which is possible). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 1:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you've got it backwards. Underexposing is "pulling" and over developing is "pushing." But a lot of folks say they are "pushing the film" when what they mean is that they are pulling the exposure and plan to "push process" the development. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 3:07
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I honestly didn't realise push/pull were actually technical terms. I was using it as 'shove' or 'apply considerable energy' to the task, rather than it being in any specific direction. I'll update the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 7:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ You nailed it, even if you haven't exposed the finer things in life. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 16:25

To someone new to film photography, maybe you look at this photo and wonder what is wrong, but this image has the typical appearance of a photo that has been significantly underexposed. The lab has (automatically?) tried to "rescue" this image, which is what gives it that typical look of strained colours and exaggerated grain. There are no real blacks in the image.

I don't know off-hand if the OM4 has a built-in meter, but if so, either you are not using it correctly or it is not working reliably. Another possibility is that the aperture diaphragm or shutter mechanism are not operating reliably, according to the exposure settings that have been set.

Do you know the Sunny-16 rule? It's a good way to gauge if your meter is working somewhat reliably. As this photo appears to be taken on the beach on a sunny day, correct exposure should be achieved with an aperture of about f/16 or even f/22, and a shutter speed around 1/ISO. So, if you are using 100-speed film, then you'd use a shutter speed of 1/125 probably. Do you know what exposure settings you used?

Another possibility is that there is something wrong with the film - possibly long expired or heat/radiation damaged. Unfortunately you haven't come back to post any follow-up information, but it would be useful to also know exactly what film you are using, and what the expiration date of it is. Also how it was stored.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The OM 4 has a built-in meter which I am using. I don’t know that rule but I will google it. I suppose I had an aperture of 18 and let the meter choose the speed automatically. About the film I have to say me and my friends are learning using expired films but there is a significant difference between my photos and theirs. Thank you for every answer \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DiegoAsterio Do you have an instruction manual for the camera? Ensure that you are setting the film ISO correctly, and also ensure that you don't accidentally have any exposure compensation set. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I’ve read through the manual we’ll see the next time I develop \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 17:35

Take a look at the negatives:

  • if they are almost transparent orange then they are strongly underexposed,

  • if they are almost black then they are strongly overexposed.

Assuming that you have been using some Auto Exposure program (have you ?), compare your exposure settings with another camera under similar conditions, especially using the same ISO settings. If you have used manual settings then all bets are off.

Verify that you have set the ISO correctly, if it is not automatically set by the DX code. It is usually an extra dial on the shutter time knob.

Finally, is there a working battery in the camera? Without it, it might revert to a fixed setting.


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