My friend is interested in starting up photography and asked to borrow one of my film cameras (my Minolta X-570) as a start. She just developed her first roll, and while a few photos look okay/correct color, many look like one of these two in terms of color, where everything looks either too tan or too blue/cold:



My theory is that the two photos are underexposed and the lights that they were in made the photos turn out either tan or blue. Is this a correct theory, or is there something else causing this? For reference, the film is Kodak 400.


1 Answer 1


There are lots of factors that affect the white balance in film photography:

  • light present in the scene

  • exposure (time, ISO, filters)

  • temperature, time, solution conditions, etc. while developing film

  • temperature, time, solution conditions, etc. while developing prints

  • age of film

It looks like the first shot you posted was taken with tungsten lights -- the door is probably white, but looks yellow/orange. The second shot is in some sort of library, so probably fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lights used to have a sort of green cast to them, but newer ones that are supposed to simulate daylight often look bluish. The shots are both pretty grainy due in part to the 400 speed film, but probably also due to being underexposed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are those factors ranked in order? i.e. Most important is light present, then exposure, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – josh
    Jun 27, 2013 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure it makes sense to try to order them... If you've got strongly colored light, objects that look white to your brain won't look white to the film. If the chemistry is wrong, you're going to have problems. If the film is very old, you're going to have problems. Certainly, lighting, exposure, and film age are the factors that you can control much more than the chemistry. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Jun 27, 2013 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also note that underexposure usually leaves the film with out-of-balance colors. This is called reciprocity failure and simply means that the film is more sensitive to certain colors than to others. If you don't provide enough light for the film to sufficiently expose in all colors, you'll get weird color casts. Or, differently put: in low light, some colors will be exposed faster than the others, which remain less exposed. \$\endgroup\$
    – CamilB
    Feb 9, 2019 at 13:43

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