I recently purchased a Nikon FM2 and was really looking forward to getting into film photography. However, my photos appear to be blank / partially exposed. For example, some look fine, others are totally blank. I've checked elsewhere online and people have suggested to look for the text printed on the film to see if the developers are destroying the film – the text is there and looks as it should. So, I'm starting to think it's either me (incorrect exposure / metering / loading of the film), or the camera isn't working properly. I've uploaded a few examples from my most recent roll.
There are many things that could cause inconsistent results as you're describing. You say some look fine and some look faint or blank. I'm going to assume that that's the case on the same roll of film. If entire rolls are consistent, that points to a different problem (bad film, or you set the ISO wrong on the camera). I'm also going to assume that you're shooting without electronic flash.
The possibilities I can think of are:
- you are metering badly or inconsistently. Meter every shot, with the camera aimed as you intend to compose the shot. Some shots will require adjustment to the exposure (e.g. if there's strong backlight or a very dark scene with a very bright spotlit area that you want exposed correctly). A malfunctioning meter could also do this, but typically, if the meter malfunctions, the results should be fairly consistent.
- your shutter is working inconsistently, and not firing at the correct speed all the time. This can be checked, to some degree, by firing the camera with the back open, while looking at a bright background or wall. You should see the shutter open for a consistent amount of time, or on faster speeds (<1/250 sec.), you should see a consistent slit pass top to bottom on the frame (your camera has a vertical shutter; for others reading this later, if you have a horizontal shutter, the slit will pass left to right or vice versa, and may start appearing at lower speeds).
- your lens diaphragm is sticky and is not closing consistently or at all. This can be verified by checking the operation manually, with the lens off the camera. There is a lever on the rear lens mount that can be actuated to open the blades. They should open pretty much instantly. If there is any lag or they do not open to the same point consistently, your lens needs repair. Test this at various apertures (change the aperture on the lens). The most obvious results should be with the lens wide open (at its fastest aperture, which is its smallest f/number, e.g. f/2 on a 50mm f/2 lens). You can also test this by using a different lens, although you'll need to shoot some film to find out.
My two cents. I hope you are aware that film photography is more expensive per photo than digital photography.
But as a first step, you probably need to test your camera and that requires to burn some rolls of film. Black and white are ok.
You need to test the mechanism for the shutter speeds and the one that controls the diaphragm.
Some old cameras can have problems with fast shutter speeds due to oxidation, lack of lubricant, or other problems.
Prepare a controlled scene. Prepare a still life on next to a well-lit window where direct sunlight enters. You want some deep shadows and some white stuff, probably some glossy things.
If you do not have an external incident light meter, use the Sunny Rule 16 to define your base exposure and do some bracketing tests. With an iso 100 film would be something like this.
Write the number of the exposure and the data of the shot.
And you probably need a neutral density filter to test f1.8
Make some variations, for example, a bracketing for the shutter and a bracketing for the aperture.
- 1/100 with f16, f22 and f11
- f16 with 1/100, 1/50 and 1/200
Also, test, and move around pointing at different stuff the internal light meter.
Shoot at a white piece of paper centered at the frame and covering all the viewer. Use the recommended exposition. Shoot a darker wall or cloth, neutral gray and a darker one.
This tests will give you an idea if your camera has some limitations you need to be aware of.
Some additional tips: See if your camera does not have a light leak: These SLR developed photos are bad. Is it mine or the photolab's fault?
When posting a photo, it is better not to show only the photo, but also the strip itself, to detect any leak, develop a problem and to see if the photo has some digital correction.