I'm a complete newbie to photography, and I started out on an old Nikon FM10 that runs on film.

I got back my first roll after development and most of them are either over or under exposed. Two of the pictures are given below, and I can't wrap my head around what is wrong with them.

They look really old and have a weird tint and grain to it.

Can you take a look at these photos and tell me where I'm going wrong so I don't repeat the same mistake in the future?

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    We are going to need more info. New film, old film? What kind of film, what ASA film and what ASA setting on the camera? What knowledge do you have about your camera and how to use the light meter and set the Aperture and shutter speed?
    – Alaska Man
    Dec 30 '20 at 17:56
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    What were you expecting? What's actually wrong with these pictures (because I don't see the old/tinted/grainy characteristics)? It's quite normal for film photos to have some appearance of grain - that's the nature of film photography, especially in 35mm. Can you post an example of one of the over/under-exposed ones? Were you respecting the recommendations of the camera's built-in light meter?
    – osullic
    Dec 30 '20 at 18:50
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    @OnBreak. - Since the colors on a print are reversed I doubt that the OP has the experience necessary to look at the negatives to diagnose problems. // The problem could be the translation of the negatives to prints but a customer generally has little control over that unless ordering single picture prints. My impression was always that the processing of the whole roll was done with the same setup for printing.
    – MaxW
    Dec 30 '20 at 22:13
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    Aperture and f-stop are the same thing. All other conditions remaining constant, going from f-8 to f-22 (3 full stops) will reduce your shutter speed from 1000 to 125. f-22 will give you more depth of field but image quality begins to suffer at very high f-stops. How much degradation varies greatly with the lens but in general f-22 is probably acceptable. The other trick is to focus somewhere in the middle to maximize near and distant depth of field, this almost always requires manual focus. Ultimately you have to prioritize. Jan 1 at 19:01
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    You said: "I got back my first roll [...] and most of them are either over or under exposed" and "I did not check the light meter reading". Can you see what's happening here? You didn't pay attention to the light meter reading, and you are surprised why your photos aren't properly exposed? I don't intend to sound blunt, but you are kind of spelling it out for yourself. Your camera does not have automatic exposure control. You need to check the light meter reading if you want to set the correct exposure settings.
    – osullic
    Jan 3 at 23:17

I think you exposed negative color film and sent it off to a photofinisher for developing and printing. You should know that color negative film developing and printing is a three-step process. First the film is developed in an automated film developing machine. Next the film is fed into an automated printer. After the film has been exposed to photo paper, it is developed much like film is developed.

A modern film printer is able to custom adjust the light source and exposure time used for each film frame. This is accomplished by analyzing each frame. In other words, the printer measures the negative to be printed and attempts to adjusts the exposure making corrections. The corrections we are talking about is camera exposure errors such as over or under-exposure. Additionally, the color hue of each negative is examined and the exposing light is modified to enhance the exposure so that color balance errors are countered.

These exposure time and lamphouse color has be refined over the last 50 years. However, this system has lots of room for improvement. In other words, the machine’s logic can fail. Mostly it is machine operator error. It takes copious daily tests and adjustments to keep these machines at optimum. Color film volume has now decreased, we are reaching the end of the photofinishing business. Operator training is lax. Don’t fret your off-color pictures. You were born too late to expect optimum results from photofinishers.

  • The digital scan of the print or negative which allowed posting here is another source of calibration error. Dec 31 '20 at 20:25

As a followup to MaxW's answer.

We tend to want to think that there is such a thing as an unmodified picture. There really is no such thing, either film or digital.

  • There is an assumed light balance as in daylight film.
  • There is an assumed actual light that may match to some degree.
  • The color printer will guess at both light and color compensations.

The end result is your print. (Ignoring all the digital process to get it here.)

Shooting digital has very similar concepts, there is no such thing as an unmodified image. If the goal is to accurately represent reality, the modifications attempt to produce something your eye considers a close match to what you saw. On the other hand if the goal is to produce a desirable picture, your options are even greater in the digital world.

As a quick example, I took your second image, shifted the color a bit, and compressed the extremes.

2nd image altered #1


Here's your Original again.

I have no idea as to reality?


I really agree with AlaskaMan but I'll assume that you're using a daylight film.

The first picture:

  • It looks like you used a "medium" f-stop so the foreground is in focus but not the far background. Compare leaves in lower left to leaves on tree 2/3 the way across the top.
  • The lower right corner has very little light so it is very dark.

The second picture

  • Most important problem seems to be vast differences in light level. The foreground seems to be in a heavy shadow, but the trees above the water in the background seem to be illuminated by direct sunlight. Note the different colors of the mud along the left bank.
  • There also seems to be the problem with a moderate f-stop again. The camera seems more focused on the foreground than the background.

I know it isn't the question that you asked, but in this day and age I wonder why you don't invest in a digital camera. The cost of film, developing, and printing quickly add up. Also a digital camera would allow the use of various photo shopping techniques to enhance pictures. (I will acknowledge that digital media adds some complexity in that how pictures look on a monitor and how they print introduces the need for another level of calibration...)

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    -1. Your answer doesn't actually answer why the images came out the way they did. "Advice" to switch to digital is unhelpful - and leads me to believe that you don't have enough experience with film to properly answer the OP anyway.
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 30 '20 at 21:41
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    @OnBreak. - I think I described the problems as well as possible with the information at hand. What I didn't do was suggest how the problems could be corrected. To focus everything, by and large a very small f-stop(aperture) and perhaps a tripod if the shutter speed isn't fast enough. // I don't exactly how the FM10 metering works, but the OP also needs to understand where the camera meters the light. // If the OP wants to stick with film fine. But I'm just trying to make the point that the cost of film, developing and printing pictures will quickly amount to the cost of a digital SLR camera.
    – MaxW
    Dec 30 '20 at 22:03
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    You pointed out some problems with the photos but you did not advise or teach the OP how to avoid those problems or deal with them from a position of knowledge. You simply told them it is not worth the effort and expense to pursue film. The OP has made a reasonable and commendable decision to want to learn how to use film and be a better film photographer. Knowledge and experience is the best way to achieve that. While a digital camera can help with learning about the mechanics of photography, telling them to not pursue something that they are interested in not helpful.
    – Alaska Man
    Dec 31 '20 at 19:29

The first pic is fine but overexposed by a stop or two. The second pic was shot into the sun in harsh light. Flare, ghosting, chroma aberrations, lack of contrast, etc. will happen when you shoot into the sun with film or digital. Film doesn't average out expsoure and grain like digital does. Film reacts variably and independently across the frame.

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