I am new to shooting film and was wondering what mistake I made between these 2 photos?

50mm 50mm

  • Tell us your exposure settings for both fotos.
    – Zenit
    Jul 15 '17 at 9:26
  • The photos were obviously taken moments apart. Did you change film between photos? I suspect not. So, what did you change between the photos? Does the camera have a built-in meter? Did you set aperture and shutter speed manually, or did the camera set one/both of these through an autoexposure mode? Do you know the aperture and shutter speed for each photo? That's the difference.
    – osullic
    Jul 15 '17 at 11:14
  • 1
    Please edit the title to reflect the specific question.
    – mattdm
    Jul 16 '17 at 1:42

You appear to have stopped down significantly between the first and second exposure. The depth of field is deeper in the second photo. The highlights in the clouds and the white buildings in the background show more detail. It does not appear you compensated by increasing the shutter time, thus your second exposure was underexposed.

The lab who processed your film did the best they could do and tried to increase the brightness of the second one as much as possible when printing from the underexposed negative, but pushing an underexposed negative that far causes a loss in contrast. It also caused an increase in the amount of film grain visible in the image.

The second image looks like a very typical example of what happens when an automated photo printer scans an underexposed negative and adjusts the exposure of the print.

  • You stopped down significantly, or your camera stopped down significantly. @Paul, do you understand what your camera is doing when it meters a scene (assuming you are using a camera with a built-in meter and autoexposure functionality)?
    – osullic
    Jul 16 '17 at 0:40

The second picture looks underexposed.

It was taken moments apart from the good one and the ligth did not change.

What camera did you use? Fully manual or automatic one?

If fully manual, perhaps you changed the aperture or time by a step or two. Likely aperture, it is more likely to change it by accident.


Your shots are both overexposed and/or contrast reduced dues to stray light.

The second one is more affected than the first.

If you open the images in any editor and look at the histogram, you'll see both have no pixels with values on the left of the graph (the low intensity values).

You'll also note the right-hand side of the histogram (the brightest values) "run" into the edge of the graph. This is a sign of over-exposure and has resulted in some clipping (loss of detail) in your bright values. It's another sign the image was over-exposed.

This tells you it is over-exposed or contrast reduced due to stray light.

Judging from the shadows (and it's hard to be sure), the Sun was somewhere to the left of the scene. My impression is that it's slightly behind the photographer, but it could have been in a position where stray light would have entered the lens from the side (lens hoods help stop this !).

You did not under-expose. If you under-exposed the shots would simply be darker. They're not.

So my guess is that you had slight over-exposure in both images, but stray light from the side added to this problem in the second.

You may have adjusted exposure (or it was adjusted automatically) in the second one, but there's no way to be sure.

  • 1
    The film negative was likely underexposed on the second photo. The printers pushed the exposure back to the right when they made a print from the negative. It has all of the classic hallmarks of such. That's what killed the contrast and pushed the highlights into full saturation.
    – Michael C
    Jul 16 '17 at 1:04
  • It's possible, but Occam's razor suggests that the error would be at shooting time. I think it's optimistic to assume the printers would go to this trouble - depends on the company involved, but standards are not what they used to be. The OP is new to shooting and an exposure error when shooting seems quite likely.
    – StephenG
    Jul 16 '17 at 1:23
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    Have you ever shot film and had it developed at a place with automated printer machines? That is exactly how an underexposed negative gets printed by a machine that scans the negative and adjusts exposure. It kills the contrast.
    – Michael C
    Jul 16 '17 at 1:26
  • The increased depth of field, combined with fewer blown highlights (look at the increased detail in the clouds and the white buildings) than the first also strongly suggests that the second image was taken with a narrower aperture, yet there is no hint of increased camera or subject movement that would result from a longer exposure. Assuming it was shot on the same roll of film, the ASA/ISO certainly did not change.
    – Michael C
    Jul 16 '17 at 1:28

Loss of contrast tends to be over- or underexposure compensated for at magnification time. You can look at the final photograph all day but of course this is sort of pointless when it is much easier to check the actual state of exposure before compensation by looking at the negative: you've got it for a reason. If it is almost white, the photograph is underexposed. If it is almost black, the photograph is overexposed.


Modern cameras feature through-the-lens metering. The camera lens projects an image of the outside world and this image is examined by light sensing hardware and massaged by software. In full automatic mode, the camera’s chip logic sets the aperture and shutter speed and ISO (sensitivity of the image sensor). The idea is to regulate the light energy of the vista as projected by the camera lens, so an acceptable exposure is achieved. The light measuring hardware may see different light levels as the camera is focused and composed. Most of the time, this chip logic is spot on, however, sometimes the logic is fooled, and over or under exposure results. This peril is the price paid when the photographer is fully relying on the camera’s logic to make exposure determinations. We mitigate by learning the exposure triangle and placing the camera in manual mode. If so, it’s the photographer who is fully in charge.

  • So why does any of that result in a loss of contrast? Again, this doesn't seem to have very much to do with the question at all.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 15 '17 at 16:26
  • @ Philip Kendall - Overexposed negatives are difficult to print especially when using a typical photofinishing high-speed printer. Dense negatives with large expanses of mundane areas induce "subject failure". The lab should identity these during inspection of the order. A quality lab will re-print with operator overrides. All this induced by improper exposure. Jul 15 '17 at 18:09
  • @ Philip Kendall - Same holds for underexposed and large areas of uniform color or density add to the problem. The machine logic attempts to correct. The machine adjustments must be updated and maintained for each make and type of film. Jul 15 '17 at 18:25
  • Alan, you have a tendency to include superfluous information in your answers. For example, you talk about image sensors here. The question specifically relates to film photography. I would suggest to you that you try to be more precise. There is no need for extra information not relevant to the question.
    – osullic
    Jul 16 '17 at 0:38
  • @ osullliu -- Don't you think that film camera automation is based on light sensors? Jul 16 '17 at 1:36

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